malawiAn early start (5am departure) and we were off for a 12 hour drive to Malawi. The scenery is gorgeous in this area of the country and we found ourselves drawn to watch the land go by.

However, we slept most of the way to the border, except for a photography session about metering which was very useful. Once at the border, we filled out our forms and then crossed the looooong no mans land into Malawi. Along the way, we were offered money exchange (although a sign explicitly told us it was prohibited) and also saw an American couple who were clearly and audibly arguing very loud about something to do with the Tanzania visa. Once in Malawi and after they made more copies of the entry form, we were off for a short drive to our campsite – Chitimba beach.

We got there around 4pm and not knowing quite what to do with ourselves with all the time, we gave Kim a haircut – first time he’s ever gone number 1! And we also had to trim his beard – also a first! The campsite was lovely and on a beach on Lake Malawi. Unfortunately swimming is not allowed due to worms or parasites that hang near river mouths. They get under your skin and breed. Lovely. We had our first session of beach volleyball here though and had a good few games. A cold shower later and we were set for our next big day – a nice little walk :)

So we were up and ready to go for our walk by 7.30am. 9 hours they said – which seemed like a terribly long time, but we were confident we would beat the last group (who told us it was 9 hours) and get back comfortably before dark. So we set off and played with the local kids along the way who are always wanting to swing off you and get thrown in the air! The first part was great, a steady pace and barely an incline, but we could see what was to come right in front of us.

We got to the first big climb and it wasn’t long before Kim’s muscles started cramping up – something he’s always been plagued with. We eventually got to a beautiful viewpoint where it made the hard yakka worthwhile. It was only a short walk from there to a view of a lovely waterfall and another short walk to a waterhole where we had the option to swim. But given the temperature of the water, there was little chance any of us would put anything but our feet in!

We walked down to a cave where the waterfall fell past before going back to the waterhole to eat an early lunch. Soon after lunch, we headed for the final slog – to Livingstonia, a town set up by missionaries at the top of these mountains who were trying to escape malaria down near the lake. After over 4 hours of climbing (and 6 hours elapsed time), we had finally reached our destination! Or so we thought!

We walked through the town only to find the town was never ending and the museum we were to visit was at the extreme other end of the town. So another half hour and we finally got there. Some of us went in and although it might sound crazy to go all that way and not go into the one attraction in the place, it was the view we were drawn to and it was nice to sit and admire while the others went in, came out and summarised what was inside :)

In the meantime, we have a guy on the trip who is allergic to bees. And unfortunate for him, he was accidentally stung. I say accidentally because he was just walking along and the bee got stuck in the crease of his arm and when he swung his arm, he pushed the sting into his skin, through his jumper. He headed to the hospital to get some antihistamines while we checked out the church and its beautiful stained windows and clock tower.

The church was the last stop – thank goodness – and we started making our way back. On the way back though, we stopped in at a local store and tasted the banana flavoured maize drink which was filling to say the very least (I gave 3/4 of mine to the guide) and then stopped in for scones and tea at a local teahouse.

Figuring it was already 3pm by this stage, we thought it was best we make a quick exit and get back down to the camp. Original estimates were putting us back at camp at 6pm. Taxis were offered to take us back down, but once again we were optimistic thinking of course we’d make it before dark.

We started off at a good pace but it soon became obvious that our bee sting guy was not well and the pace (or any kind of exercise) was not good for him. So we stopped into a camp and organised a 4wd for him to go back to camp where he used his adrenalin pen (and thankfully felt better). The rest of us ploughed on taking shortcuts from the road (which were very steep scrambling type paths going down the mountain). There was a dog from the camp who knew the way and helped guide us :)

We finally got back and the final time was 7pm – 11.5 hours after departure. We were pretty tired and some of us had some battle scars (bad knees, blisters), but we definitely all slept well that night!

Because we all went to bed early that night, we were all up early even though we weren’t departing until 9am. We headed to the town of Tukuyu to stock up on groceries and cash. This was where we realised just how poor a country Malawi was. The supermarkets had the most basic of groceries with very little selection. It was also where we found the most hassles in terms of touts trying to sell us anything for the shirts off our backs :(

We had lunch at a local restaurant called Graceland (though the King wasn’t in) before departing the town for our next campsite. Along the way, we visited a long line of carving shops seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The small huts were closely guarded by each of the shop owners who would desperately try to entice you into their shop. We visited each of them in turn and were surprised at how lovely the carvings were – in particular the tables and wall hangings. We negotiated for a Malawi key ring that we intend to convert into a magnet and then went back to the truck to wait for the others to finalise their purchases.

When we were waiting, I got talking to a local kid who told me the same story that we’d heard constantly (no matter what the age of the kid we were talking to), about how he was going to school and was paying his own fees. However instead of asking for money (like they normally would), he asked if we had any spare pens for which we could purchase a bracelet. We had been told that we should never give anything away to anyone in Africa – that we should always receive something in return. Otherwise we would breed a nation of beggars – something that the previous tourists had obviously ignored or not thought about.

So Kim went to get the large bunch of pens that we’d collected over the past two years in the UK. The kid’s eyes lit up (and unfortunately those of 3 or 4 other kids too). I chose a bracelet and told them I’d swap them 4 pens for the bracelet and threw in another pen for the kid who I originally spoken to. A few more pens were pocketed here and there and to be honest, I would have loved to have given them all away, but the words of warning were ringing in our ears. So we left it at that.

Back on the truck and it wasn’t long before we stopped at a plantation where we saw how the locals got rubber from the trees. It was interesting to say the least – as was the sight of 3 girls guarding me behind a tree while I peed with the locals wandering around in every direction!

We finally reached Kande Beach where we had dinner at a restaurant (which was great given we were on food prep) where I learned to eat a whole fish. To explain – I’ve recently been cured of my allergy to fish thanks to a thing called NAET (I’ll write a blog on that one day), so after 28 years I can now eat fish, but have to learn how :)

We spent 2.5 days at Kande Beach doing little more than playing table tennis, beach volleyball, reading, swimming in the fresh water of Lake Malawi and stressing about catching the worm/parasite from the water in the lake. We did have a spit roast goat on the second night followed by the guys camped next door having a huge party that went until all hours of the morning which was funny at first and then plain annoying!

Our final day and some of us took a kayak across to a small island that wasn’t far from the shore (or so it looked from the beach). I was teamed with a kiwi and our boat was off balance, so after a few minutes of rowing, I felt my arse getting wet only to realise my buddy in the back was half submerged in water and he hadn’t told me! We quickly went back to shore and changed our tactics and I set off with another guy and we were off and racing.

We made it over to the island and had some time to snorkel and see all the amazingly coloured fresh water fish that were sucking the algae from the rocks we’d launched ourselves from. After a bit, we rowed back only to hear that in the meantime, Kim had been playing volleyball against another truck’s group. It was lead by a HUGE chief dude and he completely ruled the court barely allowing his team to take any shots! Defeated, the guys on our truck were spewing that half their team was over on the island when it was all going on (that didn’t include me by the way)!

malawi2The next day we drove toward the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe, but stopped not far from there for our last camp by Lake Malawi near a town called Salima. Another beach volleyball game or two and some sunset shots before we took a walk to the bar. This was no ordinary bar – it was out in the lake and you had to walk along a boardwalk to get to it. Only thing was, the whole thing was on a lean and it looked seriously unstable. Kim and I had a quick drink in there before departing for the safety of the shore!

Next day we made it to Lilongwe where we bought some lunch, had a big of a saga over the truck groceries and local currency etc etc, then headed for the Zambian border.

Comments are closed.