Malawi, Birthday by the lake
15th October to 20th October 2005
After a year travelling in Africa, we have reached the conclusion that small borders are better than the bigger ones and can be crossed with minimal hassle. The officials are usually pleased to receive us tourists as opposed to seeing us as a way of boosting their salaries! And Lusuntha was one such border, but we still had to find somewhere for the night.
Malawi in contrast to Zambia is a lot greener, the local farms seemed better organised with all the crops in neat rows or fields ploughed in anticipation of the coming rain. The hamlets now consist of little square houses as opposed to round huts and the road is superb courtesy of the British Government. I found a spot to camp just off the road down a little track were we spent a very quiet night in fact it was quite cold after Zambia but we were a lot higher. Again the locals were very wary of “muzungus” (white men) camping in the bush, I guess they expect us all to be rich and stay in fancy hotels.
Just before we left Lusaka we had received news from the French family, we had met previously in Mozambique, to say that they had found a beautiful spot by Lake Malawi and were waiting for us. Eric shares the same birthday with Blanca so we were hopping for a small party.
Before we entered Malawi we had received a number of e-mails from concerned friends in Europe warning us about a famine in Malawi and warning us to stock up on supplies. I’m not quite sure where this “famine” is but there seems to be plenty of fruit and veg available by the road side and all the local shops appeared very well stocked. I imagine it is a bit of government propaganda to get “Sir Bob” to pay a visit and drop off a shed load of cash! In fact as we crossed the border in to Tanzania it was amazing to see the huge stockpile of maze and rice.
After a fairly flat Zambia, Malawi was actually quite mountainous with spectacular scenery. We arrived in Mzuzu the first big town on our route, we needed to get some local currency and petrol which is a: available and b: much cheaper than Zambia at about £0.50 a litre. It was a Sunday, the guide book didn’t list Mzuzu as having an ATM so we were anticipating an overnight stay but to our surprise the town had quite a number of ATM’s. So with money, petrol and a big bag of chips we continued on dropping almost literally down the steep escarpment to the azure coloured lake.
We found the Doiteau family at the Namiashi Resort which is just south of Chitimba and they were very surprised to see us so soon and had expected us to arrive on Tuesday. Despite the resort being a little African and having seen better days the spot was beautiful, right on the lake with two huge trees for some shade during the day and at $2 per person was well within our budget. I say lake but with its sandy shore line and small white crested waves looked more like the sea. The water looks very inviting and we were very tempted to go for a swim despite the distinct possibility of contracting bilharzia. Just a small note all the drinking water and water for the showers also comes from the lake and is generally untreated! Contracting the disease is actually very hard to avoid still we decided not to swim as our livers were having a tough enough time with the locally made gin, rum and beer with out making things worse. We did however pick up something to treat bilharzia while we were in Lusaka just in case!
Blanca’s birthday was a quiet affair with just the Doiteau family but she had a good time and a couple of little presents from the children which was nice and to add to the day we received a visit from a troupe of Vervet Monkeys who kept us entertained as they plundered the tree next to us of all its ripe mangos. We were careful to keep the car and tent closed to avoid any unwelcome fury guests!
The Doiteau family had already spent a month by the lake so with the birthday celebrations over with it was time to move on towards Tanzania. We stopped 50km from the border at a camp site at Karonga that was more like an army barrack or prison but was ok for the night and once again very cheap. Here we met even more French people travelling north in two Toyota Land Cruisers. This begs the question why? We travelled through French speaking West Africa with Germans who don’t speak a lot of French then in English speaking East Africa all we seem to encounter is the French who speak very little English! I suppose this just adds to the hardship!
While at the campsite just as the sun was setting what should pass just behind the cars but a Genet, which looks like a cross between a cat and a fox, off on a nocturnal hunt. Strange what you see in camp sites…..
In the morning after the French children had finished their school work we headed for the border and Tanzania at Ibanda. We feel quite sorry for Manon and her brother Elie travelling around Africa with their parents, imagine being away from your friends with no escape from school work and stuck with your parents 24/7……..hell, I think I would have lasted about a week before packing my bag and heading for the hills.
Ibanda was our first big border for some time and now with three French cars and all the hustle, bustle and hassle there was no choice but to sit it out in the sun and let these things take their natural course.
Next stop Tanzania…