The border crossing into Malawi at became a nightmare as the scouts haunted us with insurance and we were first timers with the carnet but we got through and drove through heart touching poverty alongside the road to Blantyre. Wow here we had a choice of Campsites we drove to see both, and made the choice, Doogles Lodge. After sorting out internet connection, walking through Game and shopping at Shoprite where I was stunned at the prices and furiously doing calculations dividing all prices by 32 to get an indication of real costs we headed back.
That night our choice of campsites prove to be wrong one as the only thing between ourselves and the bus stop seemed to be the bar and as soon as those noises died down in the early morning, the bus stop started. The ablutions were nice and clean . We decided to go to Majete Wildlife Reserve widely advertised and with very reasonable prices. We even considered guided bush-walk or boat safari, so reasonable was the prices being advertised. After drawing stacks of money and drinking coffee and chai tea at an Ethiopian coffee shop in Malawi we left the city of Blantyre behind without being impressed.
We tackled the 70 km mountainous pass and soon looked down on the Shire river valley. As we got to the entrance we realised the flyers we saw must have been very old, in the end it came to R640 for the two of us to camp for one night.
We visited the Kapachira Falls and sat under the stars that night watching a herd of elephant moving through the camp about 75 m away.
The campsite was quiet, only ourselves and an Australian couple. The next morning we headed to the lake area through Blantyre and up till now still not impressed by this country. The people's friendliness bordered on nosiness and became very high maintenance. Poverty was all over especially in the rural areas yet in spite of all the water in the river there was very little agricultural activity what so ever and for the rest just a lot of bicycle taxis, churches and big NGO vehicles around.
We headed for the lake and just before sunset we pulled into a proper campsite on the shores of Lake Malawi.
Only problem the day visitors were still on their weekend Picnics. With 2 DJ'S each fully equipped with their own sound systems and music it was pumping and there were no signs of the busses getting ready to leave so we went for a sun downer at the Sunbird hotel at Livingstonia Beach. This old colonial hotel was nicely restored and up till now our best experience of Malawi. As we chatted along with fellow South Africans a lady spoke to us in Afrikaans and it so happened that her name was also Jean, but to top it all, her friend's name was also Jean. So here we were 3x
Jeans. Jean M invited us to park off at her house as she had a big property fully developed, she would like to sell. Jean S offered that we could tag along to the north of Malawi where she farms to use her farm as base to explore the northern part of this country.
As we got into bed that night we were still not sure of our impulsive decision, if to up her offer was the right thing, but in for a penny in for a pound we got up the following morning to leave to the north.
We drove up against the lake and saw our first accident just after sunrise, a goat and an bicycle taxi, luckily no injuries and we travelled through rubber plantations to where we first had our feet in the lake at Nkhata Bay, a busy little port town with the market all along the street selling fish of all sorts, dried, fried and any size, at the town of Mzuzu we stopped to get airtime and then headed a short distance to the farm at Enukweni.
The farm is an operating macadamia and coffee farm and also produces paprika, chilli's and soya. Our host Jean showed us all over from the macadamia nurseries to the processing and sorting of the dried chillies. We also
visited the preparing of land on the other farm at Rumphi and we thoroughly enjoyed her informative trips and walks and whenever we sat on the shady stoep overlooking the macadamia and coffee lands we would imagine ourselves farming.
For us this was a learning curve and we were exposed to info we would not usually have been exposed to. Rui made the call to see a doctor, as he had been feeling sick ever since leaving Maputo, he had been battling with ear ache and set off back to town with Jean's PA who sorted him out with a consultation at the local Dr who happened to be specialising in gynaecology. For R120,00 he saw the Dr and got medication. His experience: "I felt like a real expat." In two days time he was as healthy as could be end we left the farm heading back south.
We camped on the lakeshore at Ngala Bay Lodge and saw the most beautiful sunsets and sunrise, ate their Pizza(rumour has it as the best in Malawi) and swam in the lake. We moved on to Fish Eagle Bay and here we
relaxed watching the lake and fish eagles flying while listening to their distinctive calls.
From here we will head into Lilongwe to get the Camesa (road insurance for African countries) sorted and get some travel books for more northern countries before heading to Cape McLear and Monkey Bay.
The Camesa (3rd party insurance that covers most countries and eliminates the purchasing at border crossings) is becoming a high priority with us and we did not have any success in Blatyre so we mailed the AA in Malawi to get contact details from them, their reply was:" Contact Nico". We were shocked, how could they be so ignorant, who the hell is Nico? We requested more details from the AA and felt like fools! National Insurance Co of Malawi!
However as we drove into Lilongwe we spotted "Nico" and set off to get over and done with it, or so we hoped.
It took us 3 hours to buy the insurance as Rui ended up giving maths classes to almost the whole office as they could not understand that their current rate and the current exchange rate was 11% out to the new exchange rate. Eventually we gave up and did a grudge purchase, fortunately the aircon in the offices did bring a bit of
relief from the heat outside.
We went to the Lilongwe golf club for camping that night, and although not "exquisite" as per the reception, it was comfortable and we enjoyed the evening at the clubhouse. This was our first experience of golf club living and with the exception of the call for morning prayers before sunrise, we could adjust to it.
While doing a bit of shopping we spotted fellow over landers in the parking lot, however we never managed to speak to them and after filling our gas bottles we left for Monkey bay and Cape McLear.
As we pulled in at Fat Monkeys in Cape McLear we were greeted by the Swiss couple to whom we have said our goodbyes twice before. Later that evening the vehicle we spotted earlier that day in the parking lot also arrived and soon we heard from them we left Lilongwe just in time as all hell broke loose. The street vendors went on a rampage rioting through the city streets.
We enjoyed the time at Cape McLear and have been looking forward to the snorkelling and feeding of the fish eagles ever since we moved into Malawi. The fish were breath taking it was like swimming in an aquarium, Rui got some good shots feeding the eagles Tom and Sherry.
We visited the marine park, a Unesca site where they very keen collected your 10USD and then told us the aquarium wasn't working and the museum wasn't much better. We swam with the fishes and did some underwater photography while we were robbed by a baboon from our packed lunch, luckily he left the rucksack with valuables behind, and on our way out we were asked by a official for a contribution to government to assist with repairing the aquarium at the Unseca site where they have just charged us 10USD each!
We walked the village 1000 times and every time we had to introduce ourselves to the locals, looked "for free" at the curios, ate McDonalds chips, watched the sun set and rise over the lake and enjoyed the company of new friends.
Some of the outstanding things will be the Malawian kids ability to keep on asking for money, the adults that all see you as a gateway to work in South Africa and their lack of ability to think out of the box. All stalls/shops will stock the same things at the same price in a row right next to each other. You won't see a tailor for kilometres and then within a space of 100 metres there will be 6 right next to each other, the same with curious, materials, and what the lodges menus offers.
Back to Salima and Senga Bay there we stayed under huge shady trees on luscious lawns at Cool Runnings and explored from there. We came to realise, the price of the lodges are more or less the same, you just have to seek the best value for your 5USD. We visited the fish farm only to realise they don't farm with fish, they buy them off the fisherman, store them in cement tanks and sell them on! Even bigger was our disgust to find, just after sunset, a huge well light fish trawler about 100m from the lakeside just after sunset, fishing up and down the lake.
To the sound of pumping music, with electricity and internet (there has always been just 2 of the 3 commodities available) and always music! We fell asleep to move on once again the next morning.
At Kande Beach we had a pleasant stay and lots of interaction with fellow overlanders as there was 3 overlanding trucks with guests of all sorts, some on government grants and others celebrating their 70th birthdays on the trip. From there we moved back to the farm at Entukweni where Rui will service the car and we will prepare for the Tanzanian leg, with just Livingstonia left to visit in Malawi.
We made it just in time here to be part of the chicken slaughter and bought 3 chickens ourselves (luckily we don't need to do the slaughtering ourselves), I just have to show the girls how to "dress" them. We now know at least where the next meat will be from.
The hospitality that we are experiencing at the farm is unbelievable, we really feel like family.