Category Archives: Malawi

Chitimba, Lake Malawi (MW)

I beat the rain this morning by two minutes. My tent was rolled up, my stuff was packed and I was early for my turn in the cooking group. Unfortunately I then decided to help other people with their tents and that’s when we got showered completely with fresh water from above. It felt nice though.

 

When we left the camp we got stuck in the sand with the truck. While some folks were digging the truck out the rest of us entertained the kids who came together the minute they sensed some action. We learned some Swahili and made fun of each other’s names – many people here call themselves funny expressions like “beans on toast”, “cheesecake” or “hot and spicy”, and their kids just do the same. The names change daily, we met “gift” three times in the past few days and it was always another kid.

 

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The Malawians are fairly poor and they see white tourists (“mzungus”) as walking dollar signs. They will ask without shame to have you trade specific items for their wood carvings, paintings or bracelets, anything goes. I had people ask for my left earring, pens, my sunglasses or my clothes. While they love to follow you they are good natured when you turn them down and they don’t pester you continuously. In general you seem to be better off trading used items instead of paying for the souvenirs. In my opinion the items are still fairly expensive even though on the big scheme of things they are probably dirt cheap.

In Mzuzu where we went grocery shopping I struggled to spend 1,000 kwacha (maybe $8) on a huge bagful of snacks, yet on the markets they were asking this price for a smallish wood item or a bunch of postcards.

 

It’s Sunday which means that public toilets have no running water, there isn’t power everywhere and many people wear their best outfits. It’s pretty interesting to see how well people are dressed in general. You wouldn’t know that this is a poor country, not from what the cities look like or how people behave and certainly not by their clothes. Many clothes are donated which is why we often see Tshirts of local French bowling clubs or Mike’s Truck Stop etc. However a huge number of people wears suits and they even look almost tailored, they definitely don’t look like hand me downs.
Also, again, everyone is happy and friendly. It really puts it into perspective: people who have everything are usually unhappy, I don’t see a lot of easy smiles in the US or in Germany…

We pressed on through the hills to Chitimba which is at the north end of Lake Malawi. It’s another beach camp, really beautiful, and again we have to remind ourselves that we are not at the sea but at an actual lake. No swimming here as there is most certainly bilharzia in the water, and there are hook worms in the sand.

The camp, like most others, has a bunch of dogs, and my latest best friend is Mkosi, a large black Great Dane. Mkosi is a bit confused about the attention I give him, especially compared to the two other mutts.
The Gap group I was with recently came to the camp three days ago and I’m pretty sure that from today on we have the same itineray, just three days later. I may run into them in Dar or Zanzibar potentially.

 

I just dealt with an ant infestation in my tent (lots of “Doom”, and I will have to sleep through the fumes) and am now at the beach bar drinking one of the weak local beers named Kuche Kuche. We put on the movie “the gods must be crazy” in the background which is pretty cool as it is set in the Kalahari Desert where we visited the bushmen – only part of this movie is a comedy. I must remember to watch it when I’m back at home!

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Kande Beach (MW)

We have two nights here at Kande Beach. Obviously the beach isn’t real as there is no ocean here but Lake Malawi is so big that you cannot see the other side, there are even waves, and there is sand on the ground so if you didn’t know better you would think you’re at the ocean. Lake Malawi covers a third of the country and Malawi is not exactly small. I believe the lake is about 365 km long and 52 km wide which is why it’s sometimes called the ‘calendar lake’.
Supposedly the lake has bilharzia but scooba diving and snorkeling are offered as activities which they probably wouldn’t offer if it was that bad. I can take a test in a couple of weeks and get bilharzia treatment if it comes to that, I’m not that worried.

Last night I woke up to a thunderstorm just in time to put my rain cover on the tent. It poured for four hours and the thunder got louder in the early morning. Evidently this is a daily occurence in the rainy season and sure enough by 9am it was hot and a bit humid again. I used the free day to go swimming a few times, do laundry and spread a number of beers throughout the day. There are also three Great Danes/ Mastiff mixes here, so we made friends. At noon our cook selected a pig for dinner…the poor creature was tied to a long stick by its feet and unhappily awaited its destiny. I of course couldn’t resist touching it and the pig actually calmed down considerably when I pet it behind its ears and told it what part I would be digging into later.

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Shortly thereafter two local guys were sticking big knives into the pig though, looking for the heart. Unfortunately it took quite a while and the pig was squealing miserably. Sadly this scene did not turn me into a vegetarian though.
After the pig had finally died hot water was poured onto it and the guys were taking its hair off with a knife before cutting it open and gutting it.

The whole process took about 10 minutes – the hair removal took the longest. Afterward we carried the pig in a washbowl back to the campsite and it was roasted over coals for the remainder of the day.

We were all looking forward to dinner but unfortunately the pig didn’t come out as expected. The meat was very chewy and not especially tasty at all. It wasn’t bad but it just didn’t live up to our expectations. The skin had been treated with all sorts of sauces and even coke which apparently gives the meat additional flavor, but it was just not what we had in mind.

Malawi! (MW)

We made it to the Mozambique – Malawi border at 6.55pm last night and our tour guide raced ahead to warn them of our arrival and plea with them to leave the border open. Exiting Mozambique was easy, but still took about 20 minutes as the border post had no electricity and was operating at candlelight. The candles were waxed onto the tables directly, right next to all the paperwork.
At the Malawi side there was the usual buzz with plenty of trucks idling on the street, people loitering around and chaos inside the immigration office. People dressed as if it was winter were lining up in front of one desk with new folks constantly cutting in. I’m not sure what was being done there as four uniformed workers were sitting on tables and with their feet up behind the counter and nobody got processed through. Meanwhile we were being stamped through (no fee for Malawi) by one guy on the left who was probably eager to go home. There were boxes all over the place and there was barely any room to stand for us. Outside it was pitch black, only the office had power, still people were hanging around and everyone was really friendly.

 

At 8 pm we were finally done and on the way to Lilongwe where our camp was. On the completely dark road we dodged a bunch of random cows and goats and a good handful of single people walking along the side without any lights on them. They must have walked for miles, there was nothing around. We also got stopped by the police, one of the policemen “wanted to say hi to us”, and that’s exactly what he did – say hi to each one of us with a handshake and a smile, nothing else.

 

At the campside I opted for a chalet right away as I could not be bothered to set up a tent in darkness. Eddie and I split a room with two beds with mattresses that were thin and did not properly fit into the bedframes. Despite mosquito nets we were both bitten by something at night, and it wasn’t exactly cool in the room either. I think I will stick to my tent in the future, I just seem to sleep better in it.

 

This morning I went for a run for the first time in weeks. It did wonders for my sore body but nothing for my current headache. I wonder if I pinched a nerve two nights ago. The run took me past many confused locals, but luckily nobody stared or commented. I undid any effect of the run with the 4 sweet pancakes Mash gave me afterward, and I’m currently waiting for lunch which we’ll have here right before we move on to Kendi Beach.