Our journey from Tanzania to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi, became a series of challenges – some we chose, others were unexpected trials!
Firstly it took us 7 different transports to cross the border: 4 dalla dallas (minibuses), 1 shared taxi, 1 motorbike journey in the pouring rain and walking across no man’s land. We are used to African transport being a tad squashed but this last minibus took it to new levels, even the Malawians were shouting about it. This travelling sardine can literally could not fit another person in, so the conductor had to cling onto the outside of the bus holding the sliding door closed. We also had to wait an hour for fuel from the black market to arrive and another hour for a woman to get back from a little walk with her baby. Luckily for Dave he always gets offered the front seat, while I’m left in the back elbowing people for some personal space.
Our first Malawian destination was Mushroom Farm, which is perched on the edge of a cliff overlooking Lake Malawi. We decided we would hike up there… I would like to see the man (rather mountain goat) that can hike this mini Everest in an hour and a half. It took us twice that! It is fairly steep with very long, winding paths couple this with the equatorial heat even at 9am. The 20 turn-backs are signposted and counted down to torture anyone foolish enough not to hitchhike up t the farm. But as a reward we were treated to incredible views, delicious food (portions Dave couldn’t even finish) and an upgraded room with our own private deck.
Our next stop, before Lilongwe, was Nkhata bay – we met great people here and having such a relaxed atmosphere we ended up staying just a bit longer than planned! While we were resident in Nkhata bay we inadvertently set ourselves various challenges. Firstly we decided to canoe round a few bay to a nearby beach. Unfortunately the only quality I got from my Asian relatives was sea sickness (soon I will not be able to go on a pedalo on an artificial lake) meaning all the rowing was left up to Dave. As we arrived on the beautiful white beach, we couldn’t take the staring from the local children, so we pushed the canoe back in the water and rowed back. We also tried to swim to a nearby beach – we were told it was a quick, easy and pleasant 15 minutes swim. We have now learnt to analyse the man giving advice, in this case it was a Spaniard who is cycling round the world – the swim was not quick or easy, but it was fairly pleasant!
The hostel we were staying at had some local dugout canoes and if 2 people can row out round a fixed raft and back to shore, they get a free nights’ accommodation. Not as easy as it sounds – Dave spent hours in this canoe trying to learn to balance it like a local. People were shocked at his determination as he spent more time in the water and having to empty his canoe of water with a jug.
Our 2 person tactic was for me to stay as low and as still as possible, while Dave rowed. Needless to say we paid for our room that night.
Finally after a 6m cliff jump and trying to get 6 people standing on a very wobbly raft it was time for us to say goodbye to Lake Malawi, hopefully Bilharzia free, and head to Lilongwe.