Malawi

Day 95, 14th September 2009

 

Chitimba: 348 Miles

 

Q: Kisolanza is the best campsite I think we have stayed at since Kenya. The showers are super clean and very hot at 7am which is quite a novel thing these days. It is also so quiet and peaceful with only a few crickets chirping in the background to keep you company as you watch the sun rise above the thorn trees. It would be great to stay for a few days but unfortunately we have to rush to Malawi so that we can squeeze in a few days lazing on the shores of Lake Malawi before crossing into Zambia to meet up with Mom and Dad in Livingstone.

 

Going through the border was a breeze. Angel has a charm with the officials that I just don't have. We were through the border in about an hour and then had another delightful experience dealing with the money changers as we had heard that many of the forex bureaus in Malawi were still not operating after being closed by the government a few months back. I really like talking to the money changers. They have good chat and more often than not a good sense of humour. It is very easy to confuse them when you ask for conversions from different currencies and different amounts, so to make things easier they calculate everything on the calculator of their mobile phone … which they do in full view to make you feel like you are on top of the situation. I am going to write a book about the life of an African money changer … especially the one from Moyale in Ethiopia. I will never forget that guy.    

 

The speed limit here is a slow 80k/hour … not that Donkey can go much faster, but you soon realise why. The roads in Malawi remind me of Ethiopia. There are endless lines of people walking or riding their bikes in the middle of the road. The countryside is really beautiful when you first cross the border and you wind your way through lush tea plantations before dropping down towards Lake Malawi.

 

A: This place has a great feel to it, so laid back and relaxed, Caribbean-esque! As we drove you got glimpses of the lake then the road would wind back inland taking us through lush mountains and small villages. Although there are the masses of people and animals walking along the roads, you don't have to swerve out of the way of oncoming buses as they seem to respect the fact that there might be oncoming traffic on bends and stay on their side of the road. Driving here is far more pleasant while Tanzanian driving knocked years off my life and gave me another wrinkle.

 

At 5ish we arrived at Chitimba Beach Camp and the approach is down a very narrow sandy driveway lined towards the cam entrance by curio stands. We parked up under a blooming Jaquaranda tree and went and sat on an old upturned dugout on the beach with a beer. The sun was setting and a few locals were washing their clothes and bathing in the lake so we went for a walk and within seconds had seven tiny little children all naked having been swimming fighting to hold our hands as we strolled down the beach. Their mothers laughed and continued to do their washing while their smallest who was 6 months old sat amongst the clean laundry eating handfuls of sand.

 

Making our way back to the camp, the little ones were calling us Mzungus (white man) , we laughed and asked them if we are Mzungus what are they called and Patricia (9yrs) answered Mapatu, and with that the youngest 5 yrs started singing "mzungu, mapatu, mzungu, mapatu'  we all joined in skipping along the beach until we were back at camp.

 

Supper was an interesting combination of what we could find in our kitchen boxes … sauteed potatoes with garlic, kidney beans tinned tomatoes and pasta … not as disgusting as it sounds and with a few herbs and spices it turned out to be quite tasty. Honestly ...

 

I noticed the owner who was a Dutch guy go around the back of the ablution block with a plate of milk and bread so I poked my head around and noticed he was feeding a dog with her four 3 week old puppies. They were the cutest things, still unable to see properly and walking into everything. Once again I tried my luck and asked Andrew if we could have one but he just rolled his eye balls. I only asked because we met a couple doing the same trip as us but from south to north who had found a puppy in Mozambique and were travelling to Holland with him. See, it's not a totally ridiculous idea!!

 

Day 96, 16th September 2009

 

Monkey Bay in Cape Maclear: 407 Miles

 

Q: Day 3 of relentless hour after hour of driving. Other than being in Africa and the fact that the sun is shining … it feels like the first week when we went through Europe a few months ago. Hopefully it will be worth it as when we get to Cape Maclear where we will have a few days to do nothing other than lounge on the beach, swim and snooze. I am not enjoying getting up at 5 am every morning and then driving the whole day through. It's no fun.

 

Joel and Hannah will hopefully be at Cape Maclear too when we arrive … they went through Burundi and down Lake Tanganyika into Zambia and then crossed into Malawi. It seems like their journey went pretty well other than the small matter of getting arrested and having their bike impounded in Lilongwe for not having their license with them when driving around town. It will be good to see them again.

 

Angel's bday is looming.

 

A: Ahhhh, it's so nice to be here, we arrive just in time to watch the sunset over Thumbi Island which sits just a kilometer from the main land. It's amazing and to top it off, the water is warm and crystal clear so we quickly got our bikini and swimming shorts on and jumped in. We're here for three days so we can get in some serious relaxation.

 

Day 97, 17th September 2009

 

Monkey Bay in Cape Maclear: 0 miles

 

Joel and Hannah arrived this morning from Salima … we drove through Salima late yesterday afternoon on our way to Fat Monkey. Good to see that they were able to get the bike back from the cops without any massive issues but unfortunately the corrugated road between here and the main road has rattled the bike to bits again …

 

The Smith family is somewhere in the bay too today … I am sure that we will see them later. This place is perfect for doing absolutely nothing, so this is the most writing that I can manage.

 

It is Angel's bday tomorrow .. 

 

A: We managed to locate the Smith clan, they are just a mile down the beach in a resort called eagles Nest. After Joel and Hannah settled in we got ready to take a walk down the beach to see them but just as we were about to set off, Chris came along in a canoe to find us. The rest of the family were making their way very slowly in a small rowing boat with two broken oars and a very big leak!!

 

Chris feeling slight sorry for them headed out to check on their progress and bailing techniques and towed them to shore. It's so nice to meet with them all again, the kids were full of stories of where they'd been and things they'd done.

 

While were all stood on the beach catching up on each other's adventures we heard music start to play just behind us. A group of seven boys had brought along their hand made musical instruments and began to sing and dance for us. Their song lyrics were "how are you? I'm fine... How are you? Fine thank you..."(repeat 50 times over) very sweet but we couldn't get the words or tune out of our heads for the rest of the day. Their dance moves I have to say were pretty awesome, they have the most amazing rhythm and the dancing here is quite unique. Some Mzungus that were passing by along the beach, stopped to listen to the music and then attempted to dance but just looked hilarious as we watched them try and mimic the boys style.

 

The Simpsons headed back and we cooked up a big bowl of pasta for us all. Early night tonight, have to get the beauty sleep in, I turn 32 tomorrow! Ouch!

 

Day 98, 18th September 2009

 

Monkey Bay in Cape Maclear: 0 miles

 

Q: If it had been my birthday today I would have been very pleased. What could have been better than starting the day with a delicious breakfast of two day old bread rolls with ripe banana spread and a cup of fresh Kenyan coffee followed by a romantic morning of snorkeling and lunch of fresh fish on the shores of Thumbi Island in Lake Malawi National Park. To top it off … dinner was a candle lit affair around a beach braai (barbeque for all of those non SA's) of MORE fresh fish and hand filleted (by me) chicken with potato salad. Oh … and please don't forget the arrival of a very unusual birthday cake.

 

If I had all that on my birthday I certainly would never forget it. Good thing that it is only 10 days until the my birthday.

 

A: Very true I couldn't have wished for a better setting or better company. We woke early and Andrew got down from the tent then re appeared a few moments later with a card and a pink flower he'd picked off a nearby tree. He's so thoughtful; inside my card is a hand written voucher for a day in a spa when we reach Cape Town for some much needed preening.

 

Hannah and Joel had written a birthday message in the sand and kindly bought me a beautiful necklace, then, the Smiths popped by before heading off towards Mozambique and the kids had been busy in the back of the car making me a bracelet, key ring and little Leyla had drawn a picture of Andrew and I with a baby in the middle … and wrapped up a hat that previously belonged to her for our baby when we decide to have one......such a little character.

 

Once they'd left, we got on our boat to take us over to the Island for the day. At first we bobbed down the shore line and stopped occasionally so they could collect some fish and vegetables for our lunch then headed to Thumbi. You could see all the colourful fish in the water surrounding the boat so were all quick to jump in and get a closed look. Just off the island there was a huge boulder which sat just beneath the water line which we nicknamed Seal Rock (purely because of what you looked like trying to get on top of it!) and if you managed to get your footing and actually stand on it, it looked like you were walking on water.

 

Lunch was served up, fish, rice and a fresh tomato and garlic sauce … so tasty. The afternoon was spent in and out of the water and lazing on the rocks. What a birthday!

 

Back at camp we started on the beer and G&T and waited for the arrival of the fish we'd ordered from a chap called Dan. At 6 ish it arrived all 6 huge fillets of it that he'd prepared for us, I wrapped in it foil and we threw it on the BBQ (braai!) along with the wonderfully prepared chicken. The potato salad was the best I've made so far, not blowing my own trumpet but it was damn good....

 

We were all sat chatting when I heard Andrew coming around the corner singing Happy Birthday. I glanced over and saw he was carrying our large glass citronella candle and on closer inspection I realised it was serving as a cake candle and beneath it was the cake.......so incredible, he'd organised for the chef to make me a cake which wasn't quite as he'd expected. Chocolate was his request but instead we got a hard, dry, rye like bready dough!!!  We laughed, it's so thoughtful and this is definitely a birthday I will never forget.

 

Zambia

 

Day 99, 19th September 2009

 

Petauke: 346 miles

 

Q: Just before we left Fat Monkeys, Shakespeare (one of the beach boys) came on over to our camp and gave me another bangle to add to my now growing collection. The longer we stay here the more bohemian we will start to look. Shakespeare is by far the oldest beach boy working on our stretch of the beach. It looks like he has been making a living from selling bits and pieces to tourists for years. I like him … we had a long chat yesterday about some pretty deep life issues. I recon that most of his profits are sunk into his natural jungle medicine habit. 

 

Yet again we had to say our goodbyes to Joel and Hannah and headed towards the Zambian border via Lilongwe. They two are off to Mozambique on their never die 125 Honda and should be in Cape Town around the same time we arrive. It will be great to see them.

 

Driving towards the border was pretty uneventful but the Zambian border offered up another handful of characters. We arrived a little after 2pm which had given one money changer enough time during the day to drink himself very close to a coma. He was funny … very drunk but very funny to talk to. For the first time we were asked for our Yellow Fever certificates which we had to fish out of the safe after all these months.

  

A: While waiting for Andrew to complete the border crossing process, a German lady came and introduced herself to me. For the past ten years her and her husband have been traveling for monthly periods around Africa. They leave their car here and every year come out to wherever their last trip finished, get the car serviced and then travel to wherever they haven't yet covered. Apparently many people do this and there are several places over Africa that keep your car safe in storage for your return a year later for a fee of 40 Euros a month!! Not bad....

 

The drive was certainly a long one today through the mountains in Western Malawi and into the dry bush terrain of Zambia. The roads are are excellent and thankfully both human and animal value their lives a little more here so driving is far more pleasant for not having to play dodgems with every creature that comes your way.

 

We arrived at Zulu Kraal Campsite just after sunset where we were met by George the owner, a very humble soul who seemed delighted we'd stopped by. The camp is very new and still not quite finished but he's hoping to have it complete in time for peak season.

 

Supper was sandwiches with the leftover fish from last nights BBQ with mayo........

 

Malawian Facts …

 

1] How Malawi let Carlsberg became its national beer … I really don't know. They come in small bottles and are 85 Malawian Kwatcha from a rural bottle store or 200 in a restaurant.  

2] The speed limit is 80km/h … Ethiopia should enforce the same speed limit as they also have gazillions of people ambling along using the roads as their foot paths.

3] Fuel is 220 kwatcha per litre.

4] Fresh Chambo (which is caught in Malawi Lake) is very good particularly when cooked on an open fire. It will give Black Cod a good run.

5] Malawians are very talented craftsmen … their work is so much better than anything else we have seen so far.  

 

Day 100, 20th September 2009

 

Livingstone: 582 miles

 

Q: I watched the sun rise again this morning whilst fumbling around making a cup of coffee and feeding our new feline friend. Milk for breakfast for our little friend must be a real treat as she put on quite a performance of meowing and purring.

 

Today was always going to be a long drive through to Livingstone but other than stopping in Lusaka to get some food at the first real supermarket we had seen in months plus grab a Subway for lunch, there was really little to see. It was however all worth it.

 

We found my parents in their very plush hotel along the banks of the Zambezi with a swimming pool and very good hot showers. I needed a good cleaning after 2 days driving.

 

I cannot believe that we have been going now for 100 days. We have seen so much … I think that it is more like 97 … we have made a mistake somewhere in our day count.

 

A: Andrew and I have been travelling now for quite some time  and I cant think of one occasion where I've felt under dressed...until now! Chrismar Lodge Mike and Hazel are staying in is rather lovely and the moment we parked the car we jumped in the back and changed. We put on clean tops, both were white but now more of a beige tone having washed them in the Nile water, hopefully it'll go unnoticed.

 

We made our way to  their room tip toeing to surprise them but Hazel spotted us approaching and threw open the door. It's lovely to see them and they both looked wonderful. They told us they had been on a microlight over the falls and highly recommended that we do it. The pool here was so inviting so we went for a swim when Andrew pretended to scrub his armpits in  front of their travelling companions … a quick glare and grin from his mom and he soon stopped! It was pretty funny though.

 

We made our way to the car and surprised Mike and Hazel with a bottle of Champagne that we drank out of plastic cups for their 40th Wedding Anniversary then headed for supper. We sat on the very edge of the Zambezi  and were treated to a delicious supper … yum.

 

Day 101, 21st September 2009

 

Livingstone: 0 miles

 

Q: Before Mom and Dad left for Chobe this morning, they spoiled us to a full buffet breakfast at their hotel. I am sure that they must have been feeling sorry for us .. perhaps we are looking a little thin. Two good meals in 12 hours should sort us out for a while.

 

Since arriving in Livingstone, Angel has been talking about jumping off the Victoria Falls Bridge attached to nothing more than an elastic band. I am not keen. A few years ago I may have stomached the idea … but as I am now approaching 34, I really don't like the idea. Thankfully before doing anything remotely insane, Donkey needs some love and the guys at Foley Africa were waiting for us (well kinda). Nick seems to be running a busy shop as there were many Landrovers in the yard needing work. We were booked in for the afternoon when Nick and Ollie will be able to take a look at it.

 

Livingstone has a Spar supermarket which sells everything. Fresh milk … packaged fresh meat … and lettuce. Supermarkets are a very foreign way of shopping in many of the regions through which we have travelled. Expensive UHT milk and visits to a fly riddled market butcher have been the norm. And lettuce … I have not seen lettuce for almost four months. I don't remember either of us having had any issues with our tummies since leaving home. Very fortunate I suppose …

 

A: Yes, this is certainly a treat, having everything in one shop is quite a novelty. You'd have thought that finding good quality fruit and veg on our travels would have been a given but it's virtually impossible and finding a simple can of tuna is like striking gold!!

 

We spent the afternoon on the internet where Andrew toiled away updating the site while I check our emails. One huge concern we discovered is that after spending weeks creating and making our wedding invitations, some friends haven't received them … not good, we're going to send out a mail soon to find out who's got lost in the post....William, Ellen and Rog the Dodge … sorry.

 

We met two guys today Locky and Messy, they were parked up next to us in the car park waiting for us to finish at the internet. They are travelling from Capetown to London hopefully making it back in time for Christmas. They are just out of uni and decided to buy a 4x4 in South Africa and travel North for 5 months. They weren't sure where to stay and didn't have the luxury of a GPS so they followed us back to Bushfront Camp where we sat and chatted about what we'd all seen and done over the past few months. Messy brought a Shisha pipe with him from the UK so around our camp fire Andrew and I reminisced about our shisha evenings on the beach in Dahab. That seems like an eternity ago!

 

By 10pm branches were snapping and the noise grew louder, the elephants were close by and once your eyes had adjusted to the dark, you could make out four female elephants strolling through the bush in our camp tearing e+verything in sight to pieces. There is an electric fence surrounding this site but it was torn down some time ago by an inquisitive herd. The only means of protection for the guards is to use the crackers which don't do an awful lot … just to redirect them around rather than through the camp.

 

Andrew and I left old tomatoes and yams on the bonnet when we went to bed in hope that they'd pay us a closer visit!

 

Day 102, 22nd September 2009

 

Livingstone: 0 miles

 

Q: Nick at Foley thinks he may have malaria. Ouch. Most uncool but according to Ollie, this is not an unusual thing. Malaria is not nice. Hopefully our daily intake of Doxi will keep doing its thing while we carry on travelling South. This area is full of malaria … there are signs all over the place telling people to have their homes sprayed regularly by the local council.

 

Much of today was spent hanging around the workshop. All four wheel barrings needed tightening, a few new bushes on the front suspension and a new steering pinion were put in. Tomorrow we need to replace the air intake seal, look at the electrical problems and replace the rear brake pads and then we should be on our way towards Namibia.

 

There was more talk about this bungi thing again today. I am really not warming to the idea at all.

 

A: Brakes, bushes, barrings … all important stuff but who's going to fix the outside light so I can cook without having to suspend a torch from the neck of my t-shirt every night! He-he....

 

Andrew really got stuck in and with the absence of Nick his help was greatly appreciated. Locky and Messy were there too, they had a leak in their water tank which they needed to get fixed along with a few other minor problems. I felt like a spare part (!) all day so tucked myself into a corner and read a book while Andrew got greased up.

 

Once we were done for the day, we started Donkey up and began reversing down the ramp only to discover we didn't have any brakes!  Andrew had to yank up the hand brake and we came to an abrupt stop … Ollie looked at us like we were total idiots. Turns out one of the guys took out the brake pads to check their condition and when he replaced them failed to pump the brake pedal to build up the pressure before sending us on our way. Ollie pretended to beat the culprit up and we set off to the Supermarket. We mentioned to the boys we were doing a BBQ so we all chipped in and back at the camp had an awesome supper of chicken and boerwoers with my special potato salad.

 

No ellies tonight. Not a bad thing as our site was right on the edge where they enter and I didn't fancy too many guests for supper.

 

Day 103, 23rd September 2009

 

Livingstone: 0 miles

 

Livingstone SOS Village Visit

 

We had tried to contact SOS in the UK a few times to set up our visit in Livingstone, but as we had not heard back from them … we decided to just make our way to the SOS Village on our own.

 

The petrol attendant at the Total garage in town gave us the directions to the village … "head out of town towards the airport and at the weighbridge turn right". He was spot on and we were let into the gated village and school area by a few very professional looking security guards.

 

The SOS Village in Livingstone is only a few years old being officially opened in 2008. It is one of the newest projects in Africa. They are set up very much like the other villages that we have visited with 15 family homes, a kindergarten and a primary school on site catering to the children in the surrounding community as well as those housed in the village.

 

Being a very impromptu visit we were not able to stay for too long, but we did manage to meet the head of the kindergarten and the primary school who were lovely. School for the day had closed as they have a huge problem with their supply of water from the municipal government. If the water is cut off (which seems to happen too frequently) the teachers send the kids home during the hot summer months.

 

The SOS project in Livingstone seems to be very well funded and well equipped more-so than the other villages that we have visited on our journey. If there was one thing that they need, it would be a reliable supply of water so that they can operate normally as they expand over the next couple of years. They are currently looking at digging a bore hole on the site … but this again costs money.   

 

Q: I did not sleep at all last night. I could not think of anything other than falling out of the sky totally terrified.  I have been trying to gear myself up for the tandem bungi jump off of the Victoria Falls bridge but I don't think that I would enjoy the experience at all. I would rather get worms than fall 111m off of a bridge.

 

Angel is still very excited by the whole idea … so after the car was finally released from the guys at Foleys, we headed to the Zambia/ Zimbabwe border crossing on Victoria Falls Bridge where the scariest fun thing to do in Livingstone can be found.     

 

A: I always said if I was ever to do a bungi jump it would be off Vic Falls Bridge. We were in this exact place a year ago when we spent five days just before Jeremy and Lisa's wedding in Botswana visiting the Okavango and Chobe and then Vic Falls in Zambia. We walked across the bridge and I made some lame excuse that it looked a bit of a shoddy set-up so didn't do it. This time there were a number of jumpers and the set up looked very professional ... it was time!

 

Andrew wasn't the least bit enthusiastic about the whole idea and even got the heeby geebies looking over the edge. We spent an hour at the view point with a young Canadian couple. The girl had been sponsored to jump for a very good cause but was putting her name down for the following day. At that point Andrew disappeared and I later spotted him on the bridge watching the guys rig people up ready for the jump. He came back half an hour later with a look of great concern on his face and suggested we wait until tomorrow when he will make his mind up.

 

Lets be honest here. It's not everyone's cup of tea to jump off a very high bridge. Andrew spent the rest of that day with a permanent worried/terrified look on his face. Poor thing, why put yourself through it if it's not something you've ever wanted to do ...

 

Day 104, 24th September 2009

 

Livingstone: 0 miles

 

A: Another restless night for poor Andrew. I however woke up with a spring in my step. I was excited at the idea of doing this and couldn't wait.

 

We did a few bits in town and later headed to the bridge … again. I went straight to the registration area but Andrew wasn't ready. He took another stroll along the bridge and after an hour I went to get him. He was sweating and had lost all the colour in his face. I begged him not to keep me waiting any longer as every minute that passed it got more difficult for me.

 

Q: I am SO glad that together we weighed in at 143kgs … that is 3kgs too heavy for the tandem jump. As we sat in front of the registration desk awaiting the results of our combined weight, my fingers and toes were tingling and my heart was thumping. Now that I was scott free, Angel was on her own … thankfully ...

 

Angel really made the whole episode look as though she had done it many times times before and that this was just another ordinary day. Other than an elegant yelp as she plummeted towards the Zambezi before the bungi took up the slack, Angel showed no signs of nerves and no signs of chickening out. She loved it … far more than I loved watching it. Very glad that this episode had ended, I was happy to head back to the camp to make dinner to watch Angel's bungi DVD a few times. The DVD is great and some of the pictures came out really well.

 

We could be back in Victoria Falls in a few months time to drop off Donkey, so I am going to spend the next couple of weeks as we go through Namibia building up some courage. I very much doubt I can find it in me to do it …

 

A: The whole thing was totally exhilarating and I'd do it again in a flash. I have to be honest though, I was completely terrified. The organisers are quite clever and give you very little time to chicken out. You're strapped in, hooked on, walked to the edge ... 5,4,3,2,1, … Bungi!! Whooohoooo!! Brilliant...

 

Things one needs to think about when going to Livingstone (not fair to discuss the whole of Zambia from our experience …)

 

1] Fuel is around 5500 kwatcha per litre … not the cheapest at just under a dollar twenty five.

2] Zambian supermarkets have fresh milk which is a massive luxury.

3] Beers are 4USD on the river deck of the 5 star Royal Livingstone Hotel, but you are paying for the view. In a supermarket you are looking at about 5000 kwatcha.

4] Bungi jumping is a fantastic experience for your partner to enjoy … alone … and as many times as they like.

5] The odd elephant visit in the night at your Zambezi riverside campsite is quite novel. Pity the guards chase them off with crackers.