A Travellerspoint blog

Enlightened by Malawi

sunny 30 °C

With a full day of driving ahead, we hopped on the bus and headed for the border. After being hounded by people trying to exchange our left over Zambian currency, we got through customs and into Malawi. The first thing we noticed was the amount of people and animals on the road. Due the fuel crisis there, there weren’t many vehicles passing. Police checks were everywhere in Malawi, and we managed to find most of them on our travels, one of which went on for about half an hour. Our first port of call was Lilongwe, the capital city. As soon as we got off the truck we were approached by many people who wanted to show us their paintings and jewellery etc. We had a look around the city and saw lots of wood carvings and souvenirs, we just weren’t sure what we wanted to buy at that stage as there’s too much to choose from! We stopped at one point and were unsure why, then our guide asked us if any of us fancied a mouse or a frog on a stick, random or what! Lee did toy with the idea, and then changed his mind. Card games were what kept us from boredom on our journey, though us girls were getting rather fed up with Lee being the jammiest pain in the backside and winning almost every card game! We carried on with our journey until we broke down in the middle of nowhere! A group of local children flocked to see what was going on and we had a little joke with them which was great fun. They were laughing and dancing and reeling off the English alphabet and numbers, until they got shouted out by their parents and all disappeared :) We got back on the truck and carried on through the dark winding potholed roads and finally made it to our camp on Kande Beach, Lake Malawi. Settings tents up in the dark was interesting, and then we had a nice dinner and hit the G&T’s which were much needed after a day of driving! We played some pool at the bar and took a look at the ‘beach’. We were amazed that there were waves crashing, just as though it was the ocean. We managed to stay up till 11pm which was unheard of on this trip as the early mornings were taking their toll!

The following day we were greeted with a nice brekkie of pancakes, yum! Just after I had left the tent, Lee had a bit of an incident with a very big and very fast spider…. running around on our sleeping bags. Not knowing whether it was venomous or not, he tried to splat it a few times, but the spider was winning. It finally took refuge in our sleeping bag, and that’s where the story came to an end, with a swift blow to the spidery head. We were hoping to spend the day on the beach, though it was super windy and cloudy, so we decided to just chill and do some hand washing, god I miss washing machines. Just when we thought we’d had enough animal antics for one day, Lee was walking back to our tent when he leapt backwards. He’d spotted a yellow and brown snake in the grass which took him by surprise! Being an avid photographer as most people know, he was more concerned about getting a picture of the bloody thing! There he was with his phone out getting closer for a good shot, with me throwing a bit of a hissy fit that it might be poisonous etc etc. One of our guides was then intrigued and went to have a look, before about five locals joined in to! It turned out to be a Yellow Striped Sand Snake, which is luckily not venomous, and also native to Tanzania and not Malawi, so it was either lost or on holiday :) Just to join in with the others, we had a bathroom full of rather large lizards, needless to say Cassie’s Paradise this campsite was not! As the Aussie’s on our trip were celebrating Anzac Day, we were treated to some Anzac Biscuits cooked in a makeshift oven on hot coals. Our guides definitely put my cooking to shame, my camping menu would consist of beans on toast every night I reckon! I decided to head off and read my book for a while, and spotted a rather inviting hammock right next to the water. So in I got, and nearly fell out again - twice! Once settled it soon became far too cold and windy, so I gave up and headed back to our trusty truck for shelter.

The following day we were bound for a village called Chitimba. We stopped en route for a spot of shopping, and returned to our truck happy with our purchases :) Not too far into our journey we came across what looked like a truck crash. It turned out to be a truck that had too heavy a load to be able to get up the hill, so locals were helping offload the sugar bags to help him, for money of course. The hold up created a bit of a traffic jam, so the locals cashed in on this too by creating a makeshift road and charging people to use it! If people wouldn’t pay, they either blocked the road, or threatened to smash windows or knife people! There was no way our truck was going to fit through, so we had to just sit and wait. They tried moving the truck that was stuck, and it just would not go, and basically jack knifed itself across the road, precariously close to the edge (a sheer drop). Our driver offloaded us and was able to get our truck through the gap and we met him up the hill. Fingers crossed the other truck made it up the hill, and not over the edge, we’ll never know. We later stopped at a place called Mzuzu and had a nightmare getting money out of the cash machines. They either didn’t take MasterCard or were just broken. The ones that were working had a huge queue, and we were half an hour late back to the truck in the end!

We made it to our next campsite in Chitimba, what a place it was! Right on Lake Malawi still, though we were blessed with beautiful weather, albeit a little windy :) Our backdrop was lush green mountains, it was stunning. Right outside our campsite was our very own little wood carving shopping mall, it was great! We headed out to see what was on offer, and boy can these guys carve. They were all eager to make a sale, and we ordered a few bits and bobs, and then headed back to camp. The following morning, we popped out to do some more shopping, it was great fun, and we made our final orders so the guys could get carving, for us to collect later. We then went out on a village walk. Our first stop was a school. As soon as we walked into the grounds, the kids flocked to us, trying to hold our hands and talk to us. We met the Head Master who talked us through the age groups of the school and the fact that their class sizes are generally 120 pupils. They learn a range of lessons, and from the age of 8, they learn all of their classes in English. They have lessons for life skills, which teach them all sorts of things, from how to deal with an argument, or how to express themselves to the HIV/Aids epidemic Malawi is faced with. The school also houses many Orphans, who have been left with no parents generally due to HIV/Aids. We were taken into the youngest infant class first and the children were all sitting in circles on the floor. Lee was taking photos of the children and they were crowding round to get a glimpse of the picture. We moved on to the next age group, though these guys were a little more rowdy and over excited, and were showing off a little, and Lee had a little stick thrown at him. So we decided to move on and leave that class to it, though Lee managed to cut his leg on a rusty nail on the way. We then visited an older class who were around the age of twelve, and they were very well behaved and maybe even a little shy. Once we were back out in the playground we were again mobbed and I had children holding my hand on each side, it was very sweet. We met children who told us their father was ‘eaten by the lake’ after he had been drinking some beer, and another boy who had lost his mother to Malaria and his Father to Cancer, it was pretty devastating.

We then headed to meet the local Witch Doctor. Into his house we went, and out he came dressed in a rather bizarre bright green outfit, with the equivalent of a musical hula-hoop around his waist and bells on his ankles! He had two drummers and they kicked off, and so he started dancing. He was really going for it, shaking his midriff and ankles. He then called us up one by one to dance like him, it was hilarious and highly embarrassing! There were kids clambering over each other to get a peek through the window, and people doing the same at the door! Once the dancing was done, he decided to show off his skills by eating a burnt piece of wood which was still glowing from the fire. After that, we all went in one by one to have our fortune told. Apparently we are going to have two children, in two years time, we are going to be successful in our jobs (which we don’t have), and travel more before settling again in the UK. Hmm… may take that reading with a pinch of salt as we all had something similar!:) haha!

We headed to the hospital next, and what an eye opener that was. Basic does not even describe what we saw. We were shown around by a Doctor who worked at the hospital and he explained that they do not have enough vaccines any longer. One problem they are constantly faced with is Malaria, and they have no way of treating it now. There were families queuing outside with their children for vaccines which he said they simply could not provide. They had boxes of condoms, as in no less than 8000 in a box, in a bid to combat HIV/Aids. It just shows you what a desperate situation they are in, and hits home at how fortunate we are with the health system we have, and all we do is complain about it. Malawi now has a new leader, and they are hoping that this will bring about some changes in the healthcare system.

After a morning, which for me really hit home at how lucky we are, we headed to the beach to relax for a while. We collected our carvings from the guys and spent our last night in Malawi around the campfire, toasting marshmallows  Malawi has been an incredible experience, and to see daily life here makes me realise what a spoilt brat I really am.

Posted by Cass - Lee 12:34 Archived in Malawi

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