Rachel - Ruarwe
19/11/2010 - 21/11/2010
We had read about yet another eco-conscious set up on the remotest shore of the lake which was also a challenge to reach being completely inaccessible by roads because of the surrounding mountains, and the boats all finished about 4 hours walk short (although it suggests you can speak nicely to the captain to take you the rest of the way). Ruarwe village is so remote that the lodge in question was originally named “Wherearewe” We had originally planned one of the other options to hike along the lake shore but so soon after Nyika we decided to get there by boat instead and maybe hike out. We had prepared ourselves, and were even welcoming, a bit of a battle to get there but after Steve from the Mushroom Farm gave us a lift down the big hill on his way to the market in town, and then we caught some easy minibuses to the closest harbour. We had a small wait for the boat but the captain offered to take us all the way without us even having to ask and even offered a reasonable price so after five breezy hours on the boat we arrived, not tired out in the least (other than a very numb bum).
The next day we walked a few hours round trip along the river past the waterfall and up to a gap in the mountains accompanied by the resident dog who had shared our dorm. And when we returned we hoped to find some more people to chat with but it was pretty dead with only three volunteers who were helping to build and run the local education centre who were cooking their own food and so weren’t really around much. So Dave and I asked someone to finally teach us the local boardgame: Bao. We must be very well matched or are missing a key rule because we’ve now played that game three times and we always have to give up because it doesn’t seem to finish!
That was after we borrowed the dug-out canoe and tried to balance ourselves by straddling an end each while I paddled us around for a bit. Those Malawian fishermen must have ore muscles of steel, we tried all sorts and it just felt so unstable, although we only had one fall overboard so I think we can take some pride in our wobbly efforts. Although by this point we were starting to worry about our earlier decision to hire a canoe with driver the next day to take us round to the next big town where we could get back to the main road. Three people and more importantly our precious bags wobbling about sounded risky but the manager assured us the bigger canoes were much more stable and the idea of canoeing out was too romantic to pass up.
We hung out with the three volunteers that evening, one of whom was leaving the following day and they were killing and cooking a goat in his honour. He was going to carry out the slaughter himself for idealistic principles after being a lapsed vegetarian and ex isreali army recruit and wannabe student doctor.
So the next morning, after the rain and choppiness had passed, we packed our things in plastic, secured them in the boat, took up the paddles and headed out along the coast. Even in a canoe people will shout hello from the shoreline so whoever wasn’t paddling was on waving duty and the three hours pretty much flew by while we sang all the sea/ship/water related songs we could think of to I think the bafflement of our main paddler in the back Adamson. We were told there was little chance of finding a scheduled pickup truck lift before morning so we struck some luck when a passing pickup said we could jump in while we were walking to the town.
We had to wait 2 hours for them to load mountains of fish and flour sacks onto the back from one of the visiting cargo boats while entertaining a relentless crowd of children. They wouldn’t stop staring or calling out and trying to get a reaction from us no matter how boring we tried to be and after our efforts this morning we really just wanted to zone out and wait peacefully but eventually after they were acting out the Macarena (of all things!) for us I jumped down and tried a round of hokey cokey. Fortunately at this point we were about ready to go and to a final farewell parting chorus of “give me money” we were off.
It’s a pity really that it was dark by this point because the road from the coast back up the valleyside must have been spectacular with narrow hairpin bend after hairpin bend and glimpses of the sheer drops and open views to the other side of the valley occasionally hinted at by the headlights and fires burning miles away. Our driver was a motoring whiz but still had us clutching the side of our seats and praying, not only for our lives but for the dozen or so people who weren’t in the cab with us but clinging to the mountain of sacks on the top! But thanks to the driver we all arrived alive in Mzuzu. Our inward journey to Ruarwe had been so easy but we felt like we had earned our rest today.