A Travellerspoint blog

November 2010

Gently gently catchy Jumbo


From the bottom of the sea-like Lake Malawi flows the Shire river which in turn drains into the Zambezi (which even I’ve heard of). And this slow moving sleepy river Shire and the transport-hub town of Liwonde would be our next stop. The river flows through a national park which is renowned for its birds and wildlife and the river makes it rather unique as a wildlife park. Neither of us were particularly interested in a game drive but the chance to pootle up the river in a boat sounded like a nice alternative to see riverside wildlife.

So we arrived, left Jeroen to recover from his tummy upset, borrowed Anna’s laptop for a rare film and room service treat in our elevated turret room overlooking the river listening to the sound of hippos in the river.

Next day we hopped on the back of a cycle taxi to the riverside and had a very lazy river trip past all sorts of birds (my favourite being the “intermediate egret” for the name alone) and yawning hippo pods. The highlight of the trip though was an elephant who had come down to the reed beds to drink. He was none to happy to have us so close judging by the apparent charge-warning of his flapping ears and swaying head but soon we left him alone to watch him and his mate disappear under the water bar their trunks sticking out like periscopes and walk along the bottom to the other side and privacy.

We had offered to cook something healthy like a veg stir fry for Anna and Jeroen using their Landrover stove so we checked out the local covered market but nearly all the stalls in the market were offering the same things – tomatoes, onions, cabbage, dried fish and sometimes some dried beans. We did manage to track down some garlic and a man whispered to us that he could get us a green pepper, literally sold to us under the table out of a hidden bag, which we jumped at. We headed home with what we could get and it turned out they had a store of green curry paste and even some coconut milk they’d stocked up with in Zambia I think. Saved!
As I’m writing this of course we’ve been here for a month so I can say that the markets are often the same. No matter what their size they will still stock only the same things. In the larger markets you can get some bread, mangos and condiments as well but as far as main ingredients go…that’s pretty much it, anything extra is worthy of investigation and comment. Fortunately the tomatoes and onions here are some of the best I’ve tasted. But I tell you, I could murder some cheese.

But I quite liked Liwonde, it had character and we’re easing our way into how the towns work. We left Anna and Jeroen at this point as they head back towards Mozambique and we headed south to climb mount Mulanje…festival hangover safely behind us.

Posted by rachndave 02:24 Archived in Malawi Tagged animals markets Comments (0)

How to recover from a festival


Anna, Jeroen, Lani and Bryan, Dave and I headed in the Landrovers / Toyotas to Cape Maclear, a fishing village cum backpacker chillout destination further up the lake side. When we arrived Dave and I turned out to be sharing a dorm with a couple who had been camped next to us, sharing the same tree shade, at the festival: Mouse (nickname for Fay…fay-mouse…geddit ;)) and Johnny. The eight of us and two others, Nick and Amy who were two VSO workers in Uganda, would be kicking about together for the next 5 days.

We had intended to stay in Cape Maclear for only a day or two to recover from our hangovers but the clear blue water, island view, bars along the shoreline and village distractions were too difficult to leave so we remained there having bbqs on the beach (I think one of the tastiest fish I’ve ever had), snorkling among the brightly coloured freshwater cychlids (these are as renowned as darwin’s finches or the madagascan lemurs as a demonstration of evolution in action), feeding the fish eagles, swimming out at the stunning and dali-esque “otter point”, visiting the other nearby lodges and bars, lying in hammocks with a book and generally pottering about with a beer in our hands. That’s when we weren’t catching up with hand washing etc…which brings me to the picture of that horrible monster you might have seen in the photos Dave uploaded. I was washing some of our stuff, including Dave’s pants and after having mashed the washing up and down or a few minutes I started working through the items to clean them more thoroughly and when I picked up these I found this spider clamped down smack bang in the middle of Dave’s crotch! All I can say is that I’m glad it wasn’t my finger – that thing had massive jaws. *shudder*. We’ve checked a book and I don’t think it was poisonous but I bet it would still have nipped :-s

When sitting on the beach a variety of people would pass by to sell us what they were offering or just to stop and chat. Including a man who would fetch fruit from the trees or make special cakes, the bbq organisers, a man who made greeting cards from recycled paper and using old shoes as print-stamps. The best of all tough were the “Lucky Band”: a ragtag bunch of 10 year old boys with home made instruments made from paint pots, bottle tops and a guitar made from a broom handle, string and a big petrol bottle and they sounded awesome. They had a repertoire of about 10 sings including, oddly, “who let the dogs out” (brilliant). We’d see them touring up and down the beach and in the village.

Anna, who is a spontaneous, inquisitive and friendly soul and she really made the most of the place. She and Lani had replicas made of one Mouse’s dresses using a sarong for fabric and taken to one of the local tailors. She also struck up a small business deal with the man who made the recycled cards but also makes jewelry from strips of old magazines and some varnish. I even had a chance to sit down with him to make some of the beads later when we went to collect a big batch that Anna plans to sell when she gets back home. She and Jeroen also made a sound recording of the Lucky Band and made them a few CDs which they can maybe copy and sell if they wanted. What a lovely thing to do. I hope I can get a copy too when I get home so you can hear them.

One of the nicest things about Cape Maclear is that is a working fishing village so when you pop out for some cold drinks you pass the small markets and fishermen mending their nets and everyone calls out a friendly “helloo, how are yooo”? You also get trailed, the minute you step outside the hostel gates, by a crowd of small children asking for pens or money but will happily stay around and hold your hand everywhere you go no matter what you say to the request. They’re lovely playful kids and the guys working in Uganda say that it’s a nice change to see children having a proper happy childhood which they say often isn’t the case where they’re staying.

Unfortunately Amy brought a tummy bug with her from Uganda and one by one everyone fell to it by the last day but unfortunately we had to get back on the road anyway. So Anna, a poorly Jeroen, Dave and I waved goodbye to all the guys, and the lake, and got back on the road to start exploring Malawi properly.

Posted by rachndave 00:44 Archived in Malawi Tagged lake companions Comments (0)

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