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Goodbye to the lake

Rachel - Mzuzu and Nkarta Bay

It was nice to be back in a town and in an old school backpacker friendly place. The brilliantly named Mzuzu Zoo was a perfect place to relax on a sofa and share some drinks with other travellers (including Tisita, from the Ilala and Mushroom Farm) and the chain-smoking, shuffling Swiss/Italian Christopher Walken lookalike owner and his east ender ex-hippy mate. All the rooms were full, including the dorms, so we were given the caravan hidden in the towering bamboo forest. It was a funny little slightly knackered place the Mzuzu zoo but we had the comfiest night sleep we’d had in ages, some hosptible company and a later a chance to stock up on some bits and bobs in the town.

Tisita, bless her loopy cotton socks, donated me some tshirts she didn’t want anymore, lent me her charger and then failed to wait for us after we’d agreed to share a lift to our next and final stop – Nkarta Bay. So when we got to Nkarta bay we had to ask around in the lodges to find her and found out that her loopy reputation had preceded her since she had gotten into a fight with one of the bar owners after she’d been barred for un-surreptitiously smoking a big joint in the front garden. Everyone knew here but noone knew where she was so we gave it to someone who was also going back on the Ilala as we knew she had, so we hope it gets there.

So now we’re in Nkarta Bay where I’ve just spent three days sitting in the shady waterside bar of our hostel catching up with writing this blog so we haven’t seen much of it at all. In the evenings it’s lively here, especially at the moment because there’s a wedding hereon Saturday so the guests had a party last night which ended up with the bar owner gyrating half naked on the bar and being carried to bed by the staff :) Here we’ve caught up with Layni and Dean from Mushroom Farm, the Danny from Ruarwe, Tsur and Ido from Mzuzu zoo, Ryan from the festival/Cape Maclear, and Bella from Cape Maclear/Lilongwe so it’s been a great bookend to our trip.

We’ve been here for so long because we waiting here for the scheduled train to Tanzania which leaves on Saturday. We decided that although the train goes all the way west to east across Tanzania to Dar-es-Salam, and then we have to backtrack west and north using another train, that it would be a relatively stress free way to travel to the Ugandan border and take about the same time as going direct up the west edge by road given the reported bad state of the roads in the west of Tanzania and there isn’t much to see on that side other than some prohibitively expensive game parks. We may as well pay Zanzibar a visit in east Tanzania as well since it’s so close to Dar-es-Salam so we think it’ll take us a week to ten days to get to the Ugandan border. People tell us we need to be a bit more on our guard from here on in which is a shame after the easy going and welcoming nature of Malawi – even the hustles that we do encounter are pretty easy going. I’m looking forward to seeing some different landscape now though and even some bigger cities so much as I’m Malawi’s newest biggest fan I’m ready for the next stage.

See you on the east side!

Posted by rachndave 12:37 Archived in Malawi Tagged lake 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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