Time for another border crossing and since Fiona and Blessed had been delayed before at this crossing, we planned to set off by 6am and have a breaky stop during the drive. A couple of other trucks had arrived at camp after dark and they managed to wake us up before 5am. It seems they had the same idea of leaving early, but they decided to do the full breakfast first. Our only delay was a flat battery which Blessed sorted in record time. Even with the headstart we gave the other trucks we caught up with them quite quickly and made it to the border first. As we were the only truck there the crossing went pretty smoothly and it wasn't long before we had our first glimpse of the lake.
Lake Malawi is massive with a series of beaches. We spent 4 nights in total along different parts of it. Our first stop was at Chitimba Beach near the town of Livingstonia. The lake looked like an ocean as it has sand and waves (due to wind)!
Packing up Limpopo ready to drive to Mzuzu
There was a wooden crafts market just outside the gates to camp and we decided to it was time to hone our bargaining skills. These guys are very persistant and despite nearly every stall selling almost identical items, each salesman will insist that their goods are superior. Surprisingly the price wasn't as cheap as we expected. We were also a bit dubious of the quality, as the hardwood and ebony carving was probably a bit of brown and black bootpolish. It was here that we realised the true potential of unwanted items. The sellers were very keen to trade clothes, shoes, hairbands, batteries or softdrink (but only in recyclable glass bottles). If we had known about this we would have brought a few more clothes with us. One of our fellow travellers bought a table in exchange for his very old sneakers plus a small amount of US$. Don't be fooled into thinking you can offload your dead batteries, they will check them first!
At a supermarket later on in the trip, I realised why they wanted these items. A pack of hairbands was nearly 6 US$ and shampoo was almost $10. Another tip, softdrinks will be cheaper in a glass bottle as the shop gets money back for returning the glass. A can of the same drink will be at least twice the price.
The second stop for the lake was at Kande Beach where we would spend 2 nights. The drive there was short and we finally had an opportunity to go to a local market in Mzuzu. The market is huge with different sections and packed with people. Fiona headed off into the fruit and vege section while Claire went searching for thongs (or Jandals or Flip Flops) with Craig and Pip. After some heated negotiation, 2 pairs were bought at tourist prices (1.50 US$) and then they had to find their way back out. For the most part it was surprisingly organised inside. Most of the stalls looked pretty permanent and were in definite isles, it was just a matter of figuring out which one went to one of the exits and then where did we leave the truck? The stalls in the clothing sections were piled metres high. The most impressive was the sock stall. A huge array of unmatched socks, although some of them did look a little worn they were all white or pretty close to it. Maybe this is where the 'traded clothes' end up.
The campsite itself is on the beach and since we were the first truck in we had the pick of sites. We decided it was time to upgrade from the tent so paid $80 for an ensuite room with electricity and hot water for the 2 nights. Claire did miss the tent as the bed had some definite lumps and bumps in it, but it was worth it just to spread our stuff out and remember what we had bought with us.
The 'surf beach'.
One of the highlights of our stay here was a trip to the local village. We were met at the gates by about 20 guys and the tour guide. The idea here is that 2 of the locals will be friendly with you and then on the way back to camp they bring out samples of their woodwork in the hope that you will purchase something off them. Most of them told us they were students, but Fiona said they must get alot of holidays as they are there everytime she stays here! Claire's new friends were named Kevin Costner and Isaac. Apparently 'Kevin' was studying to be a tour guide and Isaac was still learning english so he could apply to schools. As we approached to village the children came running towards us and grabbed our hands. Similar to Tanzania, they love being thrown around in the air. All of us got a definite gym workout that afternoon. Claire in particular was a favourite and the little girl took some persuading to go back to the village. In the village we also saw a water pump donated by a Canadian charity, visited the school and met the principal as well as the small medical clinic where a baby had just been delivered. As we returned to camp Claire succumbed to the marketing and put an order in for a wooden carving to be picked up the next morning. The guys all seem to take on a western name and Craig was stoked to finally meet Jonah Lomu, although he was a slightly shorter then we expected!
The Canadian donated water pump
Jumping isn't enough, they need to flip over as well. Very sore shoulders the next day
Inside the main school building
More fun in the school courtyard
This little girl was quite attached to Claire
Earings were very exciting!
All the kids liked to play up the camera even if the don't really understand what is happening
Still jumping, this time back towards camp
One last group shot before we had to leave the kids behind
Local bus service went through the village just as we were leaving
That night it was Georgia's 21st and Fiona had managed to find some decorations and get a cake made for the occasion. The party ran long into the night and for the first time in the trip it wasn't a problem making it past double figures (10pm). The only small downside were the little flying bugs. There were 1000's of them and while they didn't sting or bite, they were just everywhere. Alfoil lids were created for drinks and food and as soon as the washing up was finished all lights were off. We hadn't realised this and had left a lamp on in our room. As soon as we opened the door a cloud of them swarmed in with us.
Day 2 started with meeting 'Kevin Costner' at the gates and going to get our carving, which we planned to turn into a fridge magnet. Claire had designed the magnet the day before and it was still being carved when we got to the workshop. To make the time go faster Isaac challenged Claire to the Bao Bao game using the female rules of course! 2 games later with Claire managing one win we left with our magnets freshly polished with Kiwi Boot Polish and doubting that Australian quarantine was going to let us bring them back home. Another couple on the truck got some engagement rings carved as well. Claire ended up returning later in the day and buying a painting that had caught her eye. The negotiations were much easier here when compared to Chitimba. She had decided that 10US$ was her limit and the seller started the bidding at 7 - bargain! While Claire was shopping Steve decided to test the waters of the lake and went for a swim. It was a strange sensation catching waves in fresh water and not gagging on salt when you get dumped.
For the last night on the lake we drove down to Senga Bay. It is surprising how 250km will take 4hours because of the road conditions. One bump in particular sent the truck's freezer out of its bracket and at least 30cm forwards, as well as shearing the fuse box off the wall. Quick roadside repairs and we were off again.Senga Bay
The lake really spoilt us for scenery as we were again camping on the beach. The bar here is definitely a feature. It is a circular building that is set on concrete pylons that have a prominent lean into the water. It was a fantastic spot to take in another amazing African Sunset and finish our time in Malawi
Notice the definite lean, and the floor inside was alittle up and down as well.
Sunset from the bar
Sunset from the beachSunrise over the bay
Steve and Craig, very dedicated at 5am with tripods
For us this section from Zanzibar was pretty much a transit drive. It was nice to have a couple of days to relax, but I think we would have preferred a long drive and 2 nights somewhere that offered some sort of activity. By the end of this week we were looking forward to something a little more exciting as we were starting to become a little bored. Maybe this is a result of the excitement of safaris early on, and we had already had the few days in Zanzibar to wind down from that.