20th August – 1st September
Funny, it’s those things that make life a little hard working in Malawi that makes it such a wonderful country to travel in. It no longer really does matter if we arrive tomorrow, or if certain planned events fail to take place, or if the smiles only last a day or two. It also, slightly cynically, doesn’t matter what people really do think of 3 strange white tourists in a flash car perhaps with more gadgets than sense, as Malawians are remarkably good at hiding their true sentiments, more so than anywhere else I’ve been in Africa. Again, tough for consensus building in an office situation, bleeding marvellous for tourists. When you’re a tourist you get the best of Malawi, because the welcome is always incredible in the warm heart of Africa where you are greeted and aided with such enthusiasm and generosity of spirit.
It wasn’t long before this warmth enveloped us once more when we were relaxed enough to let it. It had been a hard last few weeks! Some furtive last minute shopping in crazy overland shopping emporiums in South Africa for gadgetry I never knew existed was proceeded by a tough 28 hour bus trip back to Malawi. There is probably enough material from this bus trip from hell for another blog, but the long of the short of it was that Alex and I ended up exhausted, with less luggage than when we departed and some freaky flu cold virus thing that ensured we were bed-ridden for 4 days.
I probably won’t dwell on how we managed to pack up a house, leave a job, hand over a project and pack and customise an ageing Landi but we did, in 5 days rather than 10. Our departure date wasn’t really up for debate either as Nico was flying into Lilongwe on the 29th August. However, luck seemed to be on our side in the end as everything came together. We packed up the house and sold or transferred our furniture. The Landi got some major surgery with a new clutch, turbo, injectors, bushes, fan belt and spotlights. Shelves were fitted, windows tinted, burglar bars and locks installed. Alex did a crash Landi mechanics course to boot. Then as our departure date arrived without us even really realising it was time for farewells to our work colleagues and friends.
Alex gives the windows the
Farewell to Mulanje District Education Office
Painting roof with 'flu
The sense of freedom as we left was fantastic. We drove out of Mulanje on Monday 25th August with renewed appreciation for the beautiful place that we had called home for 20 months, thegood friends we had made and we were not without feelings of achievement and satisfaction. Then we hit the beach.
Mount Mulanje as we left
First stop was Domwe Island, off Cape Maclear on the southern part of the lake. The islands here were a firm favourite destination and Domwe, the cheaper ‘self-catering’ option, is really a little piece of paradise where you camp overlooking the lake, drinking cold beer whilst the lodge staff go about organising fresh fish for your dinner. Alex and I sat and reflected over the last couple of years and it really began to hit home that a new chapter was beginning.
Sunset from Domwe Island
3 days later we were in Lilongwe welcoming Nico to the first leg of the trip. Nico really helped us push the envelope socially, coaching us to stay up past 9pm through his injection of now legendary wit and banter. More days unwinding by the beach at Chinteche and Usisye (which gave the Landi a taste of what was to come) and it was finally virgin territory for all of us.
Our main stop in our first foray into northern Malawi was Livingstonia, famed missionary established in the 19th century. Turns out Livingstone wasn’t even there for very long, it was some blokey called Dr Lawes who did all the groundwork, but Livingstone still managed to get his name on it for basically passing through. You might as well rename Glasgow Prestwick ‘Elvis International Airport’ while you are at it. In any case, Livingstonia was a beautiful, chilled stop with breathtaking views to wake up to. But by this time we were all a little restless given the prospect of what was to come. Tanzania ‘off the beaten track’. Sounds awesome, right?