Malawi

Day82 Saturday 1st January. 2011

We had a short ride to Karonga and found Lakeside camping lodge, as the clock had lost an hour we were tent up and sorted by one pm, our earliest yet.

The camp ground was given sun shade by a plethora of mango trees so I was in fruit heaven and a sticky mess within minutes.

We walked back into town to buy some spuds and hopefully a cabbage (life in the fast lane eh). Coming toward us it was all of the towns children who apparently were heading to the beach for new year day party, it reminded us all to well of Ethiopia as we heard a lot of ”give me money, give me money”!!!

I did wonder how I would fair in Malawi, with the children.

In the large supermarket we found shelf after shelf of expensive tinned goods, crisps and sweets, mostly confectionery. What else would you stock if half the country’s population is allegedly under fifteen? So where are the older generation then we mused? Maybe the thirty five to forty fives have been removed by illness, we guessed. There are a number of older people around, over fifty five say. Aids? I don’t know, made us think.

With no real food to be had we headed up and down the main street but only found sweet bread, again. And I don’t mean sweet as in good, popular expression among the hip younger travelling set, you understand.. We had food and an early night.

Day83 Sunday 2nd January.

I woke feeling like I had my eight hours only to find it was midnight and the sky was full of lightning and faint thunder. I went out to clear away our gear and fit the tank bag with its waterproof cover. It was surreal to see the sky full of stars and then flashing pure white with wave after wave of sheet lightning. Watching it for half an hour so, slumped in a chair, in the humidity and twenty five degree heat soon made me tired and I went back in the tent to enjoy the show through orange canvas. We both woke at six to find the eastern sky as black as a witches hat, undeterred, a walk on the beach was enjoyed before the heavens opened and we ran back to hold down the tent in the following hurricane like winds. The porch bit of the tent was soon fifty mill deep in water and the roof had sprung a few leaks, deep joy.

When the storm had passed we packed up in brilliant sunshine and headed south to our next camp a mere hundred km away. We passed the gas station and noticed with horror that the fuel was the same price as in Europe and the UK. As we were only going a short distance we passed it by, we also did not have enough money as the banks were shut, Sunday today, and we were unaware of this faux par when crossed the border yesterday.

Our turn off the main road was closed so we headed on safe in our delusion that there would be fuel soon. Our road took us high up into the mountains, the fuel light came on and we covered another sixty five clicks before stopping and putting the last five litres our spare fuel in. Seventy km later we were asking a young lad in a small village where we could buy fuel as we saw nothing obvious on the road. With four litres in the tank (all we could buy, at a huge price hike, should have filled up in town!!) we headed to Mzuzu. Managing to change a little black market money at a gas station we stocked up on food and fuel and headed for the lake once again at Nkhata Bay.

The camp site was on a hill sloping down to the shore and the lane in was a mixture of wet grassy mud, large rocks and a steep descent followed buy a sharp climb up to the gate. I managed to ride this like a pro as I had too many on lookers to mess up. No wonder its called a backpackers lodge, no bugger can get a vehicle in very easily!! We found a great spot high above the water so any downpour would merely run through the tent like a river, much better than ending up a lake!!!

Day84 Monday 3rd January.

Nice slow day, did lots on web stuff, but its still Africa slow, so failed to upload blog, again! In the evening we had power failure so sat in dining area and played Bao by candle light. Gave a warm feeling to the atmosphere. An early night had by most.

Day85 Tuesday 4th January.

End of the Christmas holidays today so we have to change money and then can restock food and fuel, will be a relief to fill tanks and a fuel can or two again. Its was scary not even having money to buy the fuel we could not find.

The first bank gave a poor rate compared to the guy at the gas station , so went into town to try another.

I queued for half an hour and endured the in house bank training film. It showed how local people can succeed if they use this local bank. The sound was far to loud and the music repetitive and really really terrible!! What was interesting was when they filmed the folks they interviewed, it was in their shops. The owners were very well dressed, very expensive looking clothes. But the shops were the ones you see at every roadside. Home made, wooden construction from branches of trees, chicken wire and old pallets. Roofed with corrugated tin if posh, of plastic sheeting or banana leaves if not. Any thing that could be had for free, or very little. I’m not knocking this, the opposite in fact. I western Europe it would have been ”hyped up”, I mean made to be better that it is, like a film set, false. They showed the people had ”bettered” themselves but obviously they spent the money on themselves, the family and education was a big thing, being able to pay for secondary education. The condition of the shop did not matter, it was good enough.

When served it, took another forty minutes as all my notes had to be scanned, photocopied and locked away, the poor teller lost my ID card and spent ten minuets finding it, carefully filed away with my dwindling supply of cash in a safe draw. At the finish I was handed a huge pile of notes, and as I only had one pocket wondered where I was going to put it all, as this has happened a great deal you would think I’d remember to bring a bag….

Town was good, bit like a spaghetti western film set, with well built wooden shops, hand painted signs, dirt road and nothing behind the shore side shops only one hundred meters of sand to the water edge. I thought it would have shops behind too, as there is no tide to speak of. I bought all of our ”hit list”, less garlic and ginger, even found a different type of bread. It was a seventy five mill square, twenty five mill thick almost deep fried, slightly oily in texture, fairly firm with a crusty out and tasted of very little, but was very welcome after the white sliced stuff. Have been told that Mozambique will sate my quest for good bread. Sorry but we have suffered poor, cheap bread through Kenya, Tanzania and now here, it has to have an end, doesn’t it??

Back at base camp we were taught how to play Bao properly, we think, by the Israeli receptionist, and spent the evening getting our heads around it.

Day86 Wednesday 5th January.

Paid up and was taught the second stage in bao, made the start of the game much more strategic. We planed a slow ride of two hundred km to our next camp. The skies threatened water but none showed, and the air as cooler but pleasantly warm. We arrived at the pottery camp and fell into pizza and chips, we both fancied a change as rice, soup or pasta, or any combination of the above gets really tedious.

The camping area was almost on the lake shore, which, bizarrely I thought, was sand. Sand inland? Odd.

We walked up the waters edge for a kilometre or so making note of where there is drift wood so we can have our long waited for beach fire. We sat for hours by our fire watching lightning all down the Mozambique side of the lake.

Must have been miles away as no thunder was heard.

Day87 Thursday 6th January.

We set an alarm for an ungodly hour and was riding by six thirty to enable us to get to the Mozambique embassy in Lilongwe before close of play at midday.

Forms filled in (badly the officer said as he could not read my handscrawl) we went to the local golf club (as you do) and pitched up. The embassy was four km away so we decided the walk would do us good. Immediately we left the tent the heavens opened so we sat outside the lounge area and watched the downpour. I ashamed to say though that after about ten minutes I was asleep. Must have been due to the very comfortable chair!!

On our return leg we went through the capital proper, looking at the shops and fairly quickly deciding that our decision to spend two nights there may have been made in haste. Shame because we felt like it would be nice to spend time in the city and ”do lots”. But it did not have a lot to offer. The guide books all said the old town was the one most visitors stayed in but we persevered and went over the fast flowing flooded river, past the very smelly (human waste) market, to the new town to find with horror that it is full of Chinese owned shops selling very cheap shoes and real tat. Can’t say we did not try..

We headed back to the club and cooked tea!!

Day88 Friday 7th January.

Slow start to the day we reckon, diane wrote her diary and I did macho bike maintenance things. We ate the only loaf of lovely whole wheat bread that we found in this and the last two countries with onion and toms. Cheese would have been welcome but at the same cost as a night and a half camping we could not justify it. I know its only a few GBP but its all relative, fuel here is at Europe prices too, that was a big boy shock.

We road to another pottery (don’t even like pottery’s,but they do have good camping), about eighty five clicks toward the boarder. Shortest distance we have covered so far, about time some of you would say.

We tried to ride the fifteen km further up the dirt road to some rock art that was advertised. However at the ten km turn point the track turned up and into a forest path which soon got very deep rutted and steep. Would have been do-able in a four by four, but the bike was a different matter. Not wishing to court disaster or injury we headed back. Reminded me of Ngorongoro Crater, and how we are doomed from visiting place due to our mode of transport or lack of a heap of cash to blow on state entrance fees.

We sat out and wrote our diary’s with the background of singing and chanting from the village the other side of the road, which I reckon was our first ‘tribal’ encounter.

Day89 Saturday 8th January.

We moved out of pottery camp at six thirty and headed for the boarder. It was a lot closer than I thought and fifteen minutes saw us clear of Malawi and into Mozambique.

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