11 February 2013- Cape Mclear, Malawi
Its getting darker earlier so we are starting to adjust our days to earlier up and earlier to bed. We have just cleaned up from dinner which we made on the beach at our lovely camp on the edge of Lake Malawi. We arrived yesterday afternoon and after Mozambique, Malawi immediately felt easier- paved roads and signs etc in English. Our final day in Mozambique was spent driving to the border, the drive we were assured would take two hours, it took us over four hours to go the 150 km but we didn’t run into any major water this time. At the dusty border town of Mandimba we got fuel and changed our Mozambican Meticais into Malawian Kwacha with some guy on the road and hit the border. The crossing was again easy, of course leaving a country takes less time than entering one, so we were fairly quickly stamped out of Mozambique. As usual they didn’t know what to make of the carnet for landy and we just told them what to complete and where to stamp it, they did so happily. When we were let through we drove for a few km and started seeing houses, people washing in the river (clothes and themselves) and were starting to wonder was it possible we missed something- like the Malawian border post!? We asked someone and they pointed it out a few hundred metres ahead, it was obvious once we got there – normally there is a border, no-mans land and then the other border, we have not come across people living in the in between before! No problems with Malawi immigration and customs – just questions about where we were going so we rattled off a few places and we were off. Straight away there was a small busy border town where if we had wanted we could have bought a few goats heads, decided not today. 🙂
We were in Mozambique for such a short time, just a glimpse really as we knew it would be, but it seemed overall a colourful country with a lot of subsistence farming and deep poverty. They have only had 15 years to start recovering from a brutal 20 year civil war and the harshness of that shows in the faces of some of the older people. We have heard the coast is amazing and no doubt our experience would have been different if we had been at a coastal resort in the south of the country where most visitors go. It seems a beautiful and intriguing place with a mix of African, Arab and Portuguese heritage. I would certainly love to go back one day.
After crossing the border, straight away there was a paved road, so nice! We stopped in the first major town we came across and spent a few hours trying to find a bank that would take our card, found one in the end (right next to the first one we tried!) and hit the road to Lake Malawi. After a few hours we arrived and drove though a small friendly village to find our camp only to come across a washed out bridge! Happily some locals showed us there was a way around and we went on to our camp right on the lake and it felt like paradise! It’s a perfect spot a few metres from the water and is just far enough from the village to be peaceful.
After spending a few nights in towns (which are always noisy nights) we were desperate for a full nights sleep and woke up happy after a peaceful night. This morning I cut Olly’s hair which he has been wanting done for ages (he’s not allowed to comment on it when he looks in the mirror!) We spent most of today doing landy stuff- giving her a tidy and checking in our cupboards for any leaks after the rains we have had lately (all good) and Olly generally checking things after all the water we have been through. This afternoon we walked along the beach to the village, chatting to all the friendly locals washing (dishes and themselves) in the lake and fishing. The children were just delighted when we said hi back to their shrieks of “hi and good afternoon” while giggling – they seemed to be daring each other to speak to us. We walked through the small village on the edge of the lake and were literally surrounded by children, touching us and holding our hands and telling us their names and ages. I always wonder when they have to turn around and go home but home and family have a different meaning here and no one seems uneasy with their children walking away hand in hand with two white strangers (the only white faces around so I guess they all know where we are!) The children are a lot more independent, playing in the water, washing up down at the lake, going out in boats, tending goats etc.
They followed us for ages and waved and shrieked as we came back to camp.
L and O
12 Feb still at Cape Mclear
We had a great day today. This morning we decided to stay another day, its such a nice area with the lake, our camp on the beach tucked in next to a hill and a lovely friendly village as well. We negotiated with some local guides to take us on a boat so we could get out on the lake and also have a snorkel. We puttered along in the large wooden boat past waving mothers and children as they bathed and washed up along the shores of the lake. Everywhere gorgeous little brown faces popping up to shout ‘hello’ and waving excitedly from the water, from houses, and from boats. Children who look about 7 or so are out in carved wooden canoes fishing or just playing around. We made out way to Otter Point where the water is clear and blue and jumped in for a snorkel. The water is so warm and its been so long since we have had a swim! We spent a few hours in and out of the water and met some fisherman who were eating a bit of their catch with some nsima (the local maize based staple, every country has it but each call it something different). On the way back we asked if they could suggest a local restaurant and they took us to a grocery/bar/restaurant where we had a delicious and massive meal of beans, rice and fish for about $5.00 for the whole meal.
Lake Malawi is stunning, it’s the third largest lake in Africa so you really feel like you are at the sea, although you are swimming in fresh water. So much life happens on the shores and in the water of the lake, it must be at the heart of so many people’s lives. Fishing is a big thing in this community and in the evening we hear the hustle and bustle of the fisherman getting ready to go out. At night we can see the lanterns on the fishing boats dotting the horizon on the water. Everyone swims, bathes, does their washing up and laundry in the lake as well as just having fun. This afternoon Olly has been playing a complex board game with the bar man and I’ve been reading. This is the kind of place you could come for a day and stay a month!