Stories

 

Malawi


From the 25th of April to the 18th of May, 2016

We left Malawi just a week ago and we are already making up reasons why we have to go back. But let start from the beginning:

After leaving Tanzania in the worst possible circumstances (see Tanzania text), it was a sure bet that things could only get better in Malawi.

As soon as we reached the lake, which Malawi is all about, we felt the relaxing vibe and knew we would love the country. With its 550 kilometers long lake, beaches are plenty. We made our way south stopping is various beautiful spots. Long empty wild beaches, secluded beaches surrounded by rocky boulders, calm bays surrounded by forest. There are places to satisfy every taste and when you feel you found the best spot ever, the next one is even nicer. The longer we stayed the lazier we got, the less we did and the more difficult it became to move on.

    

In Monkey Bay, we hiked to fishing villages following a trail overlooking the lake and some islands. The first village was hidden in a lovely bay where the mud huts blended in perfectly with the boulders which seemed to be thrown randomly across the bay by a giant. On the beach, the fishermen's catch was laid out on rows of drying scaffoldings. At the second village, we were welcomed by half a dozen of kids happy to have some visitors. While walking through the village, more and more kids joined the parade taking turns to hold our hands. Having twenty kids spontaneously chanting our names is a moment I won't forget.

    

But Malawi has more than its lake to offer. Part of the Rift Valley system crossing the country some higher plateau were created. In the north of the country, we drove up to Livingstonia on a demanding dirt track. Up the mountain, the beautiful Manchewe waterfall surrounded by untouched forest drops 125 meters into the valley. By hiding in the cave behind the waterfall, local people escaped from the slave traders in the early 20st century. At the end of our little walk, our teenager guide asked for a t-shirt. Since we are in Africa, we noted that most of the kids cloth are in very poor condition. Worn for generations, all the buttons and zippers are gone, the weak part of the stitching cracked and the textile is at the end of its life span. No matter if you are a girl or a boy, you will get the pink woolen pullover from your sister even though you would rather wear a lighter t-shirt. In the markets, most of the pile of clothes being sold are our European second hand textiles. T-shirt manufactured for a special event and worn once before to be sold by the ton by the Red Cross and sent to Africa. To get back to my story, this kid was very happy to receive a t-shirt and an old short which was already in such poor condition that even Raphael was ready to not wear it anymore (!).

      

In the southern part of the country, after leaving Lake Malawi, we reached the Zomba plateau. In just a few hundred meters of height, the temperature dropped dramatically. A little hike brought us to a nice little waterfall, some lakes and to some good viewpoints overlooking the lowlands and Lake Malawi. Compared to the rest of the country, camping in a pine forest and the freezing nights gave us the feeling to be on a different continent. Sadly, apart from our campsite, the original forest has been chopped down and all the trees we could see were part of forest plantations. Driving down the plateau, we shared the road with women carrying long bundles of wood on their head and men trying to keep their bicycle loaded with approximately 120 KGs of chopped firewood under control on the steep descent.

    

Crossing the country from north to south, the only vegetables available were potatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cabbage, tomatoes and bananas. For a vegetarian and fruit lover as me, the selection was pretty poor. With its cooler climate, the diversity of fruits and vegetables in Zomba increased drastically. I couldn't believe my eyes when I discovered the stalls covered in carrots, green beans, zucchinis, broccolis, tangerine, guava, papaya, passion fruits and apparently they even have strawberries when in season. We were touched to see how desperate people tried to sell us whatever they had on offer. That day I bought veggies from every single seller ending up with the car loaded with every fruit and vegetable available. We were surprised to find supermarkets again. Since we left Kenya, everything was being purchased in mini-groceries shops barely selling the essentials. Raphael felt he just entered heaven when the first junction entering Malawi was having three different fast food restaurants. But in fact, we still don't know how they made it to this little non-touristic town as looking back this was rather an exception.

    

After 6 months and nearly 30'000 kilometers, what was meant to happen, finally happened : Reversing with no view and just hoping for nothing to be in your way can't work forever! We ran into a tree. Luckily, the safety glass which is supposed to fall into millions of pieces was held in place by the tinting foil. By generously applying several rolls of sticky tape, we kept the remainder of the window in place and sealed for the moment. The moment lasted pretty long as we continued as planed and tackled the repair just when we reached Lilongwe 2 weeks later. Knowing an original replacement window glass won't be in stock in land-locked Malawi for our uncommon car model, we were lucky: We found a glass fitting workshop where they told us "no problem, we will do it tomorrow". Also their estimate of 50 USD sounded too good to be truth. We went there the following day and found a sheet of plexiglas waiting for us as well as "a car window fitting specialist". Even as we learned yesterday's estimate was a mistake and we would have to pay nearly double, we were still optimistic... But not for long! First doubts arose when the "specialist" marked his cutting without any overlapping in the seal. More serious doubts hit us when we saw the bonfire they started in the yard to shape the plexi. Seriously concerned we got when we saw they overheated the glass until it became as wavy as the ocean on a windy day. Our last trust in the "specialist" vanished when we saw how he was applying black silicon all over the rear end of the van. While he was trying to glue in the smoky piece of plastic, making it hold in place with tons of sticky tape, we no longer tried to hide our dissatisfaction. The specialist would stoically answer "no problem!" and put some more silicon and sticky tape... Until now, two weeks later, we did not dare to remove the sticky tape, being unsure of its static importance to keep the window in place. Welcome to Africa!

Apart from that unpleasant result of our workshop visit in Lilongwe, Malawi was the most relaxing country we visited so fare. Spending most of our time chilling rather than sightseeing gave us the feeling of being on vacation.

Click here to read the following story about our journey through Zambia.

Album "Malawi - April-May 2016"

Video : "Malawi"