The Blog


Hello Lake Malawi

July 15, 2011
13 July 2011 - Blantyre to Lilongwe


Jiten's last blog would've finished off with our arrival in Blantyre, or rather Limbe. The town where we spent several days of rest. Much needed, especially in my case where the previous rest day would've been in Vilanculos almost two weeks before. Our stay in Limbe was just what was needed and staying with family friends of Imraan's was a real treat. Again spoilt with meals several times a day we ate perhaps just a little too well. But we were also productive. The team took to doing some real ground work in our attempts to raise funds for Hear Us: we walked around the town visiting many shops and explaining our cause to the shop owners. Most were more than ready to listen and very often were encouraged by our endeavour and fully supportive. Whether any donations come in, time will tell. Whilst in Limbe we also met one of Malawi's more successful businessmen – a meeting that bore many fruits for us: media interviews (radio, television and newspaper), further contacts along our route,  accommodation (including the luxury of the Pacific Hotel in Lilongwe from where I'm typing this blog), a visit to a very sophisticated fish farm (among  the largest of the world, or so we've been told), and perhaps more importantly some very wise words and food for thought.

From Limbe we made tracks for Zomba where we were hosted by a man named Fareed and his family in the the former capital of Malawi – Zomba was once the capital of Malawi. However, as the size of Lilongwe grew it was decided to move the capital there. On our arrival in Zomba we thought it to be a typical small town in Malawi, a notion quickly dispelled when Fareed offered to drive us up the Zomba plateau. Yet another mountain whose size took us by surprise. It was late evening when we drove up, and as we continued to climb and climb and climb... the city night lights below came to show just how big the town was. A stunning mountain, I hope to visit it again some day.

From Zomba we spent the next couple days on the road cycling to one of the trips highlights, Lake Malawi. But before reaching the lake we did have another highlight – we camped on the banks of the Shire River in a town called Liwonde. Why was this a highlight you may ask? Well, sleeping outside, just metres away from a family of hippos, and hearing their grunts and snorts as you fall asleep... I think that qualifies as a highlight.

Our first sight and first night spent on Lake Malawi's shore was at the Palm Beach resort on the southern tip of Lake Malawi. We really weren't expecting the tropical paradise that greeted us: sandy beaches, palm trees, … just a really stunning place. We were fortunate enough to be offered free camping by the South African owners, together with a wors and pap (or cima as its called in Malawi) supper, it was a splendid first night on the lake.

As good as Palm Beach was, it was the towns of Cape Maclelar and Monkey Bay where we decided we would take a few days off to enjoy the lake. Before arriving in Cape Maclear Jiten and Imraan came up with the idea of staying in the area until Friday. Now bear in mind that we arrived in Cape Maclear on Sunday – this would mean a five day rest! Nevertheless the reasoning was sound as once a week the Illala, a diesel ship departs Monkey Bay and travels up along the length of the lake returning the following Wednesday.

We arrived in Cape Maclear on Sunday the 3rd of July. Due to a couple stops along the way I arrived last at Fat Monkeys Lodge. Immediately welcomed by a bunch of new friends – Karen ad Jeff (the owners of place) and Louisa and Graeme. Karen, being the awesome host she is, provided us with unexpected but most welcome treats – this ended up being a scrumptious lunch, free accommodation, several rounds of beers, and lots of laughs. It ended up being one helluva party. At one stage Jiten was about have his hair braided into dreadlocks by a local on the beach - sadly after much “discussion” amongst the group he chickened out – he's now opted to have it done by a “professional” in Lilongwe – we're still waiting to see this. Anyway, Cape Maclear and Fat Monkeys was a blast! Louisa and Graeme treated us to a catamaran cruise on the lake, we snorkelled, saw fish eagles, laughed way too much, and caught no fish (I did manage to hook the catamaran though). Great times with great people! On Wednesday (6th July) we cycled out of Cape Maclear and to Monkey Bay, where we camped on a secluded cove at Mufasas backpackers. It was a quiet couple days that led to our first ship ride! Although relatively short (about 3 hours), it was still worth the experience of loading our bikes aboard this mighty vessel of the lake. We jumped off at the first stop – a town called Chipoko and promptly cycled the fifty-some-odd kilometres to Senga Bay. Cool Runnings Lodge  provided the next venue of entertainment for the next couple days.

Now in between the cycling, partying, sailing, and goat eating... I managed to make contact with some skydivers in Lilongwe. And so with a possibility of doing some jumps I got a lift with three South Africans (Danie, Deon and Barry) to Lilongwe this past Sunday. The lift came at a price: the requirement of partying the night before, not a terribly bad deal excluding the hangover and lack of sleep. Sadly the prospect of freeflying the skies over Lilongwe was not to happen – clouds, clouds, and more clouds. I'm still hopeful of sneaking in a couple before we  depart the capital – we'll see what happens.

And that brings us to another week of not cycling – but this time for a very good reasons. The vets are working! Jiten and Imraan are busy with the Lilongwe SPCA. Whilst they save animal lives and help build stuff, I, am on holiday. Ok, not quite. I've been busy sorting out our Tanzanian visas and other little admin jobs... but still, I do have the luxury of waking up late and even watching a few movies. Now what is there to do in Lilongwe? Not much. In fact we've been pretty disappointed as to what the capital city has to offer the tourist. Perhaps this will change in the future.

Our bikes are still in Senga Bay – the owner, Sam, graciously allowed us to store the bikes there whilst we take care of business in Lilongwe. So we'll find our way back to Senga Bay this weekend and then continue cycling north along the lake heading for Tanzania.

3 Months, 4500km, 5 countries

June 29, 2011

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