🙂 Smiley happy people and incredible dazzling coloured tropical fish when snorkelling in the lake (Malawi Cichlids) and amazing wooden carvings including our beautifully carved wooden Malawi Chair.
🙁 Poverty and attacks on people with albinism.
Currency: Malawi Kwacha
Three things we did not know about Malawi:
- Malawi’s biggest export is tobacco accounting for 50% of the country’s overall exports. Tea is also listed as one of Malawi’s major exports (6%).
- Rural Taxis are bicycles! Rural Malawi ambles at such a slow pace that if you need a ride for a short distance, you may well have to hail a bicycle. Like motorcycles sitting at the top of small streets in Thailand’s cities, these wait at key spots, like road crossings and hotel entrances. We grabbed four when crossing the 3Km ‘no man’s land’ from Tanzania to Malawi (one for each of us and one for each of our backpacks)!
- Malawi is famed for its beautiful wood carvings including ‘Malawi Chairs’ – our house is adorned with several of these works of art which we swapped for t-shirts when we were backpacking in the 1990s.
Departed from Arusha in Tanzania on the last bus out of town which was completely full so we had to sit on the gear box with 6 other people who were holding chickens and pineapples and chewing Khat which contains the alkaloid cathinone which is a stimulant, which is said to cause excitement … and they kept sharing with the driver who was also smoking weed!! We were stopped by armed guards who waved AK47s at us and checked our tickets and asked for a gift, so we parted with another US$10. After 7 hours of our high driver swerving to avoid elephants in the road we finally arrived at Mbeya and checked into the smoky Nkezu Hotel for another US$10. Up at 05h00 and got a matatu which dropped us at the edge of ‘no man’s land’ which is a Kilometer from the border. We were swamped by boy’s offering us their ‘bicycle taxis’ – we held on to 4 of them and told the rest to leave us in peace…We hopped on the back of one each and our backpacks went with another two … A bus for our destination was fortunately there but we needed to change money – the little guy ripped us off US$60 … aaaargh!!! We booked into the luxury Mzuzu Hotel (looks much more upmarket these days!) as it was the only place to take credit cards before we could change more money. Booked Air Malawi tickets to for US$10 each to Lilongwe and then a further $130 for tickets to Harare. Paul and I had an argument and he tore up the Ranulph Fiennes book that I was reading because I was keeping him awake!!
Up at 08h00 and made friends. Boarded a matatu which then proceeded to get a flat tyre so we arrived at Chikale Beach Resort in Nkatha Bay later than planned. Put up our tent for only Kw6! A chap arrived to trade his beautifully carved statues. We swapped socks, a wallet, old walkman – stunning.
Headed to Njaya for a beer and met up with Jeff from Zanzibar! Up at 08h00 and headed into town where we bartered for a Malawi Chair and table and bao game. Went for a snorkel – the Malawi cichlids are stunning and just like tropical fish! We sunbathed and braai’d some fish that Paul had caught and shared a beer which the guy who had overcharged us the previous day supplied. Such a lovely place. The people are much calmer and do not constantly harass you. Up at 07h00 and had breakfast at Njaya Lodge. We managed to Fedex all our purchases from here to home and hoped that they would arrive safely! (They did!) Our plan was to head to Cape McClear for a couple of days. We hopped on the bus at 06h00 and asked the driver to let us know when we arrived at Cape McClear…By midday we were worried as we had not arrived so asked him again – he said we would arrive at 14h50. Our suspicions materialised 0- he had not told us when to get off and we were in the middle of absolutely nowhere – we insisted that he take us back for free but the bus terminated just outside of Monkey Bay where the only option to stay the night was at a brothel! We could hear the comings and goings (literally!) all night long – most unpleasant…Up at 03h00 and staggered to bus stop for bus which was supposed to depart at 04h00 but only left at04h30! Arrived at 07h30 and followed the usual pattern with any African Taxi…jumps start, straight to petrol station having just run out of fuel and then just enough to get to destination and then argue about fare – very tiresome! Had very poor lunch at the Lilongwe Hotel with waiters fighting over who was serving us. Flagged a taxi to airport and we had the obligatory petrol station stop followed by the driver switching the engine completely off every time we went down a hill! Taxi overcharged us again and we had the usual argument. Malawi had been beautiful but we were just sorry that we managed to miss Cape McClear!