So, feeling sad about leaving Zambia,
we drove the 30km from Chipata to the Malawian border. If all our
border crossings had been like this one we would have been very
happy overlanders and would probably have arrived here about a week
earlier! We were through both sides in under thirty minutes. The
only slight disturbance was the point at which we couldn't hear the
guy speak behind the counter because of increasingly loud music
outside. When we went out to investigate where it was coming from
we saw a bakkie (small pickup truck) driving through the border
post with four enormous speakers attached to the roof and two men
dancing in the back. That's one way to cheer up your border
crossing I guess.
The first town was Mchinji where we stopped to
get ourselves sorted out with cash and a sim card. We liked it
immediately. It was alive with atmosphere and back to the Africa
that we love: fruit and veg stalls, donkeys, chickens and oxen
yoked to carts.
As we drove further into Malawi our immediate impression was
people. People were everywhere, especially children. There was
never a moment without people and bikes lining the edge of the
road. Most of the children were without adults and many of them
very small being looked after by friends or siblings.
Neil continued to work his charm on the police and got us
through a couple of stops with no problems or delay.
We had heard that Malawi was good for its deep fried chips and
so when we saw a seller we pulled over to give them a try. They
were indeed delicious, cooked in oil over a fire. We caused quite a
stir at the road side stop and there was a large group of people by
the time we left.
Lake Malawi really is spectacular. It looks and sounds like the
sea and has sandy beaches. We were on our own in the campsite so
enjoyed our dinner with the backdrop of the sunset and had an early
Our only company this morning were
some cheeky monkeys and baboons. We drove back through the town to
head south for Cape Maclear. The town was frantic with activity and
in true Malawian style, packed with people going about their
We stopped to brave an attractive looking market of
wooden souvenirs. Buying curios is something we have avoided on
this trip but it is now time we think about collecting a few
momentous. There were many stalls and vendors with some beautiful
carvings. The problem is that you feel guilty for selecting one and
feel as though you are rejecting the others. You are never quite
sure to what extent they are working with or against each other.
Neil is also not so keen on haggling but fortunately, I am, so
after some serious debating we came away with a beautiful piece of
art work at a great price. Everyone was happy!
Cape Maclear is another magical spot on the banks of the lake.
Fat Monkey's campsite is in the heart of Chemba village and had
lots of guests and campers which made for a great atmosphere. This
is where we will watch the opening game of the World Cup – Bafana
Bafana vs. Mexico.
We started the day with a boat ride
out on to the lake with Framingo from the village. The best moment
for us was when he enticed a fish-eagle with some bait and it
swooped down right next to the boat. They really are magnificent
Otherwise the main event for today was the opening match of the
much awaited World Cup. The satellite TV where we were staying
decided not to work at the crucial moment so we hastily wandered
into the village and found a real pub, picked up from somewhere in
England and dropped into the sandy street of Chemba, surrounded by
huts. Upstairs in the thatched building was a room with sofas, a
flat screen and DSTV. Once again we felt a bit spun out by the
contrasts of life here. We were joined by some Brits, some South
Africans and some local guys and we all enjoyed the match,
especially Bafana's brilliant goal.
Nicely timed, just at the end of the match, there was a power
cut across the whole village. We wandered back through the village
in the pitch dark except for a few oil lamps and candles burning
where people carried on trading and selling food. The general
bustle continued, the locals not at all phased by having to see in
the dark. There was a great atmosphere and we enjoyed chatting to
some kids, buying some more chips and checking out the local TV
lounge owned by Max, who was charging 20 Kwacha (10p) for a seat.
Before leaving we took another walk
through the village, buying some groceries and trying to learn from
some kids how to run with a stick and a wheel rim. It's harder than
It struck us how much of a self sufficient micro-economy this
particular village is. They have to be as they are isolated from
anyone else by a long dirt road through some mountains. Obviously
being on the bank of Lake Malawi, they have a constant reliable
source of water, which takes away the daily stress that many rural
Africans have. Everyone has a role to play in daily life, whether
it is making bread, selling clothes, running a TV lounge, fishing
or taking tourists out on a boat, all overseen by the chief and his
family. It seemed like a happy place to us.
Driving to Lucy and Gordon's in Blantyre we pulled over in the
middle of a busy market to get a few bits. When Neil got back into
the car it wouldn't start. The starter motor wasn't even turning
over. As you can imagine, we quickly had an audience. With the help
of a couple of guys we pushed the car off the main road and Neil
got busy with his Leatherman. Fortunately we knew what was wrong as
we had had the same problem in the UK (the starter motor cable had
been jolted out by the very corrugated road from the Lake). It only
took a few minutes to fix, with a few children coming to have a
good look under the bonnet. We had a couple of cheers when it
restarted and were able to drive off!
It was lovely to see Gordon and Lucy, who is an old friend of
mine from Exeter, and their gorgeous little son Harrison. They are
running an orphanage just outside of Blantyre. They had just
installed DSTV so we were able to watch the England vs. USA game –
well at least the firs half as I think we were all asleep by the
Gordon had warned us that we would be
woken up at 5.30am by guinea fowl jumping down on to the roof from
their perch on the tree and then running across to jump off the
other side. He wasn't wrong. At 5.30 we heard them getting prepared
and then at 5.35 exactly there was a very loud 'doink' right above
our heads, followed by many more as the whole flock followed suit.
These birds have made us laugh on numerous occasions on this trip
and although it was early we both woke up laughing at this natural
We had a lovely relaxing day chatting and catching
up and going into Blantyre for lunch with a great view across the
After being woken by our fat feathery friends we had a
great trip to Mulanji Mountain, a walk by the river and a delicious
pizza lunch. Harrison kept us all amused by his antics and his very
endearing obsession with cars and everything on wheels.
Today we did some jobs in Blantyre. In the afternoon Lucy
gave me a tour of the orphanage. They have 29 children aged between
3 and 18. Although things really haven't been easy for them, they
are doing a sterling job and certainly deserve a prize for