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Published: November 1st 2013
Finally landed in Malawi. After an 18 hour flight from Istanbul to Lilongwe which included a kip on a deck chair in Addis Ababa, I'm finally here. Seemed slightly surreal to be here after all the months of planning and saving money. How things come around so soon! Both flights were very good and the service was efficient. As we departed Addis Ababa in the morning for Lilongwe, I opted for a window seat so I could take in the scenery and it didn't disappoint. The vast open plains of Tanzania and Kenya were breathtaking. Unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the plane near the border of TNZ/KNY so I missed Mount Kilimanjaro. Once in Malawi, you really got a sense of how big the Lake is here - it is stunning.
After landing in Lilongwe, I was supposed to have been picked up by the backpackers after prior negotiations but they were nowhere to be seen, never mind ey! I caught a taxi to the lodge and offered him a healthy tip. Others would have refused or paid less, but I was grateful for the lift as I had no idea where the lodge was.
arrival at Mabuya Camp which is a big complex offering dormitories, chalets and more, I soon made myself at home and wasted no time in jumping in the pool. Here in Malawi, it is currently the dry season so it is extremely hot. In terms of the temperature, it is easily above 30 and fairly humid too. My stay at Mabuya was all about R & R, something I have become accustomed too over the summer! Whilst adjusting to the heat and my surroundings, I also met some interesting people from Britain and the Netherlands and enjoyed a beer or two in the evening. I also came across a 69 year old Scottish guy who had been teaching across Sub Saharan Africa for some 20 years. He asked if anyone would like to join him on his usual 8k run which I stupidly said yes. Despite running at 17.00 when the heat wasn't so intense, it was awfully hot and that has to be the hardest 5 mile I've run in a long time. He also put my to shame. Alan who I was running with, recorded our 5 miles in 42 minutes which wasn't too shabby either. The run
itself took us down from the lodge and around the golf course. It was great to see local Malawians going about their daily routines and get a feel of village life.
One thing I must say about the Malawians is they are extremely friendly and it is no wonder the country is called "the warm heart of Africa". Overall, Mabuya Camp provided a good base to relax for a few days. It was just a shame that there wasn't a great deal to do in Lilongwe. It seems to be a transit point for people heading to the lake, taking the bus south or going to Zambia. The food was also quite expensive so I am glad to be heading north along the lakeshore to Nkhata Bay. Tonight's evening meal was a curry price at 3500 Kwacha. The exchange rate is approx £1 - 590 Kwacha so I decided that £6 was far too much for a curry.
So...across the road I went with Sam, who is running an NGO in the South where they are looking at reforestation. Just across the road from Mabuya on the right is the Welcome Lodge. Here the food is much cheaper,
albeit, you pay for what you get. However, considering I'm on a budget and I wanted to leave the lodge, the Welcome Lodge was passable. Continuing the story, it was typical that there was a power cut so there were no lights and no cooker just shortly after arrival. However, the chef cooked an average meal on a charcoal burner which consisted of rice and meat. Here in Malawi, rice or nsima (tasteless mashed potato) is very popular and they often have it with fish, meat or beans. The meat was rather chewy but as I often say, it was grub. Not often you can say you ate your evening meal in the pitch black which had been cooked on a charcoal burner under the stars!
That ended a nice welcome into Malawi and my stay at Mabuya and it was pleasing to give the local restaurant some business as many volunteers and travellers tend to stay at the backpackers where the prices are much more expensive. Despite the prices, I would still stay here at Mabuya but I would probably eat elsewhere.
Next stop - The lake and Nkhata Bay
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