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Published: September 12th 2012
Lake Malawi, Malawi – 12 – 14 August 2012
We left the Farm camp by 6.00am to drive south. We drove through a lot of villages stopping for diesel, at one stop, toilets for another and food for another before reaching the Tanzanian-Malawi border at 2.00pm. We apparently experienced the fastest border crossing – 45 minutes. It usually takes up to 4 hours. We all cheered when we heard that. AS were then in Malawi, we turned our clocks back 1 hour. They are on the +2 GMT, now 8 hours behind Brisbane and 6 hours behind Perth.
WE arrived at the Chitimba Resort which was right on the banks of Lake Malawi. Although in Africa there is very little concrete paving etc, this accommodation site which was the standard dirt, was all swept and the sand was raked. There was a shelter for each bus group to use for meals and plenty of trees to camp under. There was a volley ball court set up – which we used – and numerous round shaded shelters to sit around for a chat and drink and diary writing. We put our tent
up and then Tom and I took an icy cold beer down to the Lake’s shore on the sand to gaze over this massive Lake. It didn’t take the locals too long to hone in on us to try to sell us ‘stuff’. The standard conversation is that they ask you your name and where you are from and they then introduce themselves and then the sales chat starts with enthusiasm. I love having a bit of fun with them in this type of conversation. There was a sign just outside the bar that said not to buy anything from the local kids because they should be in school.
The local beer was called Kuche kuche meaning elephant. Every African country has at least 1 of their own beers.
It was a beautiful evening, warm, balmy and a clear sky. After night-fall we saw the fishermen’s lights out on the Lake. Tanzanians want to explore the lake for oil so I hope they don’t find any!!
Lake Malawi (also known as Lake Nyasa in most countries, but particularly Tanzania), is an African Great
Lake and the southernmost lake in the East African Rift system. This lake, the third largest in Africa and the eighth largest lake in the world, is located between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. It is the second deepest lake in Africa, although its placid northern shore gives no hint of its depth. This great lake's tropical waters are reportedly the habitat of more species of fish than those of any other body of freshwater on Earth, including more than 1000 species of cichlids.
Lake Malawi was officially declared a reserve by the Government of Mozambique on June 10, 2011 in an effort to protect one of the largest and most bio-diverse freshwater lakes in the world. Lake Malawi or Lake Nyaza is between 560 and 580 kilometres long, and about 75 kilometres wide at its widest point.
The geographic name of the lake is disputed. Malawi claims that it is named "Lake Malawi", whereas most other countries (most notably Tanzania) and internationally made maps state that the name is "Lake Nyasa". The origin of the dispute over the name has its background in geopolitical disputes that began before
the independence of Malawi was achieved in 1964, when the territory had been known as "Nyasaland".
Further complications emerged for political reasons during the 1960s, when President Hastings Banda of Malawi became the only African leader to establish diplomatic relations with the white-ruled country of South Africa. This recognition of the South African regime was fiercely repudiated by almost all other African leaders, including President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. This contrasting in policies toward South Africa gave some more impetus to disputes between Malawi and Tanzania, especially concerning the name of the lake itself — the water boundary between the two countries.
The partition of Lake Nyasa's surface area between Malawi and Tanzania is still under dispute. Tanzania claims that the international border runs through the middle of the lake. This is along the lines of the border that were set out between the German and British territories before 1914. On the other hand, Malawi claims the whole of the surface of this lake that is not in Mozambique, including the waters that are next to the shoreline of Tanzania. The foundations of this dispute were laid when the British
colonial government, which had recently captured Tanganyika from Germany, placed all of the water under the jurisdiction of the territory of Nyasaland, without a separate administration for the Tanganyikan portion of the surface. This dispute has led to conflicts in the past, though in recent years, Malawi has declined to attempt to enforce any claims to the disputed portion. However, with the recent exploration for oil, I read in the local papers which reported there is a major meeting in Mbuzu (where we did some shopping) on 20 August to discuss the border issue again.
Occasional flare-ups of conflict during the 1990s, and also sometimes in the 21st Century, have impacted fishing rights, particularly those of Tanzanian fisherman who reside on the lakeshore, and who have occasionally been accused of fishing in Malawian waters.
"The Lake of Stars" is the nickname for Lake Malawi coined by David Livingston. This name came about due to lights from the lanterns of the fishermen in Malawi on their boats that resemble, from a distance, stars in the sky.
The lake is also known as the Lake of Storms,
for the unpredictable and extremely violent gales that sweep through the area. The waters act as if it is an ocean with waves big enough to body surf and it seems that the water is tidal – which it isn’t. When it is rough, there are a lot of strong undercurrents in the Lake.
Lake Malawi is a paradise for those who enjoy swimming, snorkelling, diving, and of course sunbathing. The waters are mostly calm, clear as crystal and there are no big, ugly tourist resorts anywhere along its coastline, just local village huts. While you can sail, fish, ride horses and water-ski around the lake, everything is low-key, quite affordable and relaxed. The sunsets are spectacular, the beer is good and the locals are incredibly friendly. We went horse riding for 2 hours including through the sunset. We even took the horses into the Lake. It was fantastic fun.
We had a sleep in on the 1st
morning at Lake Malawi (Monday 13 August) as we only had a 200km drive. Unfortunately, we forgot to change the time on our alarm clock so got up 1 hour too early
(6.30 instead of 7.30). We confused a few of the other members of our group when we started to get up. However, this gave us time to go outside the resort’s fence to have a look through the 100s of African craft that were available for sale. We got a beautiful teak wall hanging which was a carving that described the village life on Lake Malawi.
We left at 8.00am. The day was warm with a clear sky. On the way to Kanda Beach, which was our next stop on the shores of Lake Malawi, we stopped at Mbuzu for an ATM, supermarket and to go to the clothes market as we needed to buy “cheap but formal” clothes for the party that night. You ought to see all the gay clothes the local boys were selling. It became obvious that many tourist buses stop at that spot to buy such clothes. Tom and I also found a coffee cafe and had a nice coffee.
We next stopped at a rubber plantation where the locals talked about their work with the trees. They had made a couple of soccer balls
out of the strands of rubber. The guys ‘milk’ 500 trees a day.
We drove until 4.30pm, onto Kande Beach on Lake Malawi where we stopped for 2 days.
We took an upgrade into a hotel room with on suite for the 2 nights. These camp sites are always very well equipped, not like Australian camp sites. This one had the obligatory bar, as well as pool table, many sophisticated shelters with WiFi, lounges, hammocks and tables – for lying around doing not a lot. Even though I am not good at doing that, I did however lay around for 1 hour!!.
For dinner on the 1st
night at Kanda Beach, we had a special birthday dinner for Julia, one of the girls from Germany. Our CEO Marietta even cooked a cake in a camp oven. The meal was beautiful, with a roast chicken done South African-style through the use of spices and cooked slowly. We also had corn and Cous Cous. Everyone looked incredible in their dress-ups. I put a towel around my head and balanced a heavy earthenware vase (which I found in our room)
on my head like the African women. Tom put a couple of bright scarves aro9und his neck. Marietta made a nice punch – even though it was too sweet for me. We all had a great night.
Tuesday 14 August – a sleep in, yahoo!!! I got up at 8.30am and Tom got up at 7.30am – a sleep in for him. We wandered down for breakfast at 9.00am and Marietta cooked egg and bacon for us. We sat around, sharing stories and photos from the previous night’s fun. After breakfast we booked the horse riding and went out at 2.30pm. It was a lot of fun. Tom and I went for a long walk up the beach, passed the villages and villagers. There were many local men having a bath in the lake so I made sure I kept my eyes down.!! That night we had another nice dinner and got to know some of the other passengers from the other buses. It’s good to hear their travel stories, and to get some advice from those who have come up from Cape Town.
Wednesday 15 August we left Kanda
Beach at 8.00am. The day was warm and the sky clear. This central area of Malawi is known as the Warm Heart of Africa, even though it is not the geographic centre of Africa but the people are lovely, patient, friendly, not in-your-face wanting to always sell something to you although we don’t mind this as the poverty is evident, but they seem happy. The villages continue to be subsistence farming in the rural area. They live very simple lives continuing to ensure clean water is available but a lot of the wells that they pump water out have dried through the recent drought. The women are in charge of collecting water and sometimes they are at the well for extended periods waiting for the water to drip in. Sometimes their husbands think they are being lazy and there is some domestic violence in the region. The women also prepare the meals, grind the cassava, rice and maize, build the homes and look after the children. The men do some hunting and then sit around talking, playing games (Bowa Bowa game).
In some areas, the schools are a long way from the villages so the
children have a long way to walk. A newspaper I read said that they wanted to build more schools closer to villages to reduce the rate of young girls being raped when they are walking to school.
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