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Published: February 4th 2019
Ah, it all started off so well. Within minutes of getting on a minibus to Nkhotokota we were on our way. Hooray! Unfortunately our joy only lasted a few minutes. On the edge of Nkhata Bay the minibus stopped and we were trafficked onto another one. This rickety old thing was only going as far as Dwangwa which we had never heard of. Luckily there were no fish or chickens on board but it was a slow and painful journey. We didn’t even get to Dwangwa. A few kilometres we pulled up at the side of the road and the driver seemed to disappear into a bar. That had us worried. No need to fear drink driving though as we were unceremoniously transferred into yet another minibus. This one stopped and started dropping off and picking up every few minutes, yet reused to drop us where we wanted to get off insisting instead that we go all the way to the bus station in Nkhotakota leaving us with a 20 minute walk back to where we wanted to be.
Arriving in a new town with no cash is never a good thing. The ATM wouldn’t give us any either. Oh
well, we would try again later, but first we needed to find some accommodation. Along the main road were three “lodges”. We called in at all of them but, having seen the rooms, there was no way we were going to be staying. Collectively they were the three worst accommodation options we have seen n over twenty years of backpacking – and that includes some rather dodgy places in Bolivia and undeveloped former Soviet countries. Back at the ATM we succeeded in getting cash and made our way in a taxi to the rather more expensive Sitima Inn,
located by the lake and next to the ferry “jetty” which has seen better days. We presume this is one of the stops where ferry passengers are shuttled to and from the vessel in smaller boats. This was to prove to be a very good choice for a couple of night’s rest. The rooms were a little basic but everything else about the place was wonderful.
Where to start singing their praises? Well, the terrace was amazing with fabulous views over the lake and it was a great place for watching the local life go by, as well as for eating breakfast. The
bar was well priced and well stocked (except for tonic so no G&T for Trish!), and the barman has obviously been well trained as his service was exceptional. They even had satellite TV so Russ was able to watch his beloved Brighton succumb to an unlucky narrow defeat to Manchester United. The food – wow, that was fantastic. The owners are from South Africa and that has heavily influenced the menu. We tried things we’ve never had before like pork fried in banana butter, but the real hit was bobotie, which was bursting with flavour combinations unlike anything we’ve had before. Even the décor gives it a little something else. Designed to look a bit like a ship, there are artefacts and ship parts built into the walls. Very nice indeed.
Nkhotakota is where Dr Livingstone arrived in 1861, and in 1863 sat with local chief Jumbe to try to put an end to the dreadful business of slavery. As a token of his gratitude for the talks (unsuccessful, but the beginning of the end of the trade) he gave the chief an umbrella. What a bizarre gift! The tree under which they sat still exists today
but a missing signpost meant that we had walked through some parts of town where foreigners are not as welcome as they seem to be elsewhere. We did meet with some hostility, although not too aggressive.
Back on the correct path to the tree we were met with the curiosity of the children and soon had a large group following us along. Near the tree we met Rafik, a teenager with excellent English, who managed to keep the younger kids (and older drunks) at bay while he escorted us down to the remains of an old mosque by the lakeside. There he explained the lack of fishing boats on the lake. Apparently three boats were lost in a recent storm with the loss of 24 lives, and confidence among the fishing community was low. The storms and their associated heavy rains also caused the lake to have a muddy brown colour as two rivers feed into it nearby.
Nature is quite prominent by the lake. We saw a lot of birds and loved watching the pied kingfishers at work. We also got some mesmerising views of the swarms of lake flies in the distance. They are bewitching, forming
many shapes as they group and regroup over the water. Unfortunately for us, the wind was also blowing these massive swarms towards the land. We got caught up in a big one on our walk, but another also scuppered our plans for dinner in the terrace back at the hotel. We retreated to the bar. Oh well!
The South Africans who are looking after the hotel at the moment (the Aunt of the owner, we think, and her partner) gave us a lift into town to get our onward transport to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. After a long and firm discussion with the driver, she assured us that it was a direct minibus with no changes. Relieved, we got on board.
What do you think happened next????!!!!
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