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Published: October 24th 2009
I’ve just returned from 4 days at Lake Malawi having been invited to go, only a few hours before we left, by Alekeni (who I work with at SJA) and 5 of her friends (Themba, Mazaza, and Josh). A 3-4 hour drive from Blantyre, the lake covers 20% of Malawi, it is a lot warmer then Blantyre (thus why I’ve managed to burn my shoulders and neck despite repeatedly applying sun cream) most days between 30-40°C. There are few mosquitoes but a fair few midges, flies and ants, which could be sorted out with insect repellent.
We stayed at a lodge on the shores of the lake, owned by Unilever and rented out to its employees (Themba and Mazaza). The 2 lodges, that could each sleep 6, were comfortable and very relaxing, we brought our own food but it was cooked by a couple of lodge employees.
To get to the Lake Malawi National Park, in Cape McClear, you travel 18km off the main road, down mostly untarmaced dust track, across (at least at this time of year) dry streams, between the hills all around, with monkeys running across the road (which FYI, will steal your banana’s if you leave them on the shore when swimming). After a small charge to get in ($1 for Malawians, $3 for non-Malawian residents, and $5 for tourists) in a cluster of buildings there is a visitor’s centre with displays showing about the lake, some history and the animals of Malawi and an aquarium with fish, and a display of animals, including elephant, monkey and crocodile skulls, preserved snakes in a jar, and a stuffed otter.
At one end of the shore there is a path leading into the cliffs, where green arrows painted on the (very hot) rocks show you the path to viewing points overlooking the lake. Or to Otter’s Point, where in pools between the rocks, fish of blue, yellow, and brown swim. The lake itself is beautifully clear and blue, wonderful to swim in, and stretches to the horizon. From the shore there are 3 islands in view of various sizes, all protected by the National Park. As we were sitting on the beach after lunch, in the shade beneath a mango tree, 4 kids came up and started playing instruments and singing for us.
Back at the lodge we had dinner played cards and watched a film. On the beach outside the lodge a couple of guys were selling gifts, bracelets, necklaces, wooden carvings and bowls, who tried to severely rip me off, and probably would have succeeded had I not been helped out and the price brought down from MK 500 to MK 200 (£2 to 80p). On the last night we had a bar-b-que on the beach.
It was amazing to see how technology has affected everywhere, when during a black-out, sitting at the table, lit by candle light, with the lake lapping softly at the shore and the stars blazing above, 3 of the guys had their phones out and where updating facebook, then us all watching a film on the laptop.
Overall, I can defiantly think of far worse ways to spend a weekend.
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