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Published: August 11th 2013
Before I left England, Russel and Jo gave me a journal so that I could keep notes of my trip, where I had been, what I had done and so forth. I will admit that normally I have relied on my camera for a lot of reminders about where I have been, but in Milawi, in my period of no camera sadness (hence photos from other parts of the trip in this blog), I find that I have only written a few notes. One entry stands out from the rest. Sandwiched between “Sunflower fields” and “Catch in the lake”, I have written, in my fair hand, “Liquid poo to the max”. Yes, my friends, my stomach, normally a fairly iron-lined thing, had decided to start disagreeing with the cuisine or water or whatever, and was letting me know about it. Thankfully it was not the kind that comes upon you suddenly and demands that you find the bathroom within three seconds of that uncomfortable feeling, so was manageable and rectifiable with drugs. Phew! (The paragraph requires a sorry, Mum.)
We stayed at a couple of campsites next to the lake itself, and were introduced to a game called Bao. Wikipedia
reliably tells me this translates to board or board game, and also tells me there are such things as Bao Masters, who are held in high respect. I am no such master, but it is at least a lot of fun to play. The premise is a series of cups in a board containing stones and the basic idea is to capture your opponent’s stones by moving around said board. It’s similar to Kalaha that I remember Mum playing at home. It involves a lot of counting. I quite liked maths when I was younger, but it seems my travelling and being away from work has definitely had an impact on the sharpness of my brain, and my now blunt maths skills led to a fairly large number of losses, but even so, I had the locals carve me a board which will take pride of place on a shelf somewhere in a yet to be bought house.
I swam often in the lake, safe in the knowledge that there were no sea urchins present to cause more suffering and discomfort, and at one campsite we lounged on the many couches that were there, when not occupied by the
camp’s dogs. We played catch in the lake with the locals, introduced to us with more random names that are all the rage in East Africa (we were able to add Mr Black and, strangely, Mr White to our list), watched centipedes the size of glow worms at the bar and agreed that exercise was needed. So we signed up to a 30km hike. Eeek!
We hiked up to a settlement called Livingstonia. From the campsite, our guide led us along the road and we started our ascent which lasted for probably an hour and a half or so. Livingstonia was formed just before the 1900’s by missionaries from Scotland and still stands strong today. Most of the buildings are brick, probably the most amount of brick we had seen in one place outside of main cities in a while, and there is a hospital, church, schools etc., that the locals attend and maintain. It was interesting to see a whole community that, despite still having problems associated with this part of East Africa (mainly illness and a high pregnancy rate among young women) seemed to be fairly thriving and well cared for. We were able to enter the
local church and had a brief tour, including a trip up the bell tower to look over the settlement and beyond. Our way back down was easier, but the sun did take its toll somewhat and we had some energy issues within the group – never has a Mars Bar been more sought after!
Another campsite saw a group from a G Adventures truck turn up, and turn up in style. I forget the reasons why, but they had decided to have a night where the guys would dress up as women. You know, as you do. Sat around tables with drinks in hand, we were witness to a quite incredible display of cross-dressing, complete with crop-tops and slinky negligees, gyrating and debauchery. What were we to do but offer our services in judging them for their outfits, including one particular category for most creep looking. A strange bunch, but a fun one, and we were to meet up with of few of the people from their trip at various times throughout the rest of our trip south.
This trip was to become a thing of firsts for me, and I made sure Milawi was no exception by
going horse riding for a couple of hours. I have never been on a horse before so was a little apprehensive, but it is one of those things in life I think everyone should have some idea of how to do, a good life skill to have. It also means that if I now ever find myself in an Indiana Jones kind of situation I can rest assured that I can flee from the bad guys and live to fight another day. We were led on various paths around the local area which was very nice indeed, before coming to the short of Lake Milawi, a little way along the beach from our campsite. Dismounting from our horses, our guides told us to strip to our bathers, and unsaddled the horses. Oh yes, not content with merely riding on a horse for the first time, I was to ride bareback into the lake itself. I was grateful for having a slow moving horse; by I, I mean my crotch. Entering the water was pretty awesome as the horses love it, and go fairly deep with you on them. Another awesome experience that I will probably not repeat for many years.
Leaving the lake behind us, we ventured on, experienced rain at another campsite and played games of Bao amongst others, all the while taking in the scenery that Milawi had to offer. Next stop: Zambia.
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