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Published: January 15th 2014
This is a rather late post so I do apologise. This particular trip was my first venture away from Butterfly and Nkhata Bay back in November. Having resided by the Lake for some 4 weeks, I decided at the time to head north and inland to Livingstonia via Mzuzu and Chitimba. This turned out to be a great decision and I had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.
After volunteering on the Friday morning, I caught a shared taxi with Zoe to Mzuzu for 1200 kwacha. Mzuzu is the main city in Northern Malawi and is the administrative Capital of the whole Northern region. The journey takes approximately 45 minutes as it is only 40km away from the Lake. Minibuses which are slightly cheaper and the shared taxi's ply this route on a daily basis and there is always a vehicle travelling one way or another at any given time. Having arrived in Mzuzu just before lunch, Zoe and I spent some time in the Coffee Den, a Western style eatery serving businessmen and women as well as backpackers. As I was away for the weekend and on a small vacation, I decided to indulge in a burger and some ice cream..why not ey! Food luxuries are expensive here in Malawi as they are often imported from South Africa so it is a novelty to eat chocolate and ice cream!
The initial plan was to travel with Zoe and the owner of Mushroom Farm which is nestled at the top of the Rift Valley Escarpment above Chitimba on the Friday afternoon. However, our lift had already left Mzuzu by the time we were ready to leave so we averted to Plan B and had a rather spontaneous night in Mzuzuzoozoo, this being the main backpackers in the city. As it was a Friday, there was a small congregation of locals, backpackers and expats who partied pretty hard. For once, I decided to have an early night as we had to travel up and down some mountain passes the following day which I knew would be uncomfortable without a hangover.
The lodge was nothing special and resembled solitary confinement if I'm being honest but the owner was a nice chap and made everyone feel welcome. One night was more than enough though 😊 We caught the minibus heading to Karonga of which there were 24 of us swashed onto 8 seats. Rather funnily, it wasn't too bad as we had the back seat. After 2 hours we departed the bus at Chitimba which is the stopping point for trips up to Livingstonia. Lucky for us, we got a lift up the mountain with the owner's parents who were visiting from Lincoln in the UK, although they are of American descent. If you decided to walk up to Mushroom Farm, it is a 10km hike and it is a further 5 km to the town of Livingstonia. Vehicles and cars are seen frequently so if you are travelling this way, you might be able to catch a lift for a small fee.
On our way up we passed through a lush green forest as the road twisted and turned. I think in all there are 18 hairpin bends but I maybe wrong there. On arrival, we were presented with a stunning view of the Rift Valley to the North, the Lake below and Northern Malawi. This is the sole reason people come here and I can see why. Note, the pictures I took on arrival and throughout this trip do not do justice to the splendid scenery which is on offer at Livingstonia.
My weekend was spent resting and relaxing in the two hammock's the farm has. The second hammock actually hangs over the drop which makes for an interesting experience, perfectly safe though. The accommodation and facilities are exemplary and Maddie and Cam the owner's were extremely friendly. On the Sunday I explored Manchewe Falls and the town, visiting the Stone House museum which discussed Livingstone's exploratory ventures in Malawi, plus the influences the Scottish Missionaries had upon the area and the country in general. This was very interesting and the walk from the Farm was very beautiful, passing through pine forests and huge agricultural fields where the main crop was cassava. I was also treated to a sirloin steak in the evening which was divine, it was also the first big piece of meat I had since leaving Istanbul!! Cassava is a hugely popular crop here and forms part of the staple diet of Malawians as it is used to make nsima. This dish is similar to other East and Southern African dishes and it is basically another form of Maize/thick porridge.
Moving on, I would certainly recommend visiting Livingstonia as it provides some magical views. One can enjoy the still, peaceful landscapes in a pleasant environment. Whether you visit the falls or you just sit and look at the views, I am very glad I took the time to head up the mountain. The walk up the mountain should take roughly 2.5 hours...coming down approx 1.5 hours. PS Take the short cuts. I also saw a herd of baboons on the walk down which was cool.
The journey back was reasonable enough and there were only 18 of us in the minibus heading to Mzuzu, thus many of us could afford to move. This being a huge luxury on Malawian transport.
Next post - Nyika Plateau (on safari)
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