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Published: April 19th 2010
Lilongwe to Salima
Hi everyone, sorry it’s been so long since my last post. As the name suggests I’ve had some visitors from the UK over here and we’ve been traveling about. Originally I had planned to send one part way through with the first half of the trip, then a second after they’d gone with the rest. But in the end I never found the time to jot any notes down. (I guess it’s good, it means I was too busy doing things I can write about now I have more time).
Right now I’m going to apologize to all the folks back home that will no doubt have to sit through the hundreds of photos my parents took of everything (I’m not kidding, they filled up one flash card well before the end of the trip and were running out of photos on another). But maybe they’ll help to illustrate the things I’m talking about and they can help fill in the gaps I’ve either forgotten or left out.
I’ll start from where I come in, picking them up from the airport (though this wasn’t the start of their journey, engine problems in Amsterdam caused delays. Ask them about it). After a morning of waiting for the taxi (it had been held up by the president leaving for an AU thing) with Grace (from the SJAM Lilongwe office) I got to the airport, to see the Kenya Airways plane already on the tarmac (Kamuzu airport gets 2 flights in a day, so I knew it was them) so ran the length of the airport so I could be there to meet them just before they came through arrivals. The expected tired, teary ‘hello’s and ‘we’ve missed you’s followed. On the way back to the lodge (Korea Garden) they told me all about their trip and I attempted (and failed) to give a guide to some of the places we were passing (Madonna’s orphanage, the Kamuzu monument). At the lodge we had a drink and more of a catch up before they crashed for the rest of the afternoon, rousing themselves for dinner, then dropping off again.
My plan had to been to get a hire car the day after they arrived, but because of the difficulties with the plane, it meant it was now the Easter weekend making it more difficult to get hold of one. As it turned out we had an extra day in Lilongwe, exploring the old town, letting them catch up on missed sleep, mum getting freaked by the markets. On Easter Sunday we got hold of one, a Toyota corolla from Avis in Sunbird Capital. With our luggage (well their luggage and my backpack) picked up from Korea Gardens we set of on the first day of the route I’d planned (ish).
The main roads in Malawi are fine, good actually, for Africa, well tarmaced and aside from potholes generally in good condition. The main roads. The road to Kasungu national park, north of Lilongwe, is not a main road. It’s 65km of unpaved, potholed dirt track. Needless to say a saloon isn’t exactly the perfect car for this type of surface. Then followed 2 hours of bumpy travel with a mildly freaked mother before we arrived at the lodge. Overlooking a small lake, the lodge was brilliant, empty because of management issues, we sat upstairs and watched hippos while having a dinner of the food we’d brought with us (no management, no food, no bar). As night fell they put the generators on for 2 hours for us, but once the electricity stopped, we watched an incredible lightning storm of the far shore and with no light pollution thousands upon thousands of stars above.
The next morning we continued on, again down the dirt track to the main road, then on to Mzuzu (the main city in the north) where we stopped for lunch, then to Nkata Bay, our first stop on Lake Malawi. The Illova was in port, a ship that runs the length of Lake Malawi from Nkata Bay down to Monkey Bay, it also stops at Likoma island. Depending on how often the ship ran I was considering trying to get to the island, but as it only ran weekly we decided to just continue by car. Our lodge had its own little beach, so later on in the evening dad and I (Mum wasn’t feeling well) had a pleasant drink by the lakeshore.
Nkotakota Pottery was our stop for the next day. I’d read about it in the guide and figured might be alright place to stop for the night. We got there relatively early, with enough time to relax and for a swim. My folks had their first chance for a bit of curio buying and managed to get gifts for people. Before we left the next morning, mum and I tried our hand at pottery, though not as easy as the assistant made out, we managed to make a couple of things each, we didn’t get to paint them ourselves but they’re going to be sent down to me in Blantyre once they’re finished.
The last stop I’ll mention is Salima and Senga Bay. Because we didn’t want to spend all day driving, we tried to make short hops down the coast, salima is only an hour or so drive south of Nkotakota, which was good having left the lodge later because of the pottery. We drove around for a while but the first few places were full. We found the Lakeside Lodge for the night, the place looks to be a very ex-colonial compound strait out of the 1950’s, again right next to the lake and was great for the night.
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