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Published: March 21st 2010
Its been a while since the last post which can be explained by varying proportions of laziness, business, and prohibitively expensive internet (I’m not sure how much satellite internet costs but when its up to $12 per hour there’s no chance I’m paying for it). I’ve been on the road for pretty much a month, living on a bus and in tents, a life style I could get quite used to, especially as the beer is nice and cheap, and there’s plenty of banter in the group and with the excellent tour leaders. Anyway, time to get down to business.
We arrived in Malawi from Tanzania, and drove down towards the lake. Malawi seemed upon first impressions much more rural than Tanzania as we passed very few villages and no towns of note en route to our campsite, it was clear that there had been much rain as the rice fields and shrubbery are a bright and luscious green, absolutely beautiful. We arrived for our first night in Malawi at a place at the north of Lake Malawi, where we were annoyingly advised not to swim as there are apparently bugs in the water that burrow into your skin and generally cause trouble. However, spirits were lifted when at the bar beer was 200 kwacha (230 kwacha = 1 Pound), and juice was 400 kwacha. Just outside the campsite there was a fantastic wood market where the traders sold all sorts of wooden carved crafts. Our tour leaders recommended purchasing here as it was excellent quality and prices were reasonable. Some of the English names the traders give themselves are quite amusing, as ‘Cheap as Chips’ assured me he had the best shop, a claim contested by ‘Cheese on Toast’, a claim which was unsurprisingly not supported by ‘Fantastic Steve.’ Nonetheless, we all picked up some bargains, then headed off on the bus the next morning towards our next stop at Kande Beach.
Upon arrival at Kande Beach, the facilities seemed excellent, which was just as well as we were supposed to be staying there for three nights. The bar was very nice, there was a pool table, plenty of hammocks, table tennis, and an excellent beach which was very like the sea as we couldn’t see the other side of the lake. A few days taking it easy on the beach is most welcome after a few days of arriving at campsites in the evening and then boarding the bus early the next morning to drive onwards. The second day on Kande was eagerly awaited for a number of reasons: firstly it was Mandy, our tour leader’s birthday, secondly we had an entire pig to be cooked on a spit to eat that evening, thirdly, we’d all clubbed together and chipped in for a punch to drink with the pig. Finally, this was to be the evening of the tour dress up party. This involved drawing a name from a hat at random which corresponded to the person whose outfit we had to buy at the market for about 500 Kwacha. Some of the outfits were truly terrible: Pat (a comedy Irishman) was allocated a red silk lingerie dress thing with white tights, which was probably the worst, although I didn’t escape with much more dignity. It was skewed against the blokes though as pretty much all the clothes at the market were for girls. Either way it was probably one of the funniest nights on the tour, although there was much hungoverness the following day.
When the next day inevitably arrived we had a visit to an orphanage up the lake. When we arrived we were greeted by swarms of happy laughing children, and we sat in on some of the lessons at the back whist the kids sang some songs. The orphanage was managed by an Australian lady who told us that the meal of porridge the kids received that morning was in the dry season the only food that some of the children would eat all day. However, despite Malawi being incredibly poor she was keen to point out that people generally lived happily as society in Malawi is so much less materialistic that the UK or Australia, apparently problems like depression and suicide are almost unheard of. After hearing abit about the place it was time for a game of football, which was great fun, especially as my team won. However, running around on the sand in that heat for forty minutes or so is very tiring and we had to save ourselves for a big game of volleyball against some of the older lads from the orphanage that afternoon (in which we were roundly beaten). Later that afternoon we had been told that because there had been so much rain we would not be able to get to the next campsite because the only bridge to that area had been washed away, this meant an extra day chilling out in Kande which was welcomed by all. The next day some of the locals had agreed to take us fishing on an island about 800 metres out in the lake from the beach (which we had been advised not to swim to, especially in the evening). This was great because there were so many fish that snorkelling round the island was very much like swimming in a fish tank. There were also some big rocks to jump off. Unfortunately, the presence of a great number of fish did not transform into a good catch, after this disappointment we swam back to the beach which was much much further and took much much longer than expected than my estimate.
After this it was time to head to Livingstone, which would be a two day drive. At lunchtime we stopped at a craft market where amongst other things I managed to swap a hideous pair of water shorts for an excellent painting of Lake Malawi. Bonus! Later that afternoon we reluctantly handed over $50 each for the privilege of entering the Republic of Zambia. That evening we stayed at a campsite called Mama Rulas which was ok but nothing special, although a new country meant new beers to try (I’m collecting beer labels of all the different ones I’ve tried to be used for some as yet undecided purpose in the future). After this we headed off to Livingstone, the town by the Victoria Falls. Upon arrival I had no idea what to expect, as I don’t think I’d actually looked at a picture of the falls prior to departure, but when we saw the enormous amounts of spray from the truck on the way into the car park the excitement had begun to build. Put simply, when was seen next was quite simply the best thing I’ve seen anywhere, ever. We were very fortunate that ass it was the rainy season, the Zambezi was full so the mighty waterfall as at its best. The falls are approximately one mile long, although you can’t go the full length without crossing into Zimbabwe, a privilege the notorious Mr Mugabe has withdrawn from those possessing a British passport. The path to view the falls is no more than fifty metres away from the waterfall, and the sight is so spectacular that David Livingstone was quite accurate in describing it as so beautiful that passing angels would stop by to have a look. Its difficult so see all of it, as there is just so much spray, you are surrounded by rainbows and completely saturated within seconds. Anyway that’s enough about that, anyone who wants to verify should check it out as soon as possible.
We had a few days after this in Livingstone at our campsite by the waterfront which had excellent views of the Zambezi with the spray of the falls in the background. This time was mainly put aside as we had the opportunity to do some of the many activities on offer. As many of them were quite expensive I restricted myself to one, I decided to go for the half day rafting and riverboarding (body boarding down the river), because sadly only half the rapid were open because of the extreme height of the water, I would have preferred to do a full day rafting but nevermind. So with this booked for a few days time, the next day was spent relaxing by the pool, and that evening it was time for the ‘Sunset Cruise’. This involved a 2 hour boat trip which practically all in our group signed up for, and the bar was free the duration of the time on the boat. This set up an evening that was up there with the fun and games of the Kande Beach party, although it was much more messy.
The next day was spend recovering from the boat trip by the pool, and that evening we went to an excellent steak restaurant called Rhapsody’s. The following morning it was time for rafting and riverboarding, which had gotten off to a bad start as the person in the office had rather unhelpfully told us it started at 09:30 when infact it started at 08:00. I was very disappointed to leave half of my full English breakfast uneaten, although it could have been much worse, as we were in time for the all important safety briefing. Upon arrival we descended into the gorge down a steep rocky path, formed teams and headed off down the river with the Zambian side on our left and the Zimbabwean side on our left. There were a few amazing rapids where the boat was very close to being flipped totally over, and where water just pummelled us from all sides and all bearings to the surroundings were lost. In between the most extreme rapids we jumped off the boat for some riverboarding, which was really hard work because the brimming river was running at a pace so fast you’d think it was late for a job interview. The riverboarding was amazing fun as you can catch all the waves in the rapids and swirl round and round in the whirl pools. It was a good call to pick this option because it we’d gone for pure rafting many of the rapids we did on the board would have been really tame so this way we experienced the best of both. The scenery was simply spectacular, so much greenery and vegetation on the side of the gorge, with waterfalls every so often falling down to the river from great heights. After a few beers and a cable car ride out of the gorge it was time to head back to the camp for some much deserved relaxation. That night we had a few drinks as almost half the group would be departing as their tour took an alternative final route to Johannesburg. This was a great shame as there were some really funn people leaving us, and it would be odd to have new people joining us for the final stint to Cape Town.
I’m now in Namibia, and will write again very soon as sufficient content has accumulated. Take it easy all!
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