Lake Malawi: our first day.

Day 21 of June 2013

We took off early; first we explored the capital, Lilongwe, for supplies and then back on the road. We had heard stories about Lake Malawi from our contacts who had visited in their youth and we had filled our imagination with many expectations. The roads were a pleasure to drive and I began to relax. As we drove through baobab country the trees looked lonely and old; quite different to the vegetation we had seen thus far.  It felt like they had been a part of the earth for years.

We found the signboard for the turn off for Monkey Bay and after a while turned into a dust road heading for the bush. “Are you sure this is the right way” I asked. “Yes, the GPS confirmed that we are on the correct route.” My ‘worry-radar’ was tuning in because I didn’t like the look of the road but we’d heard stories of bundu-bashing so we doggedly carried on. A while later we came to an abrupt halt. It was a crater in the road. “The GPS shows we are so close to the turn off and I don’t want to go all the way back; I am sure we’ll be fine,” muttered Derek. “We’re not going to make it around the hole!” I said. We edged forward little by little. I didn’t want to look at first but I found myself looking straight into the crater and thinking that if we roll into the crater my side of the car will crash down first. “It is wide enough for our wheels” Derek said, sounding more like he was trying to convince himself. And so we drove. I was sweating. Once past we both breathed a huge sigh of relief.

A little further on we came across a village made up of lots of little brick dwellings planted in the dust. We were cognizant that we were uninvited guests intruding into their life; gate crashing their community. Then our awkward feelings melted when children came running out of the houses towards us. They were holding up enamel dishes; offering us roasted mice on skewers. I kid you not. We were a little perplexed. Later I found out that it is quite normal to eat mice there.    

It was getting late when we reached Monkey Bay (before Cape Maclear) and once again we opted for the first lodge we could find. The views were spectacular and the lounge inviting so we ordered a Malawian gin and tonic. As we sat taking in the surroundings our attention was drawn towards the opposite shores and lilac mountains of Mozambique; the turquoise water and fine sandy white beach were just a stone throw away from our table.

When we arrived the kitchen looked deserted so I was surprised to be able to order food. We shared a vegetarian pizza: tomatoes, onion and green pepper prepared with Malawian spices; I think it had a hint of peanut flavour as well. An idyllic setting and tasty pizza! What more could we want?

Eventually the weather changed and became overcast. The lake became grey and the wind blew so badly during the evening that Derek had to point the car into the wind to better position the rooftop tent. The tent still shook and juddered while the wind howled and I had visions of our tent taking off. I thought I would never get to sleep.

In retrospect Derek shudders at the notion of us driving so close past the crater because the weight of the car could have put pressure on the walls of the crater. If our car had fallen in we would have had quite a problem getting her out; and on such a quiet road we would not have found help easily.

Take care and enjoy your weekend!

Here are the links to:

If you want to know more about our first part of the journey through the Northern Cape before we left South Africa you can find all the link here: Scenes of the North Western Cape, en-route.

An African Road Trip: Namibia 2013

Our highlights in Zambia

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