The highlights and the challenges of Lake Malawi.

The magic of Lake Malawi.

In a letter while describing part of the holiday I write: “Dear MW,  it has been so lovely, no wind, and very peaceful; and the food is great: we have bought the most deliciously tasty papayas and bananas grown locally. It is also mesmerizing seeing the waves here at the beach; apparently it is not normal to have waves. When I listen to them, as I fall asleep, they sound like a thousand whispering voices speaking poetry all at once. The full moon has been so bright that I can see everything even at midnight, and the silver path it creates over the lake is really beautiful! It is a restful time.” These are some of my favourite memories.

The challenge.
If you have been following my blog or know me you will know that I am quite an anxious person who can quickly see the problems or pitfalls in plans. It makes me quite good at planning and organizing safe outings and activities (although one child did manage to break her arm falling off a foofy slide in our back garden during a birthday celebration one year; I felt mortified that I had not second guessed this accident.) It also makes me a bit of a drip when it comes to spontaneous activities as I want to make sure nothing goes wrong.

Our essential relationship with water.

Drinking water: When it came to drinking water we boiled all our water as we were not sure if it was safe to drink. We just thought “when in doubt: boil.” We would boil a kettle the night before and let it cool; filling our drinking bottles the next morning. We boiled rather than bought water because we are conscious of not buying single use plastics.

Bilharzia: Dictionary meaning: A chronic disease, endemic in parts of Africa and South America, caused by infestation with blood flukes (schistosomes). Also called bilharziasis or schistosomiasis‘The main effects of hunger are apathy and disease – bilharzia, cholera, tuberculosis, HIV-Aids.
A blood fluke (schistosome).‘Bilharzia is transmitted by bathing in water infected with bilharzia larvae.’

Considering my anxiety I did not want to take any chances with getting bilharzia. My doctor had tried to reassure me that if I did get it I could take medication after the trip. I just didn’t want to take any chances; this was quite disappointing for Derek as he was at ease with swimming in the water and wanted to include me. He was convinced that it had been free from bilharzia since the 1960’s.

There were canoes and paddles skis available at Makuzi Beach, as well as snorkelling gear.

In another letter I wrote: “Dear KB, Derek wants me to go paddle-skiing with him and swimming. I have never paddled in my life and I am nervous of getting bilharzia from swimming- although Dr GB says I shouldn’t worry about it as I can take a pill afterwards; therefore there are no long term problems unless you go untreated for years. As Derek pointed out I have been showering in the water that comes straight from the lake! I told him I will think about it. Maybe I will be brave enough to paddle and swim. He is dying to show me the fish. I do want to make him happy.”

So every day Derek begged me to go swimming with him and every day I told him I was too scared to take the chance. On the second last day he again said to me, “you know you have been showering in the water that comes from the lake and yet you are scared to swim in the same water?” I thought about how silly that seemed and I decided to go snorkelling with him.

After snorkelling I wrote: “Dear MW, I have faced many personal challenges on this trip: so far the best was snorkelling. It was an amazing time even although it started off badly; as firstly, I got an asthma attack in the water. It was too deep to stand and Derek was under the water so I couldn’t call him. I began to panic. When I did get his attention I could hardly breathe at all. Derek dragged me out of the water and ran back to get my asthma pump. After I used my medication and calmed down we went in again; this time it was magic. It is so amazing swimming with the fish and Derek around the rocks. He held my hand while we swam some of the time. It felt very romantic but I think he was just scared to loose contact with me. In the end I didn’t want to get out.”

 The next day (our last day) Derek dearly wanted to take me around the island in a boat. I was not keen. I don’t know why but I am afraid of boats

Then the fishermen came through the breakers and landed on the shore.

Derek asked me if I would be willing to go with them. I was. To me they have been on the lake in boats from when they were little and know their way about the lake.

It was great – even when they asked Derek to swim with them and they ALL (5 men) dove overboard leaving me behind to bob along in the boat on the swell on my own.

They swam to the island and scrambled on.

Derek knew that I was not feeling comfortable. Thankfully, he asked if one of them could stay with me on the boat.

While I was waiting other fishermen came past.

It was a wonderful way to end our stay at Makuzi Beach. The stay had been a very worthwhile break and transformative too. Now I wish that we could experience that part of the trip again because I would have joined Derek in more water activities earlier on; having become braver. The thing I most feared turned out to be most enjoyable and enlivening.

Good memories forever. I am so glad that our trip took us to Lake Malawi.

Take care, till next time.

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