|Since leaving Namibia we spent a brief time in Zambia and then travelled onto Malawi. We checked into a rather rough and ready hostel in Lilongwe for a few days (unfortunately Madonna had taken all the good rooms...) and then proceded to the lake. Our first stop was Monkey Bay which took about 12 hours (it should have been 6 but we got on the wrong bus!). After a night here we headed to Cape Maclear squashed into the back of a pickup truck with 20 other passengers, their cargo and 6 leaky cannisters of parrafin. An interesting ride that we were still feeling (bottom-wise) for the next few days. In Cape Maclear we stayed at Fat Monkey's Lodge, a lovely place right on the lakeshore. We befriended a local man called 'Shakespeare' who is doing excellent work running a paper making project with the village orphans. We visited there several times and helped the children with the process, or slowed them up, one of the two. This experience was quite a shock for us as the level of poverty was really very high. We seemed more affected by this than the children themselves, who were still smiling and working hard to get the job done. The paper was then made into photo albums and cards and then the children designed the covers. A very clever process.
After leaving Cape Maclear we boarded the 50 year old Ilala ferry that is Malawi's main lake transport. After 2 days of rocky weather we arrived at Chizumulu Island where we stayed/were stranded for a week. This wasn't a huge hardship. The island is only 7km square and we were the only guests for the first couple of days at Wakwenda Retreat, a stunning place with great views and fantastic snorkelling. We often went for walks around the island and would get mobbed by kids yelling 'Give me picture!'. We'd then take their photo and show them on the camera and they would scream with laughter.
After a week the ferry returned and we spent a chilly night on deck. We arrived back at the coast and travelled through Mzuzu up to Livingstonia. A wonderful place high on the Nyika Plateau overlooking the lake. The drive up was around 20 hairpin bends and we were white knuckled on the journey. Luckily we had an excellent driver and arrived safely at Stone House, missionary Dr Robert Laws' residence. We could not believe the size and quality of the buildings on top of this plateau. It was founded over 100 years ago but an impressive church, university and housing makes it look like a much more recent development. There were areas that were more basic but the main area was very well developed. We had to admire the courage and tenacity of these missionaries, what a lot of effort!
Halfway down we stayed at a place called Mushroom Farm. It had incredible views overlooking the hills and out towards the lake. Unfortunately after the first day our luck with the weather continued and it poured with rain. There was a break in the downpour though so we took the opportunity to visit Manchewe Falls, the highest falls in Malawi. Some local boys volunteered to be our guides and did an excellent job. They took us to a cave behind the falls where the locals used to hide from the slave traders. A couple of days later we walked the 10km back down the hill in the rain (around 20 hairpin bends) to the main road to pick up transport to Tanzania. We stayed at the border town, Karonga for a night which gave us a chance to look round the museum and see the 'Malawisaurus' dinosaur skeleton - impressive!
We will soon be into our last month and our next stop is Tanzania - can't wait!