Thursday 6th January/day 94 – Utengule Coffee Lodge, Mbeye – Chitimba Camp, Lake Malawi. Odometer 91045.
Border day to Malawi.
We had decided to go and see the Mbozi Meteorite, but for whatever reason forgot and arrived at the border completely missing it! We blame a mixture of everything for this margin of team Alfie stupidity.
Border crossings were a dream and we were through both sides within 40 minutes. We even remembered to check the time and put the clocks back by one hour. Changing money was also very straight forward with minimal hassle.
We headed off into Malawi and towards the lake. The drive was easy and roads were all relatively good tarmac. Traffic was virtually non-existent and we did not see any suicidal coaches which was a relief.
The comedy moment of the day was at one of the police stops. Conversation went along the lines of…
Guard: “A very beautiful car” “Where are you from”
Rob: Thank you. England (we have now decided this is the quickest answer and stops most of the officials thinking we are from Kenya as Alfie has a K reg).
G: “Where are you going”
R: Malawi, Zimbabwe, Botswana and then to Cape Town.
G: “Ah, but you are the children of Tony Blair, there will be problems for you”
R: At which point Rob couldn’t hold back the “certainly not, good god!”
G: “ah, but Mr Mugabe doesn’t like Mr Blair and Mr Obama”.
At which point we thought we would cut our losses, smile and agree with him which seemed to shut him up and we were allowed to go on our way.
We arrived at Chitimba Camp at 3pm. Another lovely setting on the sandy shores of Lake Malawi. Temperatures now creeping up again to mid-40s and rather humid.
We had heard that this campsite was sometimes overrun by the big overland trucks but were relieved to see that there was only one when we arrived (Nomad za) and there was a good mix of age groups so no great worries.
We decided that this would be another good place for a bit of R&R especially on the eve of Sarah’s 21st….pardon! Cough, cough, splutter…. ok, ok…31st…! And the rest! Oi!
Chitimba Camp: S 10 35.077 E 034 10.541.
Distance travelled: 281 kms.
Friday 7th January/day 95 – Chitimba Camp. Odometer 91326.
Happy Birthday Sarah!
“21 again, 21 again, Sarah’s got the key of the door”…wishful thinking Sarah!
Thank you for my cards which were expertly ferried all the way from Blighty and for the text and messages received. Can’t say much was achieved today apart from a day of pottering, updating the diary and watching the world go by.
Rob did treat Sarah by allowing washing to be done by one of the local ladies. Wow, Rob, you know how to spoil a girl! Rock on! – Oi, I paid, too 😀
The weather was rather boisterous today with rain showers throughout the day however, this was only a warm up to the down pour around 9pm. The lightning storm over the lake was lively, but suddenly the wind picked up and we had dash off to take down the awning at exactly the same time as the dinosaur-sized drops of rain arrived. We were soaked within seconds, soon abandoning the awning we sheltered under the cover of the roof tent until the rain subsided in order to finish off the awning!
Back to the bar to chat with some of the back-packers we had met and toast Sarah’s birthday.
Distance travelled: 0 kms.
Saturday 8th January/day 96 – Chitimba Camp. Odometer 91326.
The three overland trucks (Yes three. Two more snuck in and swamped Team Alfie whilst no one was looking) were up and away early ( in a nicely staggered formation from a bright and breezy 5am clattering and banging all the way through until just before 8am) so by the time we surfaced, we had the site to ourselves, apart from the couple of back-packers!
Um, just another very chilled day spent between the beach and Alfie, reading up on the history of Malawi and planning our route for the next few days. The weather was hot hot though which meant we really didn’t want to wander too far so we didn’t. The two back-packers joined us and the afternoon was frittered away with idle banter.
Chitimba Camp: We wouldn’t recommend this camp for anything other than an over-night stop. The owners hardly interact with anyone, the food is of poor quality and very small portions and is served on plastic plates.
There is no flexibility either. Three back-packers arrived around 8.30pm having been travelling all day and asked for some dinner only to be told “you didn’t order dinner before 17:00”…end of story. There was nothing the girls could order. The bar then shut at 8.30pm as the barman wanted to get home before the rain came. Not sure why the owners didn’t then take-over the bar as there were approx 20 people about and all were happy for a few more beers.
Distance travelled: 0 kms.
Sunday 9th January/day 97 – Chitimba Camp – Njaya Lodge Camp, Nkhata Bay. Odometer 91326. 24 deg @ 07:30.
A very rainy night and therefore an early start to head down the lake towards Nkhata Bay. We had planned to visit Livingstonia but the bad weather meant the road (which was actually closed) would be treacherous to say the least.
We had some great views of the lake as we climbed up the mountain road. There were plenty of fishermen out casting their nets, plus rows of tables on the shore line ready to lay the fish out on. Very smelly too!
We stopped to look at a traditional suspension bridge which was originally built in 1904 of bamboo poles. We duly clambered across – see pics. Pity it was so wet as it meant the wood was very greasy and one slip could result in a quick dip!
A quick shop by candle and torch light in Mzuzu as the electricity was off again, before heading downhill towards Njaya Lodge and campsite. The rain had stopped with the temperature back into the 40s and humid as well. The views over the lake were fantastic. As it was Sunday we treated ourselves to the roast dinner which was fantastic. The staff were great fun, particularly Gilbert whose catch-phrases were left over from Only Fools and Horses…everything was cushti and lovely-jubbly!
Distance travelled: 201 kms
Monday 10th January/day 98 – Njaya Lodge, Nkhata Bay – Luwawa Lodge,
Odometer 91527. 31 deg @ 07:00.
It’s still so hot and humid so we’ve decided to take to the hills to find a cooler area. The plan worked as we headed into the Viphya forest, south-west of Nkhata Bay. We drove through vast areas of forest, some of which was being cleared – at least it looked like it was being managed sustainably.
Apart from the workers around the deforstation areas we saw virtually no-one on this drive, but the roads were good and the temperature was dropping and arrived just before lunch at Luwawa lodge which was in the middle of no-where.
The afternoon was spent dodging another rain storm and getting our bearings around the Luwawa Forest Lodge. The lodge is set deep within the south Viphya forest which is Malawi’s second most extensive mountain range and Malawi’s largest reserve. There are a number of walks on offer, along with mountain biking, village visits etc
We have to mention the showers for two reasons: 1) they were the creepiest showers we had been in so far and 2) the hottest. The locals stoked the fire as if they were catering the for dozens of people rather than just two! See photos. We felt a bit guilty that so much wood and then so little hot water had been used. It wasn’t long before we discovered the real reason for so much hot water…. every member of staff took buckets of hot steamy water back home with them, so it wasn’t wasted.
We ate dinner in the lodge which was lovely inside. Something akin to eating in someone’s house with a large open hearth. There was even a bath but we didn’t pluck up the courage to ask whether we could make use of it. Anyway, Sarah didn’t pack any bubblebath which Rob can’t quite believe as we seem to have brought everything else!
Distance travelled: 174 kms.
Tuesday 11th January/day 99 – Luwawa Forest Lodge. Odometer: 91701.
The temperature was ideal for a good night’s sleep. The morning was taken up with washing, but at least we made use of the scorching hot water. Rob changed tyres and did a spot of regular maintenance on Alfie.
Some of the staff’s children wandered by and made us laugh bucket loads when they started asking for ‘beefburger, bubblegum’ – our only thought must have been that it was the ‘B’ letter at school today.
After another downpour we headed out on one of the walks through the forest for the afternoon which took us a little longer than planned as we took a wrong turn. We blame the map rather than our map-reading abilities! Anyway, another fantastic dinner soon made up for it.
Two very gentle days.
Distance travelled: 0 kms in Alfie, about 10kms on foot.
Wednesday 12th January/day 100. Luwawa Forest Lodge – Barefoot Camp, Lilongwe. Odometer 91701. 24 deg at 07:00 but no humidity.
A good drive to Lilongwe, only a few police stops to deal with and arrived around mid-day and hit civilisation for the first time in weeks… out of town shopping centres! Shelves of food, counters full of meat and fresh milk. Can’t remember what the food bill was, but confidently blew any sort of daily budget we may have had!
We also made a de-tour to a pharmacy to get some Malaria treatment. Malawi is probably the worst area for Malaria and in particular cerebral malaria and as we had both been bitten we thought it was a good idea.
Headed for Barefoot camp which is approx 10kms out of town. A lovely campsite where we were able to camp on a freshly cut lawn. In fact the lawnmowers seem to be still hard at work for the the next two hours, just like being back at home and glad for the peace and quiet when then stop! Ahhhh….silence.
Another fabulous storm passed over.
Distance travelled: 276 kms.
Thursday 13th January/day 101. Barefoot Camp, Lilongwe – Chembe Eagles Nest, Cape Maclear. Odometer 91977. 30 deg at 8.45am.
We headed off to Cape Maclear in order to locate the guys who made wooden Land Rovers and tailor them to reflect individual vehicles. We were told to look out for the ‘Toys R Us’ sign on the side of the road and true to the advice we found the guys really easily. The land Rovers were fantastic so after a little bit of haggling a price was agreed, the guy scrambled over Alfie to see what was on top etc. The only down side was that the guy needed three days to create a wooden Alfie, bit longer than we had planned to be in Cape Maclear.
Not to worry though as we found a campsite right on the edge of the lake. The views, food and staff were all great so we managed to settle in very quickly.
Distance travelled: 282 kms.
Friday 14th January/day 102. Chembe, Eagles Nest, Cape Maclear.
Just one of those days where time went very quickly but very little was done. Rob got a fix of the History Channel and Sarah did a few pink jobs. We were also able to watch some of the 20:20 cricket which was good to see – pity there were no Aussies near by! Again.
Distance travelled: 0 kms.
Saturday 15th January/day 103. Chembe, Eagles Nest, Cape Maclear.
Probably the most impressive storm last night. We are camping within a stone’s throw of the beach and therefore very limited cover. The wind, then the rain meant we spent a good couple of hours sat upright wondering whether or not we will still have a roof tent in the morning! Anyway, all was good by the morning.
Rob had another fix of the history channel, Sarah managed to read some of a book. Rob was also a hero for rescuing a lizard which had got stuck in a bin.
We spent the evening with another overlander couple who had travelled down the west coast. Only to discover during the evening that Ian and Ruth (http://insearchofthunder.weebly.com/) had lived in Chichester and had played for Havant Hockey Club between 2004-6, knew Jim Drury, Warren Gilmour and worked up at Blues at the Fort. What a small world we live in!
Distance travelled: 0 kms.
Sunday 16th January/day 104. Chembe Eagles Nest, Cape Maclear – Mabuya Camp, Lilongwe. Odometer: 92259 kms.
A gentle start today as we weren’t due to pick up our Land Rover wooden model until mid-day. We said our goodbyes to Ian, Ruth and Ian’s brother Andrew and headed off.
The Land Rover was fantastic and we continued onto Lilongwe where the temperature was lower – which was good.
We did aim to stay at the Golf Club as it had received a couple of good reports but after sitting at the gate to the camping area for 15 mins because no-one could find the key to the lock, we gave up and headed for Mabuya Camp.
Mabuya Camp is definitely geared up back-packers but not so much for roof-top overlanders. The camping area is a bit shabby, but at least there were hot showers.
Distance travelled: 265 kms.