Arrival and Lilongwe
The flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi (Kenya) took 8 hours, I was seated
next to an interesting Swedish lady of about 55 years old who was going
to attend a congress on the changes in relationships between men and women
in southern Africa. After a short layover on Nairobi it was two more hours
to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. During this flight I had a little
blond 4 year old boy on my lap who kept chattering away in French, talking
about his family living in Malawi. A cutie.
Looking down just before landing I could already see lots of thatched
huts and people riding their bikes and I felt the usual excitement and
fear I always have just before landing. It's like an adrenalin shot that
makes you tingle, sweat, get teary eyes. My holiday had started!
I took a taxi and stared at the land and people outside, trying to suppress
my excitement in order not to make the driver think I was some lunatic.
I kept telling myself in my head: I am really in Africa!! But it was still
The driver let me have a look at two different guesthouses I had selected
from LP, I picked the least smelly one. I spent two nights at St Peter's
Guesthouse in a dorm room, where I met Jenny, a nice English girl who
gave me some tips on what to see and where to stay. The second day she
came back from the bus terminal in Old Town where she had been robbed
of her daypack. She had been walking there all alone before sunrise at
about 4am... that made it pretty clear to me that I should not take a
bus before sunrise, but I wasn't planning on that anyway.
Blantyre and museum
Conversations on the bus
After two days of getting my bearings I took a bus to Blantyre in Southern
Malawi, which was my first 'real' Africa experience, I was the only white
person on the bus.
The ride took just over 6 hours and different people were seated beside
me at different intervals, all of whom I talked to for a little while,
everybody was so friendly! Not pushy and no hidden intentions like I found
a lot in Indonesia, and they always wish you a pleasant stay in their
country when they get off the bus. At a certain point a lady with her
baby was sitting next to me, and the baby started sucking my hand, soooo
cute! It was rather uncomfortable on the bus because I had very little
space, but that's just the way it goes out there in public transport.
Cram as many people in as possible.
One of the standard questions I'm always being asked is about the composition
of the rest of my family. When I tell them I have two sisters, they always
ask: "no boys in the family??" and then: "Oh... I'm sorry..."
(that must be really hard on you guys...) Yep, it's 'only' girls.... hahaha
Reverse culture shock
Upon arrival in Blantyre I got to endure my first 'culture shock', because
after the wonderful African bus trip the hotel I stayed at was a completely
westernised one! White people everywhere (even the personnel), Portishead
and Morcheeba blasting from the loud speakers, lots of beer and parties
and stunningly beautiful local prostitutes who you'd see disappearing
into rooms with ugly, fat-bellied South Africans or other tourists. I
myself stayed in a dorm room and had to endure heavy snorers every night...
But at this place I also met Eman, a nice Malawian guy who was on a holiday
himself, and Jake and Charlotte, two British medical students who had
been working in a Zambian hospital and were also holidaying before their
return to the UK.
Eman and I visited a cool museum in Blantyre (halfway to Limbe) where
they had maps drawn by David Livingstone and medicine chests of the other
missionaries of the old days.
Hiking on Mount Mulanje
After Blantyre I wanted to go to the Mount Mulanje region in the south.
I spent 2 hours at the bus terminal waiting for a bus that never came,
but I ended up with some great pictures (see the pictures below on the
left). So I walked to the minibus stop 15 minutes down the road and was
crammed in there while my backpack was secured by a rubber band preventing
the back door from falling open...
The minibus took me to neighbouring Limbe and a friend of the minibus
driver walked me all the way to the bus that would take me to Mulanje.
That's the way it always went out there, someone would walk you all the
way to someplace just to show you the way, and not expect anything in
return. I even started expecting this kind of treatment in the
The ride to Mulanje was another interesting one where I was seated next
to a 23 year old modern girl who told me how she was not ready for a family
yet and so she did not want a husband yet, and some other people that
I talked to (an ambulance driver, a HIV counsellor, etc).
My guide/porter Aufen
In Mulanje I found a guide called Aufen who would also carry my backpack
at about US$5 a day. (Of course I gave him a huge tip at the end.) Aufen
must have been about 18 years old. He was a bit solemn but he came across
as a trustworthy guy. In Blantyre I had bought some canned food and rice,
in Mulanje I could buy a delicious pineapple for only $0.10 and five small
bananas for $0.15.
We had to wait in a pick-up truck to be taken up the mountain, but it
only left after an hour when there was really no space left for
another human being. It was too late in the day to start the hike further
up the mountain so I booked a private chalet near a running creek (lovely
sound to sleep by) and my guide would come and collect me the following
But first we had a swim in that idyllic creek and a day later I found
out I had been eaten alive by sandflies... the bites don't come up until
a day after! And they itch like hell for a week!
That evening I spent some time cooking, reading and taking pictures of
monkeys across the dirt road. It was a bit creepy to be up on that dark
mountain in that chalet all by myself. A local family lived just across
the road though and the sound of the running creek was very soothing.
At 7 in the morning, my guide Aufen came to pick me up. We hiked up the
mountains for 6 hours. We passed pieces of moist jungle, grassy hills
with colourful flowers and amazing views, and high up on the mountain
it was dry and arid with yellow grass, just like Bolivia.
On top of the mountain we had climbed was a CCAP hut, guarded by a Malawian
guy. He always stayed there for a whole week or so, away from his family.
There was no electricity or gas. The toilet was a little wooden house
with a hole in the floor. Jake and Charlotte, the two British medicine
students I met before in Blantyre, were also there, with their own guide.
In the late afternoon the guides took us walking some more alongside a
creek, and to a stunning view over the valley.
In the evening we cooked our meels over a fire, and we played cards (the
all time travellers' favourite game Shithead) by candle light.
The Malawian guides and hut supervisor sang songs. We asked them what
the lyrics meant. It was something like:
"I don't have a lot, but I have life"
It was so typical of the Malawian spirit! The people here have such pride,
and an apparent joy in living, which they share with their beautiful smiles
and friendly ways.
After a very cold night we woke up the next morning and cooked our breakfasts.
I declined a share of my guide's dried fish...
Change of plans
Jake and Charlotte were going back down the mountain and offered me a
ride in their car to Cape McLear, which was to be my next destination.
Only I had planned to hike in the mountains one more day... but I could
not decline their offer, it would be so much easier and faster by car
than by bus. I was also way more tired that I had expected and didn't
look forward to doing much more hiking.
Besides, I was getting a bit tired of my guide Aufen's advances. ('You
should try a black man one day'...)
I discussed the change of plans with him, offered to pay him for all the
days I promised him, and he agreed.
So we all descended together. You might think that descending is easier
than climbing a mountain, but nothing is less true. Every step down is
hard on the knees, especially when all your limbs still ache from the
day before. Also some parts were quite slippery with water or rolling
Utterly exhausted we reached the private chalet I stayed in before. We
cooked some food, rubbed our sore legs with herbal cream, played some
more Shithead and retired very early.
The following morning we were picked up by a pick-up truck (along with
as many people as would fit in the back, of course, and then some more...)
and got a ride back down the mountain.
Jake and Charlotte picked up their car and we drove to Monkey Bay and
on to Cape Mc Lear. I had the whole back seat to myself and I felt so
relaxed and so happy! For a few hours I did not need to worry about my
gear, I could just sit back and enjoy the view, which kept fascinating
Madonna in Africa
During this drive Jake and Charlotte played Madonna's album Ray Of Light,
which I didn't know that well yet at the time. It was in stark contrast
with the view out of the window, but somehow it felt great together. Music
always seems to make a bigger impact when you hear it inside a car.
Now, every time I hear a song from that album, my mind wanders back to
that moment, those few hours in Africa in a car with two English people
and Madonna singing.
Relaxing at Cape McLear beach
Monkey Bay turned out to be quite a bleak town with nothing much of interest
for tourists, so we continued on to Cape Mc Lear which is only a few kilometers
further down. The bumpy mud road there was a tough one for the car which
was definitely not a 4WD. The bottom of the car must have hit the ground
a hundred times and we were glad it didn't break down.
When we got to Cape McLear the first hotel in sight was "Fat Monkey's",
which had been recommended to us by others. It turned out to be perfect.
I took a single room and Jake and Charlotte got their own room or put
upt their tent, I don't remember. The prices were excellent too.
As the hotel was very new, my room was in good condition. The mosquito
net did not have 30 holes in it like at other hotels, so I could keep
my own net packed.
I did have a few pets: three lizards on the walls, which can make funny
sounds and which are also hilarious to watch. One was bigger than the
other two and kept chasing those smaller ones all the way across three
walls. Actually I was happy to have them, as they eat mosquitos and other
The showers further down in the courtyard were also great. Of course with
cold water only, but that doesn't matter when it's 30 degrees Celsius.
The water pressure was good and the cabins were convenient.
There was a restauran t that served good food and cold drinks.
What was best about this hotel compound was that it bordered the beach
and a very swimmable part of Lake Malawi.
View on Lake Malawi from Cape McLear
Before I went to Malawi I told myself I would not swim in the Lake because
you can contract Bilharzia.
This is a nasty disease which you contract from little worms that penetrate
your skin as you swim in the water. These little buggers find their way
through your blood vessels and attack organs inside you. But they can
take years to become active / noticeable. Nasty!
You can get a test after you get back, but again, it may take years for
them to become active so a test is not always enough. If you do catch
Bilharzia it's a matter of treating it in time with some pills, before
it corrupts some of your organs.
Anyway, after a few days of relaxing at Fat Monkeys, sweating a lot, taking
loads of showers and watching all the other tourists just dive into the
Lake, I could not resist and took a dip myself. It was worth every risk,
the water was so wonderful to swim in. As you walk in, swarms of small
yellow fish come to sniff at your legs, a funny feeling!
Here I also met two nice Dutch people who studied Medicine and had worked
in hospitals in Zambia.
Hippos and crocs?
From the day I decided to swim in the Lake anyway, I did quite a number
of 'lanes' a few times a day. I love swimming in sweet water!
Apparently fish and Bilharzia worms are not the only life forms in the
Lake. Crocodiles and hippos also cause a few deaths every year!! So you
can imagine that I sometimes felt a little paranoid whenever I felt some
current or a fish touching my leg!
But if you realise that Lake Malawi is about 500 kilometers long, you
can imagine that the risk of being eaten by a crocodile is minimal...
At Fat Monkeys I learned to play Bao, a board game played in many African
countries under a variety of names (Mancala, Oware or other names), and
with different rules in each region. Bao is a great game! You can play
it tactically like chess, and you need to be good at counting and thinking
a number of steps ahead.
It's also a very social game that is often played with various people
watching, and chatting with the players. It was fun to see the skill and
speed with which the Malawians handled the seeds or the marbles. Once
you know how to play, it's fun to play it with other people in other towns
I bought a board of my own and still play it at home every now and then.
The island you see in the sunset picture above, is an uninhabited island
not far off the coast. Patrick, a Malawian guy who also baked pancakes
for the tourists each morning, also offered trips to the island.
By the way, it was quite funny, this pancake business. Preferably you'd
have to order and pay for them the day before. Then he'd go out and buy
the eggs and the milk. This would not always work out, and some people
ordered on the morning they wanted the pancakes, so he'd always still
need another half hour to go and find / buy all the ingredients. We always
wondered if and when he'd come back! But eventually he always would.
He'd prepare the pancakes in our presence on the beach, with a little
fire and some very old pans and stuff. They were delicious!
Trip to the island
I thought this Patrick guy must be okay, since the hotel staff knew him
well and I sort of knew him from the pancake ritual myself. So I agreed
to one of his island trips, including lunch and snorkling. He would arrange
a boat. He insisted I paid at least half the fee in advance so I did.
The following morning, the first shock was when I saw the 'boat'. It was
a hollow tree!! And a layer of water was already in the bottom! I nearly
cancelled the entire trip but he convinced me it was safe and that my
camera would not fall into the Lake.
Patrick and the hollow tree
After a wobbly, scary trip we arrived at the island safely. Patrick went
and gathered wood for a fire to cook our lunch on and I went after the
huge blue dragon-flies, coloured lizards and blue fish with my camera.
Patrick cooked a great lunch of fish and vegetables over the fire. After
that he took me to another part of the island in his wobbly boat, where
I could do some snorkling. Unfortunately he'd forgotten to bring the flippers
to go on my feet, so it was just me thrashing about the water with the
mask. There were loads of little fish as blue as the insect you see above.
The sun made beutiful curves of light on the round rocks just below the
After my swim I sat in the shade for a bit and this is when Patrick became
really annoying. He kept touching me, offering to massage my shoulders,
and then suddenly he asked if I had a condom with me. My (made-up) story
of my boyfriend back home did nothing to make him back away. I started
to panic, thinking: OK this is it. I may get raped now. All I need to
do is make sure he does get me back on land safely and doesn't leave me
on this island. The idea of fighting him quickly passed; he was a muscular
I had heard stories though, that if a local molests or robs a tourist
on the beach, the other locals give him a serious beating, since the tourists
are their main source of income. So I decided to try this angle. Very
carefully, smiling, and acting as if he was making a joke, I started talking
to him about what a good name he had in the village and at the hotel,
and what would people think of him...?? I can't describe the relief I
felt when he followed my direction and said he had just been joking, and
he offered his hand in the friendly shake-stomp thing that you see rappers
We both agreed we'd seen enough of the island and should return to shore
(I was still praying he'd just bring me back safely and not leave me on
the island). I could feel that he felt a little insulted, but he behaved.
On the way back we fed a fish-eagle with dead fish, so I could take some
more pictures from the wobbly boat.
At last he dropped me off on the beach and after a polite but cold thank-you
I was happy to return to my hotel compound.
Looking back, this was the scariest part of my Africa-adventure, but thinking
about it, I realised that this could have happened anywhere in the world
with a solo female traveller and a male guide involved. It's one of the
risks you take... and I was lucky this time.
I did warn the hotel owners though to keep an eye on him and to warn other
females embarking on trips with him.
22 hour boat trip with the Ilala ferry on Lake Malawi
Getting to the boat
I had had a perfect few days relaxing, reading, swimming and sunbathing
(apart from the Patrick incident) before the weekly Ilala ferry would
make its long trip northbound on Lake Malawi. Together with some Australian
travellers I was crammed onto the back of a pick-up truck at about 7a.m.,
the only means of 'public transport' available from Cape McLear to Monkey
It was one of those trips from hell. It was the same bouncy road I took
with Jake and Charlotte, only now I had knees and elbows to avoid, and
a little girl vomiting all over the place. Also I had to keep a hold of
one of the Australian guys whose legs hung overboard and who occasionally
kicked the ground at full speed! But we got there, all sweaty, with cramps
from the uncomfortable positions, and very happy that we were all still
in one piece.
The first thing I wanted to do was to get a ticket for the boat trip.
So did hundreds of other people. Being white, we were picked out of the
group of waiting people by an official, who arranged out tickets... I
always feel uneasy when being favoured above others but hey, it saved
me a long wait.
I got myself a private cabin on the boat, for I didn't feel like sleeping
outside on the top deck with all my belongings. The trip was probably
going to take about 22 hours so I wanted my own bed.
I went and bought some banans off a street vendor, and just after I walked
away a monkey stole a whole bunch of bananas and ran off with it, all
the vendors shouting and chasing after it in vain. Not called Monkey Bay
The boat was supposed to leave at 8 a.m. but of course it left 4 hours
late... which I thought was not too bad, considering all the things people
were loading on board! Anything from live goats and chicken to bags and
bags full of dead fish (yummie smell), bikes, roof parts, etc etc. All
this was crammed onto the lowest deck, economy class, where I spent some
time taking pictures and having chats as well.
loading took about 4 hours...
Being on the boat again was a bit uneasy because all the tourists and
rich people could go to whichever deck they preferred, but the economy
class people could only stay on their own deck that was crammed full of
people, animals, stuff, and occasionally caught a wave that flushed the
pathways. I felt a bit like a colonial. But when i went down to economy
deck I found no resentment or envy, only curiosity and interest. People
started smiling their beautiful radiant smiles when they saw me, and happily
posed for the camera or allowed me to take pictures of their sleeping
infants. And I had a few nice chats down there.
who needs an expensive Bug-a-boo??
I also met some interesting people on the first class deck; travellers
who'd been on the road for months, some had pictures to show for it. Very
Along the way we passed many small villages where people got off and on
the boat, most of the time using smaller boats as the ferry runs too deeply
to go to shore. I loved watching all this hassle and traffic.
The sunset was a bit disappointing as it disappeared in fogs before it
reached the horizon. After it was down at about 6p.m., a strong wind started
blowing and it rocked the boat heavily. Even though we were out on a lake
it felt like an ocean. I tried to read for a while but got a bit nauseous.
The wind also caused drops of waves to spray all the way up to the second
story deck. I was so happy I had taken the cabin and didn't have to sleep
outside in the wind and spray!
The boat was rocking heavily now, and I had a hard time to control my
nausea. I got ready for bed quickly even though it was only about 8p.m.
It took me a while but then I slept like a baby in my rocking soft bed
with my own mosquito net (which I was also very happy with or I would
have got eaten alive).
Arrival in Nkhotakota
The boat had made good speed overnight. We had left 4 hours late, but
arrived at Nkhotakota ahead of schedule, at 7a.m.! Luckily I had woken
up early and already packed. I had time for half my breakfast only. I
was the only white person getting off at Nkhotakota. Little boats were
used as the ferry runs too deep to go near the shore.
Church visit in Nkhotakota
I had read in Lonely Planet that the singing in the church of Nkhotakota
was wonderful. Luckily the weekly Ilala ferry arrives there on Saturdays
which would fit perfectly into my plans. I thought it might be crowded
with tourists because it is mentioned in LP. But I was the only white
I had to walk for half an hour with my backback before I got to the guesthouse
I had selected from Lonely Planet. Once I got there, the owner greeted
me with a big smile and said: oh we have a problem in this guesthouse,
just come along, I have a better one not far from here!
Right... so another 45 minutes later, sweating heavily in the burning
sunshine with my backpack (always bringing too much! Mental note to self:
next time bring less stuff!), we arrived at the second guesthouse.
Proudly he presented to me the most luxurious room in the place. Later
on I heard him bragging about it too, how he had given the 'muzungu' the
self-contained, as he called it. Well, self-contained meant that
I had my own toilet (no seat and smelly as hell), and 'bathroom' (a bucket
which I could fill from the well outside). The room itself was
in dire need of a paint job. The chair was so unstable I was afraid to
sit on it.
Of course I showed only gratitude. But I did replace the hole-ridden mosquito
net with my own. It was the cheapest room I ever got in the whole of Malawi,
about $3 as far as I recall.
In the afternoon I was sitting out on my terrace reading when I kept hearing
all this noise of people cheering and shouting. So I followed the noise
and realised that it was a soccer match. I was such fun to watch, the
players seemed to be willing to die for the game and gave all they had
on the dusty grassless field.
Unfortunately I drew more attention than the players for some people.
People wanted me to take their picture and kids started performing their
dances, stances and playful fights for me. I did take some great pictures
that evening and had some nice chats on the way back after the game.
This is one of my fondest memories of Malawi.
Very early in the morning I went to look for the church. All I had to
do was follow the streams of people. When I got there, somebody went and
got the reverend. Again I must have stuck out as the only white person
there. Reverend Francis Kaulanda came and had a chat with me before the
service, welcoming me and thanking me for my interest.
Rev. Francis Kaulanda, Nkhotakota Angelican Church
I asked him if I'd be allowed to take photograghs and he said: yes,
sure, it's my church and I don't mind. Soon after that the 3 hour (!)
There were three choires. One was the official choir of young adult
men and women who were standing in front, near the reverend. One choir
was a childern's choir seated on the benches right in front of me. And
the last choir was an all women's choir, seated directly behind me.
The women's choir
So during the 3 hour ceremony there were prayers, singing, bible readings,
fund raising... and man, was the singing amazing! I was choking back tears
every time a choir got up and sang! Often they were African songs with
hand and arm movements (sowing seeds) or little dances, and sometimes
they were western type gospels, or a mix of these styles.
The voices of the Africans are so deep, melodious and warm! How I wished
I had some sort of recording device!
About an hour and a half through the ceremony I noticed that the church
had filled up pretty good, there were hundreds of people now. Sometimes
they got so carried away by a song or a speech that they started ululating,
that high-pitched tongue thing they can only do in African or Arab countries.
Hello, my name is...
Suddenly I recognised some words in the speech the reverend was holding
(all in Chichewa, the local language), one of them was Muzungu
(white person) and I also heard him talking about the Netherlands. Everybody
was staring at me and I must have turned crimson.
Then he asked me in English to step forward and introduce myself. AARGH!
Trying not to stumble over benches or words, I stood next to the reverend,
tried not to be intimidated by the hundreds of eyes looking at me, and
I introduced myself.
I told them that I was on a holiday in Malawi and that I thought it was
a beautiful country. The reverend translated for me, and approving sounds
came back from the audience. I said that so far, I had only met wonderful,
friendly people. More approval. I finished by saying Zikomo kwambili
, thank you very much! Then everbody started laughing and cheering and
applauding.... I felt like a rock star! :-)
Tea at the rev's place
After the ceremony Reverend Kaulanda invited me to his home right next
to the church, where his wife gave me tea and bread. They had about 7
daughters. We had a nice conversation about his visits to England, about
religion in general, about funerals (it's a big happening with everybody
who ever knew the person attending, so hundreds of people who sometimes
spend days getting there) and about the AIDS-problem in Malawi. I was
positively surprised by his openness about this subject.
That afternoon I spent some more time in town, checking out the market
(western used bras on sale, pretty weird) and I played some Bao with a
guy who worked at the guesthouse.
Chinteche Strip - paradise
A ride with the Germans
I took a minibus, planning to travel on to Nkhata Bay, a place everbody
raves about. However, due to the fuel problem the whole country was having,
the minibus ran out of petrol in some small town, and could not get more
as the gas station there had none left either. It was really a hole in
the middle of nowhere, this little town.
I waited with all the other people for a few hours. Then I saw a 4WD pulling
up at the supermarket across the street and two white men getting out.
I got my pack and walked over. They came out the store and before I could
say a word, the bearded one said: "You are stuck and you need a ride".
They turned out to be German doctors, both over 40 years of age. One of
them had been working in Malawi over the past 7 years and was about to
return to Germany, and the other was a friend visiting from Germany. It
was very interesting to hear all the stories the first one had about Malawi
and its health issues. For example all the theories and fables about AIDS
(get it on with a virgin and you'll get rid of your HIV!), the witchdoctors,
and other cultural stuff.
For example he pointed out to me the nets that local people suspended
between trees to catch flies, which they stomp and crush and then bake
cakes of. And we stopped at a rubber plantation and he showed me and his
friend the rubber that ran from the cut in the tree, and made us smell
the hardened piece of rubber in the container, YUCK!!
I thought it was also pretty ironic and sad that a country that produces
rubber itself, has such huge problems with sexually transferred diseases.
The Germans were on their way to the Chinteche Strip, not far before Nkhata
Bay. Of course I didn't really have a choice so I went there with them.
It turned out to be idyllic.
The dorm room + view on Lake Malawi
I opted for the (cheapest) dorm room which was still pretty expensive,
but that didn't matter for just one night. All the other places in Malawi
had turned out to be much cheaper than I had expected. And I turned out
to be the only one in the dorm room anyway. The bed was amazing.
The Germans took a private room each.
A masked weaver weaving its nest
I had a short swim but soon got a bit paranoid, thinking there might be
In the evening the Germans insisted on buying me a good dinner. The lodge
was run by white people who'd been born in Zambia or Malawi, I can't remember.
The dinner was great, with a big fish. We also played a game with wooden
blocks with the owners.
The bearded German got a bit obnoxious when he had had a lot to drink,
so I called it a night and went to sleep. The woman who runs the place
had warned me that the sunrises were spectacular, so I set my alarm and
got up about 5 the next morning. She was right, it was spectacular. Fishermen
were coming home after a night's fishing in their ittle wooden boats.
The sky and clouds turned all the colours you can imagine. It was so peaceful
Breakfast in Nkhata Bay
After my photo shoot I went to the reception desk to pay for my room,
but it turned out that the bearded German had already paid for it, and
would not have me pay him back! I tried once and then just said "Thank
you", which he really appreciated. This is somethingI learned on
a previous trip. If someone wants to help you as a traveller and pay things
for you... just say thank you and be happy with it! And when you're at
home, do the same to other people who could use it. I told him this and
that was exactly the way he intended it.
The bearded guy said that Nkhata Bay was horrible, but that we could drive
over there, have breakfast there, that I could decide whether I liked
it, and if not, I could continue the ride on to Mzuzu with them. This
sounded like an excellent deal.
After a bumpy road of tarmac filled with holes that you have to zigzag
around, and a broken bridge that caused a major detour, we got to Nkhata
Bay, which was indeed disappointing. It seemed very touristy and loud
and overdone. We did have a nice breakfast there that I insisted on paying,
and this times the Germans said thank you.
On to Mzuzu
So I decided not to stay in Nkhata Bay and continue with the Germans to
Mzuzu that same day.
It took a lot longer than I had hoped and expected, but hey, when someone
gives you a ride, you depend on their plans.
First we visited a tobacco auction hall, where the bearded guy knew some
people. Traders were walking along the sacs of fresh tobacco (lovely smell)
and rattling off their prices at an unbelievable and incomprehesible tempo,
buyers making casual hand signals (buy), and guys making notes of the
agreed prices running behind them. The whole scene exuded an energy and
speedy business atmosphere I had not seen before in Malawi.
German truck trader
Then we went to visit a third German guy who had been living in Malawi
for years as well and traded in big trucks and camions. He was also building
quite a big boat to go on Lake Malawi. He'd been working on it for years.
He had built little cabins and everything but it was not finished yet.
Here they also bought a supply of petrol off this guy.
Hotel room with bath tub
He gave us a nice lunch of make-do pizza. I was very warm and wanted to
get to a cool hotel room, and check my email and send one to my family
and friends. Finally we left and the Germans took me to one hotel in Mzuzu
first, which turned out to be not so good. I offered to just walk to the
next but they insisted on helping me until I found a good one. The second
one was excellent. It had a bath tub and breakfast included all at a fair
I thanked the Germans thoroughly. The bearded one gave me his phone no.
in case I ever needed help. He'd be in Malawi until the end of my holiday.
They were so friendly but I was also happy to be on my own again, not
to have to be polite anymore.
I finally had use for the little hook-on-a-screw that came with my mosquito
net. Even though this was the most luxurious room I'd ever had, it didn't
have a net. So I screwed mine into the ceiling. It was necessary too,
I heard the little stingy buggers buzzing at night, trying to get to me
through the net.
After having a wonderful lukewarm bath I felt great again and set out
on my first goal in Mzuzu: find internet! After having been away from
my own world for a while, I felt like 'connecting' again, and I really
wanted to share all my amazing experiences and let everybody know I was
My search for an internet place took me all the way through Mzuzu and
back. I encountered a few places that had the word Internet painted
on the wall, but were not operational yet. I also found a cosy little
restaurant that had called itself Burger King (and looked nowhere near
a Burger King as we know it).
Finally I found an internet place inside a shopping mall / business center
next to the main market, where I took this haircuts picture:
At a hairdresser's in Mzuzu
It was a little crammy room full of old PC's that all looked different,
and lots of trash. There were people there typing papers for school and
one woman was breast-feeding her baby.
I agreed on a price for using Word first (cheaper) to type up my e-mail,
and a price for the use of internet later (more expensive). It was really
nice to read my e-mails and to be able to send my stories home, even though
it took about 3 minutes to open each page.
I also helped out the guy who worked there with some issues in Microsoft
Word that he did not know how to fix. Hmmm, interesting carreer opportunities
for me here? Computer teacher?
In Mzuzu I also visited the museum, which was pretty interesting. It looked
shabby and amateuristic, but the things on display were really interesting.
The guy working there closed his office especially to give me a personal
tour with lots of explanations. The museum featured a large collection
of pots and spears and objects from the tribes who live on the land. Also
many big butterflies. And photos of tribes, tribal ceremonial parties,
and of the missionaries who were in Malawi some centuries ago.
The guy who gave me the tour and I still write letters once in a while.
(Which reminds me I should reply his latest letter.)
Unforunately I felt uncertain about visiting Livingstonia even further
to the north... the petrol problems might cause me to get stuck there
and I had to be back in Lilongwe in time to go on the safari to Zambia
I had already booked.
Clubbing in Lilongwe
Unable to go to Livingstonia, I stayed in Mzuzu for a while, had a few
nice baths in my tub, some good breakfasts that went with the room, did
lots of reading and relaxing, and had some walks through town. Mzuzu was
the first place I ever saw a Malawian woman not wearing a long skirt,
Then I took a big bus to Lilongwe and stayed at Kiboko
Camp just outside town, a very nice lodge / camp run by Dutch people.
About the most expensive one in its league, but well worth it. They have
a great restaurant with varying menu as well.
Here I ran into a group of Dutch package tour travellers and their guide,
a Dutch woman a little older than me. We got talking and they invited
me to come clubbing with them that evening in Lilongwe. I thought, what
the heck and went with them, even though clubbing is not really a thing
I am looking for on a holiday like this.
As I had expected, the nightclub was pretty shifty and the music sucked,
but it was really amusing to see what was going on. Here I saw a type
of Malawian women I had never seen in the streets. Lots of make-up, long
hair, sexy dress, rather than the short haired, long skirt wearing women
I'd seen in the streets. They reminded me of the prostitutes in the hotel
Lots of flirting was going on between the Malawians and also between them
and us. It was a bit hard to get rid of the guys coming onto the females
of our group, but we had a good time dancing and watching.
4 day Safari to South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
At Kiboko Camp
in Lilonge I had booked a 4 day safari to Zambia. I can really recommend
their safari tours! The guide was very knowledgeable, friendly and flexible.
The food was great. The vehicle needed to be repaired a few times but
they managed to do that during rest hours.
Two other Dutch people joined my safari tour.
The ride over and the Flatdogs campsite
It was quite a long way from Lilongwe, Malawi, to South Luangwa National
Park in Zambia. At the border we were asked all kinds of impertinent questions
like "How much money do you have on you? Where is it hidden? Show
it to me. How much will you spend in Zambia?" but in the end we got
We picknicked underway where lots of curious children came nearer and
nearer but unfortunately were chased away by the guides.
Late in the afternoon we arrived at Flatdogs
Campsite, which is an adventure in its own right. It's a very nicely
decorated campsite with huts too. An elephants' road used to pass exactly
where Flatdogs is now, and the elephants are not about to let themselves
be turned aside, so they still march right through the middle of camp
It's quite dangerous to come near them because there are often babies
in their group. So elephants always have right of way! Sometimes people
had just gone off to the toilet and were unable to return to their own
camp because an elephant was inbetween. Africa dictates patience in all
kinds of ways.
At night we saw hyenas throwing over garbage cans and rummaging through
the contents. The first night I barely slept because we were told that
hippos also walk through the camp at night, and they kill more people
than any other animal (except for the malaria mosquito perhaps). But as
long as you stay in your tent (without any food) you're safe.
So I never drank any water after 8PM so that I wouldn't need any midnigh
toilet stops. During the night I tried to figure out what all the sounds
around my tent were... The snorting and heavy stomping must have been
a hippo. All the other breaking twigs may have been monkeys. Or hyenas.
By the second night I'd gotten more used to it and slept more hours.
The safari rides
We went out for safari rides in our open truck twice a day for two days.
I shall not bore you with an extensive list of all the animals we encountered,
but it was fascinating. Even though we saw impalas everywhere we went,
I kept finding them beautiful to see.
Unfortunately we did not see any lions from up close, but we did see many
other beautiful animals as you can see in the Photos
One thing that was annoying were the flies that stung right through my
pants and blouse. More itchy bites to deal with!
The guide also told us a lot about all the different trees and plants
and their medicinal powers. He drove very slowly and even turned off his
engine if I wanted to take a more steady picture.
We also did one night safari, which starts at 4 pm and ends at 8 pm. It
gets pitch dark at 6 pm. So it started out while it was still light. We
saw many big birds gathering in a lake for the evening.
When it got dark, which of course happened with the suddenness of Africa,
it got really exciting and a bit spooky, especially since we were in an
open truck. The doors only reached to our knees, and there were no windows.
The roof you see on the picture below had also been taken off.
Around us were a lot of VERY wild animals out there, waking up to go out
hunting. But apparently they do not think of a car full of people as food,
or a threat.
We had a bright spotlight on the front of the truck, which the co-driver
swung back and forth. As you can imagine, this is quite unnatural for
the animals and disturbs them in their routines, this is why it's only
allowed for two hours (until 8 pm). And it's not allowed either to shine
it on one particular animal for a long time, especially if that animal
A few years ago they used to do this, 'helping' a big cat to catch for
instance an impala blinded by the spotlight, and giving tourists what
they wanted to see: an actual kill being made. However, understandably
this practice is now prohibited.
At a certain point we saw a few hyenas and the guides were getting nervous.
They told us that hyenas are never far away from a leopard. Some people
live years in Africa and go on numerous safaris without ever being able
to spot a leopard.
We were lucky enough to see two! What beautiful creatures...
Leopards are usually very shy
The safari was a great way to end my holiday. It was nice to be able to
sit back and be taken care of, and see amazing animals and landscapes.
After I got back home to Amsterdam I shot right into a reverse culture
shock and was kind of depressed for days...
But when all my pictures were printed it was great to go through all the
memories again! And I had my bao board. Some friends and I still play
it from time to time.