Hell it's tough in Africa!!!

Trip Start Dec 24, 2009
Trip End Apr 25, 2010

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Where I stayed
BP Monkey Bay Cottage

Flag of Malawi  , Lake Malawi National Park,
Thursday, March 25, 2010

Kande Beach Camp was situated right on the lake overlapping a good stretch of white sandy beach. The accommodation prices were very reasonable, so we booked in for one double and one single room which cost around $20 and $10 respectively. I was extremely happy not to camp that night, as my tent building skills were still a bit suspect and on top of that we encountered a huge tropical storm the night before, so needless to say my home was drenched!
We stayed here for 2 days; most of our day included a few swims in the lake, playing Yhatzee/Kniffel and watching rugby with our fellow overlanders. The rugby turned out to be more of a challenge to watch than we initially anticipated and it wasn't due to absence of satellite TV or power but the bar manager. He was a grumpy old Brit (Grumpy Pom John) insistent on watching football alone at the bar regardless of the strong demand for the Super 14 to be shown, but after rallying a bit of support and a few witty comments by Bruce we finally got him to budge.

We hit the road Sunday morning nursing a bit of a hangover, but nevertheless we aimed to get in striking distance to Monkey Bay, where we had a lake house organised for 5 days thanks to PC's influence at BP. We stayed in Nkhotakhota Safari lodge for the night and proceeded to the lake house the following morning.  We arrived in good time, again due to the surprisingly good roads and checked in for what was going to be a very relaxing 5 days.

The house was situated a few minutes outside the town of Monkey Bay with an awesome view overlooking the lake. We had 3 very friendly staff looking after us (our cook Juliet and 2 house boys Samson and John), so we literally needn't lift a finger except to buy food to supply the cook.  There was Mangochi with supposedly good supermarkets which was a bit too far to drive, so we decided to keep it local and do our shopping at the limited facilities of Monkey Bay. Now to be honest our only job over 5 days was to buy food and we somehow made even this simple task quite complicated.

Our first little drama came about when we had a few failed attempts of tracking down eggs, so I decided to take the initiative to ask one of the local guys buzzing around us to organise us some eggs. Within 5 minutes he came back with a tray of 30 eggs which were supposedly very fresh and had been transported all the way from Mozambique, so considering all this I agreed on a price of 1300 kwatcha ($8). Being very proud of my negotiation and organization skills we got into the car to head for the last shop on our route. Needless to say we walked in and saw eggs for Africa - probably the source of our eggs - charged at half the price ! Lets just say Petra was not too impressed after that.

Our next shopping incident came on day 3 of our Monkey Bay experience. We had stopped in one of the road markets to stock-up on our daily supply of tomatoes, potatoes, avocados and cucumbers, so Petra and myself headed for the usual stall while Bruce waited by the car. While doing our vegetable negotiations we hear a commotion and see water spraying everywhere! Petra and myself both thought to ourselves that this was a very inappropriate time to get the car washed but anyway we proceeded back to the vehicle with our purchases. We soon found out that Bruce had decided to turn the car around and in doing so hit a junction of pipes which consequently ripped them apart. Bruce was like a deer in headlights when we approached him. He was surrounded by a mass of locals so Bruce for once was speechless having the fear that things were about to get nasty. Bruce's action was instead seen as bit of a God send and within a few moments locals were arriving from all direction with buckets and any form of containers to fill up with fresh water which was flooding the market. Anyway after a bit of deliberation we eventually made a hasty exit to find the local water company. We notified them and within a few hours amazingly the pipes were fixed, definitely not the African style we were used to.

One evening we went to watch the sunset at Cape Maclear. We found a number of backpacker spots and stopped for a drink at the Fat Monkey, and enjoyed a golden Malawian moment watching the sunset over the lake and western shore. This is definitely the place to be for campers and overlanders. Later that evening we had a braai back at the cottage. We managed to buy some mince meat in town so I made us all burger patties. It must be said that these turned out to be a absolute winner due to a surprising combination, granny Nesta's meatball recipe with Oom Potjie's secret recipe braai spice that Bruce and Petra had been carrying with them. Our burger night was a raging success, credit must go to Nesta on the left wing, and Potjie on the right wing of the family.

The swimming conditions on the lake were really fantastic; I can say for sure that one does not need to worry about the much spoken danger of crocs and hippos too much. I think one would have to be seriously unlucky to be taken out. We spent the 5 days basically eating, sleeping, watching TV, playing monopoly (in which Bruce annoyingly won 6 out of 8 games) and swimming, so we really had a relaxing time. PC thanks again for organising the house; for a tea boy you can seriously pull some strings!!

We left Malawi having had a great time and I think the country as a whole far exceeded all our expectations. I can say it was the highlight of my trip and I will recommend everyone to visit the 'warm heart of Africa', it is a truly magical place!
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