June 14th: we reluctantly leave the ...
Trip Start May 29, 2002
10Trip End Jul 31, 2002
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Back in Stonetown, we jump on a boat (again all to ourselves) and stutter our way across the choppy waters to the island of Chembu. There isn't a lot to do on the island other than admire the ancient looking giant tortoises which are housed there and have lunch at the tiny little restaurant which only serves chicken! Our boat pilot waits for us and after an hour and a half we head back across the water to Stonetown. Lou decides that it would be fun if we were to sit right on the foremost point of the boat and we duly get soaked a number of times on the 30 minute crossing. At least the engine sounds a little more healthy now as on the way out to the island, it had sounded as though it was on it's last legs!
There was no sign of our taxi, and in any event it was a shortish walk to the hotel which we had booked into rather traumatically earlier in the day - the first room had obviously not been occupied for several weeks and the dust was thick everywhere - the second was very small and only a twin room. We are now shedding the british allergy to complaining and, seeing as how we knew the hotel was only a third full if that, we complained heartily and were upgraded to a beautiful room straight out of a colonial film. It had a large four poster bed in hardwood and was filled with old furniture including an old trunk that mum would kill for! It also had a wonderful view of the harbour and the beach from the balcony. Well settled, I watched the football and Lou headed off to take advantage of the good-sized swimming pool in the main courtyard!
That evening we headed off to the Africa House hotel again, this time arriving in time for the sunset! A few drinks and we tripped off to the internet cafe and then onto a nightclub cum bar called the Sweet Eazy where some women looked and sweet and the others just looked... well we won't go into that! The music was awfully loud (how old do we sound?) and so we had a drink in the gardens and then decided to head back to the night market for dinner! This time I went for the kingfish steaks on a stick, Lou had chicken - delicious! Back at the hotel we went to sleep quickly - tomorrow is an early start!
June 15th: Up at 5am to pack our rucksack and we walked through the dawn to the Karibu Inn where we joined the others and headed to the port. On embarking onto our boat, it was a little un-nerving to see a coffin being loaded onto the boat along with all the other passengers! It was even more un-nerving to find out that having travelled at a fair lick for over an hour that we were back in Stonetown - apparently the ship had developed some kind of problem and had had to turn round. We got off and waited for another ship to arrive. The journey across to Dar es Salaam was eventually completed after a rough crossing which left a few of our party feeling a little green. At D-e-S we were back on the truck and headed for the Malawi border which we will cross tomorrow. A long drive through rolling countryside with occasional hamlets of mud houses and shouting, waving, smiling children. We eat lunch on the truck (more corned beef sandwiches!!) and have dinner in a roadside restaurant which for 4 dollars does nice soup, chicken and chips or rice and a fruit salad. We arrive in the dark at an old farmhouse, pitch our tent and fall into our sleeping bags and fall asleep straight away.
June 16th: Another early start as we strike tents as the sun appears, setting fire to the sky in another spectacular pyrotechnic display. We cross the border at lunchtime and change money with a zoo of people on the Tanzanian side. It takes over an hour to negotiate fiercely and then more importantly to count all the notes before handing over the Tanzanian currency. Not long over the border, we experience engine trouble and have a short 20 minute stop by the side of the road. Within minutes there is a huge group of local kids gathered around the truck eager for a peek inside. Not for the first time, the digital camera comes into its own and soon they are mobbing Lou trying to see themselves on the little screen and squealing with pleasure at the sight! Sometimes it brings home how different our lives are from theirs when something as simple (for us) as a picture on a screen is such a delight to them.
Carrying on the journey through the beautiful Malawi countryside, it is obvious that this is a poorer country than Tanzania. The farms look smaller and poorer, the roads are red dust although there is a start made at building a tarmac road for most of the journey.
We drive all the way to the town of Chitimba where we reach a campsite on the banks of Lake Malawi after dark, pitch tents again and, after washing up for the cook group (it's our turn!) we have a quick drink on the beach and head to bed nice and early!
June 17th: We are up early as we are cooking today and have no food on the truck (and we haven't seen a shop anywhere either!). Walking out of the beachside camp we are immediately befriended by the scruffy looking Peter who speaks excellent English and moments later by the enigmatic Godfrey (self christened Good-Price Godfrey!). They are 12 years old but have no shyness and agree to act as our guides in the quest to find food!
They take us to a string of cabins which appear closed but one is open and we are able to buy bread and eggs. The quantities we order (and presumably the price the shopkeeper gets away with charging us!) soon spreads and before long the shop is filled with local people all staring at us and exchanging funny comments with the shopkeeper who is desperate to get our address in England. Despite this it is not a hostile atmosphere at all and they are just curious I guess. We also buy some tomatoes and onions at a local stall (a table by the side of the road!) and we are in business! Peter is insistent that there will be a bus along any minute to take us to town where we can buy some chicken or "pig-meat" but after spending half an hour waiting - and amusing the local primary school kids who surround us reading Lou their english essays, we learn that the shop down the road is closed for stocktaking and we decide to cook with what we've got so far!
We wander into the local school which houses some 783 kids (with only 10 full time teachers!) and are shown around by the friendly Robins Pheti and introduced to some of the teachers and the headmistress who promptly invites herself to dinner that evening! Luckily for her as we cook a disgusting fried rice attempt, she doesn't arrive!!
The school is well run and is always looking for more funds and assistance from overseas and we promise to send some stationery when we return to England. We sign the visitors book and swap addresses with Peter and some of his friends and head back to the camp to cook lunch.
That afternoon, we buy some bangles from the kids and then go mad buying two wonderfully comfortable carved wooden chairs (which fold flat), a game table with Bao on one side and Chess on the other and a salad bowl and cutlery with wooden coasters. Lou agrees to let Peter braid her hair and she spends almost two hours being fussed over by a group of 12 year olds who keep telling her how beautiful she will look when they have finished!! I keep them fuelled with Cokes from the camp bar and have to admit that they do a good job! Peter promised to buy a pair of shoes with the money so that he could go to school!
That night we cooked a miserable fried rice which all stuck together although everyone insisted that it wasn't that bad it did look pretty disgusting! Tomorrow we are heading further along Lake Malawi to Kande Beach. Until then - it's goodbye from me and Lou
Lots of love
Mike and Lou