August 16th – 17th 2013: Lilongwe, Malawi
Driven distance on August 16th – 17th 2013: 30km (20 miles)
Driven distance total: 74’100km (46’040 miles)
We got into a somewhat annoying police control on our short way to Lilongwe. We waited nicely in line until it was our part. The truck in front of us took a bit longer and just as he wanted to start, we got a sign from a cop (he was with a group of other police men who were chewing sugarcane roots) that we should go left onto the shoulder. When we were half off the street came another police officer. He accused us of trying to by-pass the police checkpoint!!! We explained him that we just followed the order of another policeman. Nobody knew about this... We apologized for the misunderstanding of the wink and explained that we really have no reason to circumvent the checkpoint! Now the argumentation started – word against word. They suggested to us that we go together to court on Monday (the incident happened on Friday). Of course we knew that it is just a little game to get some black money. So we completely agreed to go to court with them :-). They further told us, that we have to wait until the evening with them and then go together to the police station to fix an appointment with the court! So we parked the Landrover just besides their police tent, got installed with our camping chairs and enjoyed nicely a snack out of the fridge. There were also two female police officers present who were really friendly. One of them actually wanted to invite us for a Sprite. After a few minutes the other policeman also came back to the site and was all of a sudden very friendly. We offered him as well a snack that he could share with the ladies. After some relaxed chit chatting we got step by step our documents back and he even wrote down his name, phone number and badge number and said that we could call him if we have any problems. They all wished us a nice journey and we could finally leave :-). Arriving in Lilongwe we first looked for a shop to get the car serviced. We got sent away at the Toyota dealer and ended up finally at a small all-rounder mechanic shop. Another day we visited the market in the old town of Lilongwe. On the way there, twice some youngsters who wanted to have taken their picture stopped us. The second time, a group of teenager boys were showing off with different poses. They were laughing afterwards their butts off when they checked out the pictures :-). At the market they mainly sold new and used clothes, cell phone accessories, some kitchen appliances and apples. Our shopping is usually done in the bigger supermarkets in the cities. As in Zambia, we usually have to spend the same amount for food as in Switzerland! The bigger part of the population can simply not afford the luxury products, like milk products, which are mostly imported from South Africa. The are usually eating three times a day some maize product with different side dishes.
August 18th 2013: Lilongwe – Senga Bay, Malawi
Driven distance on August 18th 2013: 140km (90 miles)
Driven distance total: 74’240km (46’130 miles)
Since we can find again some restaurants in Malawi, we preferred to eat something normal at lunch instead of the sandwiches always. We paid about 5$ for two big plates with rice, beans and meat and something to drink. With jam-packed bellies we continued in direction Lake Malawi. For the final 30km (20 miles) we chose a short detour since we don’t like it to take twice the same route. It felt as we were not really welcome along this route. The people looked at us sometimes quite unfriendly and often they didn’t greet back when we greeted. We saw a few laughing children at one of the fountains and intended to take a picture from them. Until now the case was, that the people liked it very much to have taken their picture with them. Afterwards they were very amused when they saw themselves on the camera! Of course we first asked the kids (with hand sign language) if we could take a picture of them. We let it be after two kids were hiding behind the fountain. At the same moment a young man was running towards us. When he arrived at the window he asked us in a very unfriendly and almost aggressive tone what we are intending to do with the picture from the kids. Further on he explained to us that it costs money if we want to take pictures of people in Malawi!! Such a crap! Somewhat irritated we showed him the camera and explained that we didn’t take a picture at all and we took off! About 10 minutes later we crossed a ox-cart with a few young men on it. One of them said in a loud and unfriendly sound „Give me money“! I mean, we do experience it here and there that people are begging for money, but until now always in a friendly manner!
We arrived somewhat demotivated at the cozy campsite at the lake where we had to flush down the experiences with a cold beer.
Well, we always ask ourselves where such a behavior is coming from. One of the reason might be, that many rich visitors are coming in from the nearby capital and stay at on of the lake side lodges. Those hotels and campsites are taking away a lot of the lake shore and the locals from the village have to use a tiny stretch of the shore to do their washing or to park their fishing boats.
Later on we went to do souvenir shopping just outside of the campground. Besides the typical bargaining we talked also extensively with the souvenir sellers and they explained us what in their country is going wrong.
August 19th 2013: Senga Bay – Cape Maclear, Malawi
Driven distance on August 19th 2013: 200km (120 miles)
Driven distance total: 74’440km (46’250 miles)
We continued (still a bit dazed from the experiences the day before) our journey to Cape Maclear, another tourist destination at Lake Malawi. Along the way we stopped at the Mua Mission, which was founded in 1902 by the catholic priests „The White Fathers“. It is the oldest mission in Malawi. Today there is a hospital, a big church, a lodge and an interesting museum. The museum was founded in 1976 by the Canadian pastor Boucher and contains the history of the mission as well as the explanation of the different ethnic groups of Malawi with their rituals and traditions. Everything was detailed and very interesting illustrated with masks, pictures and so on. Even from the outside is the museum impressive. Malawi’s history is creatively painted to the outside walls. There is even an artistic workshop and selling shop who was also initiated by pastor Boucher. Local artist are here being trained and they can sell their beautiful woodcarvings in the shop. It would have been possible to spent the entire day here – so many things to read and see. Soon we continued the journey since we still had quite some miles to cover. As already a few times before, we spotted a man in a weird looking frightening straw-bush costume. Quite honestly we were almost a bit scared by this bizarre creature, but nevertheless we stopped and asked if could take a picture :-). He didn’t say anything but was holding his hand to us and asked for some money. We gave him less then a dollar and he positioned him nicely for some pictures. Unfortunately we didn’t really figure out what it is all about with this dress but most certainly some kind of ritual. Further on we saw unusually many baobab trees in all kinds of shapes and sizes.
August 20th – 23rd 2013: Cape Maclear, Malawi
Driven distance on August 20th – 23rd 2013: 0km (0 miles)
Driven distance total: 74’440km (46’250 miles)
Relaxing was the main topic for the three days at the Lake Malawi. Many hours of hard work at our web page was also once again urgently necessary. We also took off in a rented canoe to explore the lake since it is also famous for snorkeling. We snorkeled in crystal clear water around rocks at the so-called “Otter Point”. What we could see were several different colorful aquarium fishes :-).
We didn’t spent too much time in the village itself. Somehow we felt a bit strange and here and there not really welcome. The were of course also very friendly people, but also some other examples. The kids mainly just asked for sweets, pens or money. Somehow we were glad to be back at the campground after a while.
Special at this location was the mix of people along the beach. Not far from sun hungry Bikini tourists were the locals washing their clothes or themselves.
Besides us camped a Mexican guy who was travelling on a bicycle. The young Luiz travels on the bicycle from South Africa to Egypt! They started as a group of two, but his friend had to give up in Mozambique since he couldn’t handle anymore the poverty and several negative experiences. The local life and the tourist – hotel life was all at the same place.
August 24th 2013: Cape Maclear, Malawi – Cuamba, Mozambique
Driven distance on August 24th 2013: 290km (180 miles)
Driven distance total: 74’730km (46’430 miles)
The trip led us first into the town of Mangochi and further through a hilly landscape finally to the border. We were once again astonished what loads the people are carrying on their head. Many women were walking with huge bundles of wood on their head. The funny part is, that not only heavy loads are carried on the head, but also for example a single book, a purse or a small bag of rice :-). When we arrived in the town of Chiponde, we almost missed the turn off to the border, since we had to leave the tarred road and enter a crappy dirt road. After 5m (20 feet) was a barrier that we could only pass with stamped passports. So we basically had to park the car in the town and had to from there to customs. Since the money changing guys were running after us and almost blocked the car, we decided that I (Maryse) will stay with the car for safety reasons and Stefan went to do the paperwork. Already from the outside the customs office didn’t look to promising and on the inside it wasn’t much better with the bullet hole in the counter window... :-). Otherwise the exit went without problems. We were somewhat surprised that there are many houses in the “no-mans-land” with people living there... To which country do they belong??? Also the entry into Mozambique went well. We were surprised that already the customs officers couldn’t really speak English anymore, just Portuguese, the National language in Mozambique. So far we got along very well with English in the former travelled African countries. Along crappy dust roads and very rural areas we drove until the town of Cuamba. Close to some villages we saw from far people standing at the road that held big junks of meat (entire animal legs) towards us to sell :-). We stopped in a tiny village to get a coke. The people looked at us quite confused, but were very friendly. Unfortunately was the language barrier there, since really almost nobody can speak English. We looked for a restaurant to eat dinner after we finally arrived in Cuamba. It was strange to us to hear all the people speaking Portuguese and we almost didn’t feel to be in Africa!