Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Malawi 2

We had a quick stopover in Mzuzu to stock up on food and cash, the best bit being you go to shoprite and these men come up to you selling you veg at half the price of the supermarket. They give you a list of what they have, you go in and get the other bits and by the time you come back they are there with a bag ready to haggle! We left there and headed towards Livingstonia, a place, as the name suggests, found by the missionaries working under David Livingstone (credited with discovering Livingstone in Zambia). The journey took us past the lake, we had yet to see it and were glad we had saved it. It was stunning, like the sea with waves crashing onto sandy beaches. We climbed on, into the mountains, 10km taking us just under an hour, the road much like the Serre De Leba in Angola, just not far! We were very glad it wasn't raining! We stayed at Lukwe Eco Camp, a well kept ecolodge with composting toilets and no electricity, it was all topped off with stunning views.. The bar balcony sat on the edge of a cliff, with views for miles around and the sound of the waterfall in the background. 

We stayed here for two nights, hiking the 7km up to Livingstonia to go to the Stone House Musesum and the see the church. Both were very interesting, the Musesum talked about Malawian life and the arrival of the missionaries to the town, and the church was beautiful. Colourful stain glass windows, in a church that could have been at home in rural England! We were able to walk up the bell tower and were rewarded with stunning views! Walking back we went to the waterfall we could hear from the camp site, despite not wanting a 'guide' they ended up walking with us and taking us to some secret caves (I think everyone gets to go!), right under the waterfall which was worth the couple of thousand kwatcha we gave them at the end! 

Having spoken to Jacob on the Oasis Overland truck, we knew they were down at the bottom of the mountain so we took the steep hill down to the bay to Chitimba Lodge, a sandy beach site with lots of Overlanders. We spent the evening chatting to old and new members of the truck, catching up on routes and experiences. It was nice to spend time with them for the last time as they head north and we keep heading south! 

(A really blurry photo of Charles and me with Jacob - sorry not the best photo but as a key contributor to earlier blogs I felt a photo was necessary!)

We took a day trip to Kronga to the dinosaur Musesum there, it is an area full of fossils and Malawi-asaurus, which was interesting. It also gave some information about Malawian history; for a small country it has had its shares of highs and lows. Staying the night at Sanguilo Sanctury we relaxed on the private beach, swam and got rained on!! We woke up in the middle of the night to a down pour which carried on to the morning - very odd as rain is not expected at this time of year! The lake had become very rough, the waves were large and choppy. This is only the fourth country we have had rain and it caught us off guard! 

(Morning of grey clouds and rain!)

Leaving the Livingstonia area, and heading to shoprite for more food, we made our way to Nkhata bay, sadly there was no where that offered roof tent camping (new business adventure someone?!) and  whilst we not unhappy to buy a room, they were expensive and would have meant leaving the car at the top of a cliff (safety wise when you life is in the car it isn't really an option!). From the Overland bus we had heard about Kande Beach, another popular overland place! We had wanted to do our open water divers course and there they also offered it..

We arrived and set up, it was a nice campsite with electricity (whilst Eco lodges are lovely we can't power the fridge!), right on the beach, with friendly owners. We booked in for 3 nights and took it from there. All in all we stayed 8 nights and did a lot! On the Wednesday it was Charles' birthday.. Granted it was a day of a few beers, but we were able to chat to family which was nice. In the evening we had pizza at the restaurant, along with a few shots of jeiger .. A chilled day but nice to do something slightly different (no washing up!), the owners even brought out a slice of chocolate cake for him which was a really kind gesture. 

(Charles chatting to Nev and Jenny)

(Happy boy.. The first year I couldn't make him a cake but was lucky enough to be given one from the staff at Kande beach)

Once the windy weather had calmed down a little we were able to start our open water diving course which we had vaguely organised when we arrived. Thursday evening we had arrived at 5pm to watch some videos, chat about what it would entail and sent off with homework! After sitting watching, and trying to take in information, I really felt for my classes who would come back after the summer holidays and be bombarded with information! Having not done any mentally taxing activities for nearly 9 months I found it really hard (who knows what I'll be like going back to work!) and I think Charles did too! We were up the next morning and learning about the scuba kit from Rob our instructor and Ernest. Before we knew it we were in the water, and once the feeling of panic about whether I would be able to breath or not left me it become enjoyable! We practised basic skills and it was quickly established that I had a real problem with remaining neutrally buoyant under water... Something to do with very buoyant legs (the nicest way I've ever been told I have larger legs ☺️), it did however provide everyone with great amusement (for the next few days!) and for myself, great frustration! As an adult I think it is hard to try something new and feel like you are failing.. Well for me especially! After our first few confined water dives, more studying and a practise exam, we were onto the boat the second day, and out to Kande Island. Over the next couple of days days and over 4 dives we slowly got better (my legs were only a hinderance every so often!), and enjoyed ourselves more and more. We were lucky to have such encouraging and talented people teaching us, who showed us some fantastic fish and underwater scenery. After passing our final exam (another daunting thing as an adult.. I am sure I never felt that worried during my school exams), we passed (Charles and I got the same scores so no bragging rights!). To anyone thinking about it I would really recommend it, especially if you are doing a trip like ours and you are at all these amazing and beautiful places to dive (check them out at www.aquanutsdivers.com). We can now look forward to Mozambique, South Africa and others for another reason now, not just the land animals! 

(Ernest and Rob) 

(It wasn't all hard work. We did get an interlude on Saturday to watch England play Australia in the rugby.. We did also watch the SA game in the evening followed by a poetji, but we won't talk about that result.. The poetji was good though!)

From here we head to immigration to finally extend our visa and we head South via the lake. We are still in two minds about Mozambique having heard, and read so much conflicting information - I guess we will keep chatting to people and keep reading over the next few weeks to find out..

#africa #overlanding #travelling #thisisafrica #malawi #scuba #openwater #kandebeach #englandrugby #livingstonia