Sunday, 31 July 2016


Charles and I were excited to be heading to Botswana, the two nights we had spent there coming from Zambia were amazing; lots of wild life, great people; so crossing the border we felt a slight feeling of trepidation! The border was fairly disorganised, much like when we went in, a lot of trucks and women doing very little behind counters apart from looking on Facebook! We have been at West African borders better organised and asked for less, than theirs! Anyway we got through only having to pay road tax, as our insurance and carbon tax were still valid.

All crossed and heading towards Gaberone we began to look for somewhere to sleep.. Having come from South Africa, Zambia, Malawi and Northern Botswana where finding somewhere to sleep was not a problem due to lodges being everywhere, we didn't foresee it being an issue! It was actually very hard, after trying 4 places, all of which were closed, we reached Modipane Rest Lodge by following some dodgey road signs! Arriving we found a lovely little place, however they wanted 250 pula to camp which roughly is £17 (14 pula to the pound). We settled on 200 pula (even then we grumbled) and we set up, we were both knackered, not having driven further than 20km the last two weeks doing over 300 was a shock (we had however, managed to power through Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.. Charles is addicted, even more so than me!). The site was lovely, nice showers and toilets, with a fire built and lit for us. The owner came over and chatted away to us, it turned out we were only  the second camping guests and he wanted to extend it further and add to it! He must have chatted to the staff because 10 minutes later a lady came over saying they had over charged us and gave us 120 pula back making it 80 pula for the night! It had gone from being very expensive to very cheap. Our first night back in the tent after two weeks of a warm room and comfy bed was a shock to the system, the night was cold and also noisy.. It was going to take a few nights to get back into the swing of things! 

Waking up in the morning and Charles was looking green and feeling rough! It seems he had caught the bug I had a couple of weeks ago, I knew things were going to be rough for him but he wanted to press on to Khutse, a game reserve 250 km further on. After stocking up, and buying a SIM card we were on our way! Having only bought a few food things, SIM card (data was so expensive £28 for 2 gigabites of data was the most we had ever paid by a long way), plus fuel we were realising Botswana was going to leave a dent in the wallet.. It didn't get any cheaper! On arriving at Khutse we paid 580 pula (£41) for 2 days in the park, and 1000 pula (£71) for the camping, park fees not as expensive as Zambia which were £51 per day but the camping fees were much cheaper! The park warden, when we asked him why the camping was so expensive he told us it was because they were run by a private company and not the government - we found the same in Nikya in Malawi. 

Driving in we were hopeful, the land was fairly dry, visibility over the grass mixed with some higher but lots of open pans. Sadly we saw only Springbok and Oriyx - both firsts for me but quite common animals! It took us about 3 hours to drive to the campsite and it was basic.. Pit toilet and add you own water shower! It had, however, one major advantage.. It was in the middle of nowhere, with no fences and next to all the wildlife! As the night grew darker, the stars came out and the jackels were barking, then quiet. It was very eary! That night it was freezing, two sleeping bags and Charles acting as a heater, could not shield from the low temperatures! We woke up to frost on the bonnet but the fire still burning which was a welcome break from the cold!

(The 'white' stuff is frost!)

We went out the next morning with high hopes. We were rewarded with some pretty cool sights, jackels, honey badgers, 30+ vultures on the ground and then up onto the hot air currents as well as the springboks and Oriyxs. We were very lucky to see a Bataleur eagle on the ground, Charles was mesmerised, one of his favourite birds just sitting there next to the watering hole! We spent the second evening in a similar fashion to the first, boiling some water for the DIY shower, lighting a fire and listening to the wild life around us. Charles was still ill, he isn't often ill so when he complains I know things are bad.. Very little was staying in or down, however that night he did manage something which was a relief! That night was just as cold, however this time I was prepared, wearing more clothes and managed through the night under the sleeping bags! 

(The basic shower!)

(Crossing the Tropic of Capricorn in Khutse)

Leaving Khutse we had to make a decision on the direction we wanted to head in, our aim was to go across the bottom of Botswana and into Namibia, travel up Namibia then cross back into Botswana to do the Northern parts. This meant from Khutse we needed to head along the Great Kalahari Road towards border - a journey that would take many days! We looked at the map and realised that Botswana really doesn't have much linking the tourist attractions (the parks), and that breaking up the journey was going to be hard! We decided to head towards Jweneng, a huge diamond mining town, a town I am pretty sure has been build and funded by the company who run the mine. We wanted to go and see the mine, and also saw there was a day park you could also go into (also funded and run by the mine company!). The slight catch was there was no where to camp, and wild camping around the area wasn't really an option. We arrived and spent an hour or so driving around finding somewhere, each place was either a wild good chase or full (with people working for the mine!). Finally we arrived at the Cresta Hotel and were told we could camp in their car park, fantastic, Charles was knackered and feeling rough so it was a welcome relief to hear we could stay somewhere relatively safe! All was well, we sat in the warmth of the restaurant deciding on the next day's plans and went back to reception to chat about where they wanted us to park and if they had an outside toilet we could use. It was at this point we were told we couldn't camp, the lady who said we could hadn't asked the manager, and the manager wouldn't allow us due to insurance and I guess their hotel licence (take me back to West Africa where they just don't care!). By this point it was 8pm and dark, all we wanted to do was sleep! We were very fortunate, the lady behind the desk at reception took pity on us and charged us a single rate for a double room (with our breakfast included), whilst it cost us far more than we would have ever paid it was somewhere to sleep and a warm room for Charles. It was lovely, the room was amazing, a huge bed, a television, heating, and a bathroom with a bath! Whilst it wasn't the original plan, we weren't complaining.. Breakfast was great.. Buffet style, all you could eat full English breakfast, fruit, cereal and freshly cooked muffins and scones.. Diet not going so well!! I think both of us have really learnt to take things as they come, plans don't always work out, and often they are out of your control, the main thing we have concluded is not to get annoyed at each other. It creates a much more positive attitude to work out how to solve something than get irritated.. It was like that that night. 

(A bath was such a luxury!)

We knew that our next distance was relatively short, only about 200 km, and it would take us to the outside of the Kalahari Game Reserve. The night before we had made a decision to not go into the Game Reserve due to the cost (the Botswana side is vastly expensive), and maybe go into the Kalahari Game Reserve if time and money permitted on the way back through. The Kalahari Rest Lodge was a perfect stop, large roomy pitches, a nice bar and a swimming pool were just what we needed - the site also included an orphaned 10 month old wilderbeest who we just gorgeous, he would trot around after one of workers there, braying loudly when he went out of sight! We nicknamed him William (sorry Will - my brother!). Charles still not well, was asleep after an hour of being there, I hoped he would finally be able to rest and sleep it off! 

We spent 3 nights there, chilling, chatting to family, wondering around and driving around their game reserve. It wasn't till be got in the car and headed towards the back of the camp site we realised how big the site was.. We drove for kilometres before we hit their boundary, past hunting lodges, lots of animals and birds. Just a really great place - driving around their land was free which was great- you could see all the local animals for 240 pula a day to camp! On our third night we met James, a Central African guide who is privately contracted out by tourists to take them mainly around Botswana.. It wasn't long before the beers were out alongside the maps with him plotting us a route for when we come back - all the smaller campsites and wild camping spots to make our stay more interesting (and cheaper!). 

Our last stop before crossing the border was Ghanzi, where we stayed at Thaduku Camp Site, a site similar to Kalahari Rest Stop. Situated in the middle of a huge piece of land, with the bar over looking a watering hole! Within minutes of being there we had seen wilderbeest, zebra, kudo, ostriches and wart hogs! Sometimes you don't need to pay extortionate park fees to see some beautiful animals! 

(View from the bar at Thakadu!)

So whilst I sit here with the above view enjoying a glass of wine, we are very much looking forward to Namibia, and also coming back here in a few weeks time! 

#botswana #khutse #tropicofcapricorn

Friday, 15 July 2016

The long route down to Pretoria, and staying there!

The border back into Zambia was slightly less painful on the wallet than the first time we entered, our road and carbon tax were still valid, and Charles was on his SA  passport meaning only I had to pay the $50 for a visa (sadly a transit visa was the same cost). The roads on the Zambian side were infinitely better than on the Malawian side so we managed to do 400km back to Bridge Camp to spend the night there - yes we were very shocked! We met a Putfoot Rally on the road and then at Bridge Camp. It was a charitable Rally who raise money and distribute shoes to people across Southern Africa. There was about 20 cars at Bridge Camp with another 52 floating around Zambia ( A great charity, and lovely people who shared their fire and their food with two stragglers that evening!

Waking up to travel the next 400km, I realised that somewhere along the line I had picked up a stomach bug.. Always a great prospect, thinking back to Morocco where I also had one, when you are travelling long distances with very few places to stop..! I managed until we arrived back at the Moorings just past Lusaka, where I fell asleep at 5pm, Charles enjoying a steak sandwich with out me! Sadly the next morning the bug still had not disappeared but we pushed on to Livingstone and the Jolly Boys Backpackers to spend the night in their rather noisy car park and chat to Hester their fantastic manager! 

Our short trip back through Zambia was over (first country we have been back to - it will be followed by Botswana, Namibia and South Africa in the next few months) and it was onto Botswana.. The Kasane border was hilarious! We arrived and it was mega busy, lorries and South Africans coming back from their holidays along side loads of touts. One guy latched himself to us, and would not move despite being told we didn't need his help. He was there as we paid for the council tax (to exit.. How cheeky), and for the ferry across the river (150 kwatcha £12.50). Passports and carnet were stamped, and our shadow asked us if we wanted to change money. We had about 550 Zambian kwatcha left and I had looked at the rate that morning .. 100 kwatcha was 113 pula. He offered me 450 pula and I laughed as I showed him the rate. He tried bluffing and told me the pula was the strongest currency in Africa, when I bluntly replied, apparently not, he looked offended. After some arguing and debating and me threatening to move on he upped his offer 1:1.. It was a small victory but we still came out at a loss, something that can happen when exchanging currency on the border. He then had the audacity to ask for something for him for helping us out, to which I replied,
"We didn't ask for your help and we told you so, it's not our fault you wasted your time following us. Listen to what people are saying next time and you won't feel so hard done by!" It maybe sounds harsh but these guys are so persistent and unless you are forceful you get taken for a ride! 

Getting to the ferry the port workers were useless..! They told us our ticket for the ferry was the wrong one and as Charles got out to go and speak to the port master at the end of his tether, they looked at it again and said we could get onto a different ferry.. As useful as chocolate tea pots comes to mind. The ferry ride over was uneventful but pretty cool - three overland cars and a lorry, alongside loads of locals made quite a sight! I am, however, surprised it managed to make it over the river but it did and we got into the long queue at immigration. On the Botswana side it was very busy, it took us about an hour to queue to get the passports stamped, carnet sorted and insurance/road tax paid, it also included a lot of jostling and even more impatient Botswanans. 

(Ferry selfie!)
(Ahoy Botswana)
(Kasane river crossing - and yes that was the ferry - I think when my parents and Gill and Roger did it in April a ferry had sunk the week before..! In the background you can see a new bridge being built.. I am sure a lot of jobs will be lost, however it will quicken up the process. On the Botswana side there was miles of queues of lorries waiting for the ferry!)

Almost immediately, driving through Botwswana the landscape went back to that Southern African feel; long straight roads, cut back verges and animals everywhere! Herds of elephants, warthogs and impala just grazing by the roadside! It made the drive through to Elephant Sands very eventful but quick and easy (this was added onto the Harry Potter Audio tape we had also begun - I really wish I had thought of them earlier on in the trip, such good entertainment!). We arrived at a packed Elephant Sands camp site, loads of South Africans going on holiday or coming back from one (many who we had met at the border), it was also trailer heaven which is a phenomenon fairly new to me being from the UK - for those of you who are also unsure, they are compact trailers which, when open up, look like a house.. Some have a bigger floor space than our old house! They have a sink and fridge that come out, some even have hot water on demand! This is topped off by folding out beds (up to 6 people can sleep) and sometimes an extra room on the side! I was just amazed (look at this YouTube clip to see what I mean The site in itself was amazing, the bar was next to a spring with a herd of elephants drinking there well into the sunset! Lions and hyenas added to the night sounds as we feel asleep under some very bright stars! 

(Elephants on the road)
(Typical road! Amazing condition and just open!)
(Bush baby at Elephant Sands)
(At Elephant Sands, the bar was about 5m from them!)

We have now met lots of travelling South Africans, and I can honestly say they are some of the most friendly, and welcoming people we have met. Just before the border at Martin's Drift, our second night in Botswana we camped at Kwa Nokeng with 2 families from Jo'Burg and Durban - again with amazing trailers which, much to my delight, I was able to have a nose in! They were great, and what would have been rather a gloomy night, turned into one with much laughter around a fire with plenty of alcohol. I was truely greatful that evening for their company for various reasons.

(Rather tame camp donkey!)

Saturday we were home.. For Charles anyway! A strange feeling for him I think! The border again was simple, the carnet didn't need to be stamped out of Botswana or into South Africa because they are common secure countries (it will be stamped when we leave either into Zimbabwe or another country not in the trio). No payment for visas needed for either of us, but I had to decide a time frame - I asked for two weeks which was all fine - we wouldn't need that long as the tent wouldn't take 2 weeks.. We thought! We were soon on our way to Pretoria and Charles' family! Along the way loads of private game parks lined the roads, as well as animals and lots of biltong signs! Hello South Africa! 

Driving into Pretoria was just mind boggling, 4 lanes of traffic all obeying the road laws.. We were shocked! We arrived at Rob and Ronel's beautiful house around 2pm, surprising them whilst doing the gardening (we thought we would be there around 4pm). We were treated to a welcome drink or two and headed to Charles' grand father's (Bancar) flat to see him and his Auntie Tish. Charles was again amazed, his stunningly located penthouse apartment had not changed one bit since he was last there (over 9 years), down to the photos and pictures on the walls! It was such a fantastic welcome to South Africa and we felt blessed to be in such a welcoming environment! Pizza at Rob and Ronel's favourite bistro followed as well as lots of wine! 

(After seeing Rob and Ronel's house, living in South Africa looked like a more appealing prospect!)

(Bancar, Tish, Charles and me - note the warm clothing we are all wearing!)

The first job was to by some warm clothes, whilst Pretoria is not as cold as Cape Town it is still one of the coldest places we have been - think a sunny day in October! My shorts and vest tops were not going to cut it here! Stopping off at Irene Mall (again another wow moment), we stocked up on jumpers and trousers to keep us warm through these coming winter months (mainly the evenings!). 

(Flashing the cash - Paula and Nigel had bought us some rand before we left the UK - I was very excited to use them! Well travelled currency!)

(The upside down cow at Irene Mall - the area was an old dairy farm so there is a strong cow theme!)

(Charles happily eating ribs and chicken wings at Spur, a South African chain restaurant he remembers from living there!)

The afternoon was again spent with extended family; having had fantastic news about a new arrival in the family back in the UK, Charles family poured over to Rob and Ronel's house to deliver presents for Ronel's upcoming trip to the UK on the Monday! Family who had not been seen for between 2 and 20 years were there, enjoying the sun, wine and curry cooked beautifully by Rob! 

By Monday we knew that our tent would be taken off on the Wednesday, and hwhen it finally got to Wednesday we arrived early at the shop, and despite the workshop telling us it would take a whole day to take off the roof tent, Charles, myself and the Howling Moon Rep had it off in an hour! The car looked very strange with no tent, but it drove like a dream.. A few conversations about replacing the roof tent with a ground tent did come up but to be honest we were just too lazy to go any further than talking! There are many pros and cons to both a roof tent and a ground tent, comfort, packing up and moving around, animals .. But hassle wise it just seemed easier to keep the roof tent! We left the tent at the store and despite being told it would have URGENT written on the repair form we weren't holding our breath! 

(Car minus tent, odd looking but very light!)

In the mean time Charles and I chilled and did normal things, which you can afford to do when the opportunities are there.. We went to the cinema to see Me Before You (I have just read the book), went to camping stores - we wondered how we could have survived 9 months without all this 'essential' gear (some was very tempting) - and walked around the estate looking at all the spectacular houses! We spent a fun afternoon with Rob looking at trailers (my new passion!), as well as me baking cakes and cooking macaroni cheese, two things I have missed!! The main things we did were eat, and socialise which is perfect for us both (not our waist lines) - spending a few evenings at a pizza bistro with Rob's friends as well as Charles and I finding other little places for lunch! The meat here is amazing, just a trip to the butchers was an eye opener! 

(Heaven on a plate!)
(Some more of the amazing food we had.. We will be going back on a bush diet after this!)

(A great evening spent with Patricia, James. Firstly at the Village Bistro, and then at their amazing house - see a photo below of my favourite parts! P.s I did ask to take photos!)

(Mandy LOOK at this car!!)

Whilst staying and stopping here we began to think about life after our trip, a tricky one and not one that is easy to think about whilst drinking wine and sitting in the sun! We have a couple of hurdles.. One is the car.. We wanted to import it and sell it here, save on shipping costs and have cash in our pockets to get home. This we found was going to be harder than initially thought, even though Charles is South African and could import it, he would have to keep it here 2 years before selling it on.. Not ideal as we need the money sooner! This we realised was difficult option, however we did make a contact who could help is. The second option could be to ship it home.. We got in touch with various shipping companies and ended up emailing Duncan from African Overlanders in Cape Town.. He gave us a quote and told us he sends cars over weekly, and we would leave the car with him, sign the paper work and he would sort every thing else out! This really seemed like a viable option, letting someone else do the hard work! It is something we have to think about and then decide! We began to look at flights, and I started updating my CV.. as a teacher I would apply for a job in October/November with a hope to start after Christmas - I just hope schools are open to Skype interviews! If not supply work will always be there! These plans may change, nothing is set in stone yet but will have to be by November, I guess it never hurts to know the options! 

Whilst having the time we purchased a 'Wild Card' which is a bit like a National Trust Card for the National Parks in South Africa - it gets you unlimited entrance and will save us a lot of money, especially as we will be in the Kruger for 2 weeks with my family in November! For at least the fourth time we were glad Charles has duel nationality.. His cost £27 and mine a whooping £109! Perhaps the National Trust should start charging more for international visitors...! 

By Tuesday of the second week I was getting slightly nervous that we hadn't heard anything back about the tent.. My visa was expiring on 24th July and with no news we were starting to debate the options. First port of call was immigration which was just the most useless system we have yet to come across in Africa (whole of!). They won't extend your visa on the spot (unlike in Zambia and Malawi where you queued and got it stamped for another month), if I wanted to extend my tourist visa for just another week I would have to download, print off and fill in a form, then apply for it during an appointment.. This, the guy said, would then take 8-10 weeks to go through, I would have to surrender my passport and remain in the country! I couldn't believe it, all I wanted was another week! Slightly irritated by the beauracratics of it all we thought about plan B (by this point it was Thursday and no sign of the tent!).. Plan B was to drive up to Botswana, stay the night there then come back into the country renewing my visa (British Citizens are allowed 90 days in a year free). This was a painful plan but the most sensible! I had even thought about flying home to the UK for a week whilst Charles stayed in SA but the flight prices were rather high! Plan B it was then..

Luckily Friday morning at 5am I had an email from the tent company saying they had DHL'ed it from the warehouse and it would get to us on the same day! Relief, and also panic as we had a lot to get sorted before we left! A route was planned, shopping list compiled and stuff moved slowly back into the car from inside the house (make up and hair dryer back in hibernation!). Arriving at the camping shop to pick up the tent, it was sitting there under bubble wrap, Charles went to open it and lo and behold the old cover was on it. 

(Spot the deliberate mistake!)

We just couldn't believe it, strike two for Howling Moon! Luckily they have very good reps, Mpho and the guys at Lynnwood phoned around for half an hour to find us a new one which was 18km away in Jo'burg but was more expensive. To compensate they didn't charge us for the zip repairs but the hassle of driving through the Friday traffic was enough to fry the brain! We arrived and luckily, despite some false starts the cover fit, relief all around!

With the car getting some TLC the next morning (tyres changed over, a bolt removed from the tyre which had been there since Morocco, and the wheels tracked) at HiQ in Pretoria (fantastic service and a good price), we headed back to pack away to head off... 

(The bolt that has came out of our tyre!)

 It was no to be and strike 3 for Howling Moon.. We opened up the tent to put the bedding in and the U shaped metal insert for the back of the tent was missing. I often say, and have said through out the trip, that things are meant to try us, but this saga was becoming a joke.. The urgency due to my visa, the time and frustration were beginning to show.. A huge international company just failing to do their jobs! Sending a ranting message to the poor rep, Mpho, who again I will say was fantastic, replied he would forward it on to the relevant people (we have yet to hear from the big boss). Rob was fantastic, preserving our sanity, and rushed off with Charles to find something to make a new one, even for short term. They came back with copper piping and over a very well deserved beer, managed to make a new one.. Botswana here we come, after one last braai with Rob - steak rolls with garlic buns and salsa! Wow I will miss the food in this country! 

I have loved my time in South Africa so far, despite the frustration of jumping through hoops to get things done! Yes, we haven't been many places but we have spent time in one place which is just as nice. We got to see the possibility of living here full time, the community, the areas and the facilities, all of which amazing! We have met some great people, and been truely lucky to stay with Rob (who has been our guide throughout the time here) and Ronel! I am really looking forward to coming back here in November when we will be staying at the Kruger with my parents and brother, and then driving down to Cape Town for Christmas! 

One another note, as I have done in the past I urge you to read this blog, whilst travelling down I heard the devastating news that she had passed away. A real talent, and shining star who will be sorely missed. I implore you, if you haven't already done so, and are in the UK, to sign up to the Anthonly Nolan donor list to help someone else in the future - I know when I am back in the UK I will be on it! Do something for someone else today!

#africa #overlanding #travelling #thisisafrica #southafrica #rooftent #howlingmoon #anthonynolan

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Malawi 3

Mzuzu immigration was an experience in itself, having been told multiple stories of waiting times, the overall thought was it wouldn't take too long but we arrived to huge queues. There were at least 100 people all standing in a vague line along the corridor, which seemed to lead to the 'immigration office'. Joining the queue we waited about for a while, people obviously (as I have ranted about before), just joining in front of us unaware we were British and liked a nice orderly queue. However it was all a wasted exercise as an official looking man came towards us and asked the fairly obvious question of whether we were tourists. Once we had confirmed his suspicions we were told we were in the wrong queue (thankfully as it seemed to have doubled in size with us still at the end of it), and sent us to room 4, obviously.. Another great example of making things simple and easy, didn't think to put a sign up! Once we were in 'room 4', all was fairly straight forward.. Forms were filled in, money was handed over, and despite them not finding a Zambia stamp in Charles' passport (due to the dubious switch over), all was happy and we got out in a record time of 45 minutes, including wasted queueing time! 

It was a quick, and hungry dash to shoprite, both of us get quite grumpy when hungry, where the card machine actually worked, well it took the money out twice but they were fairly adept at putting it back on.. Must happen a lot! Backtracking on ourselves we headed back to the lake and onto Fish Eagles Bay campsite which was a long drive, having not really driven more than 200km a day for the past couple of months a long drive took it out of as and we arrived hungry and tired.. A great time for the pan handle to break just as I was draining the pasta, pasta all over the sand, a few harsh words said by both parties and bolognaise sauce burning. Twelve minutes later (with Charles the expert on draining duty) and we were eating. For $10 per person per night the camp site was a bit pricey, and after a cold shower (what is with expensive campsites and cold showers!?), we had only a short distance to go to get to Senga Bay.

Cool Runnings was a fairly well established camp site on the outskirts of Senga Bay, and backed onto the lake. The owner Sam was a fairly prominent pillar of the local community, and in her years of being there has built schools, libraries and is now working on a project to clean up the area - a project which has taken years to seep into daily life through education, locals seeing the results and working on the infrastructure needed (bins, signs and a 'bin man'). She was also the local doctor and by 7am every morning there was a queue waiting to see her for advice and medication - we felt it was a good time to offload most of the bandages etc from our rather extensive medical kit, which were being used the next day on a tiny lad who had been badly burnt. For us the days were not so eventful, swimming in the lake, using their gym and sitting reading (whilst not getting burnt, a serious achievement for me!). The campsite was very quiet so by day 3 a move was on the cards! 

Fat Monkeys, a stunning campsite right on the lake in Cape Maclear, for once gave campers the best view. We were right on the lake next to deck chairs and sun loungers! Well had arrived just in time to watch the end of the England v Australia match, followed by a store box dinner which happens when we haven't found or bothered to find any food (the local 'shop' sold mainly cleaning products), and we haven't much cash.. Again the cash points were all out in the local town! These dinners are often amusing, this one consisted of peanut butter rice (healthy), corn on the cob and a fried egg.. Pretty much all the main food groups, as well as a burnt arm! Charles and I got our wires/communication mixed when he was pouring the boiling water into the pan I was holding and it went over my arm! I was unimpressed but rather happy I had finally got to use my 'burn kit' I had lovingly put together back in October... Silver linings! The kit worked well and it now just looks like my arm has been sunburnt, so no change there! Whilst in Cape Maclear we wanted to test our our new diving skills and try and book a couple of dives so on the Sunday we headed down the beach, accosted every 20m by artists, and arrived at Cape Maclear Scuba which was shut (we didn't quite register it was Sunday), however a local guided us to HEEED Malawi, run from Cape Maclear Eco Lodge which was open (, we chatted to David the instructor who said he would take us out the next day for two dives (at a better price than Cape Malcear Scuba). Going out with him the next day, the water was calm and we headed first to Catfish Cove on the north side of the island. Sadly we didn't see any of the catfish but we did see hundreds of cichlids all different colours and shapes. In between the dives we got off the boat at Thumbi Island and had coffee whilst we warmed up before heading down again. The second dive we in a spot by some rocks called the aquarium.. We saw hundreds of cichlids the first time and many more the second dive, yellows, oranges, blues.. Loads of colours along with some crabs and other fish (I have no idea what they were called!). My buoyancy issue was only a slight problem this time, maybe I am getting better..!!

Leaving there on a bit of a high we stopped of for lunch at the Funky Cichlid (a rather trendy camp site), and walked back to Fat Monkeys to find we had new camp mates. They were a British and South African couple now running a private lodge in the Lower Zambezi region of Zambia. It was great to chat to them, and the night quickly went past in a haze of beer and jeiger! 

(Giant kingfisher living around the campsite)

(Sunset at Cape Maclear)

(Walking down the beach with the camera and children desperate for you to take their photo)

Due to the lack of money and now food we really had to move on, driving to Zomba all was well until the dreaded white smoke poured out the exhaust, which was at an acceptable level until the next police check where it was so bad we had to stop. The police were great, providing us with assistance and water, informing us we wouldn't be stopped again. Luckily I had a number of a mechanic which we headed to quickly, trying not to kill anyone along the way! The mechanic, Alan, and Charles promptly decided what was wrong and in half an hour the turbo was out. Over the next two days many things were tried to sort it out, including welding the manifold bolts off and re-sealing the turbo (true African style), until it was decided it wouldn't work - it was worth a try I suppose! Within this time I had been trying to find a new one, even involving Andi who was trying to pick one up in Zimbabwe. Alan called a few mates and by the next day a new one had arrived! Initially he wanted 400000 kwatcha (£400) but we managed to barter him down to 360000 kwatcha.. Once a deal was struck we headed to a bank to use 3 cards to withdraw on each 3 times (total of 9 transactions at 40000kwatcha as this is the maximum), with our fingers crossed our cards wouldn't be frozen for fraudulent activity or that the bank would run out of money! 

(360000 kwatcha - only £350!)

Car happy and our fingers firmly crossed, we trundled up Zomba mountain, windows closed and jackets on due to the decreasing temperature. On the way up there were loads of fruit stalls, strawberries, raspberries, passion fruit and goose berries. It was the first time we had seen berries since leaving the UK so we did buy a few and they tasted amazing! Up the mountain we kept going till we got to Ku Chuwe Trout Farm which I don't think had seen any trout for a long time. The place was very run down, but only 1000 kwatcha so would do for the night! As we walked further up the mountain to keep ourselves warm, the amount of illegal logging was saddening, a beautiful place full of pine trees accompanied by the sounds of a chain saw. We also walked past the Sunbird Hotel, a Malawian chain hotel with rooms costing upwards of £150 per night. It was a real comparison to the surrounding area; children in rags with no shoes, men desperate for you to look at their stalls and families huddling around fires to keep warm. We didn't go in, I am sure we would have looked out of place, even before being shocked at the drinks prices.. As we were walking down it began to rain and it didn't stop, the clouds moved in around us giving the trout farm an eary feel. We still managed to braai but were huddled up in the tent early looking forward to getting back to Cape Maclear and the sun! 

Back in Cape Maclear the sun was shining, and as we got back Kate and Phil, the Ldoge owners we had met previously invited us over for a poetji which was fantastic, a long drive and then to have a surprise meal was luxury! A few beers/wine and the rugby made for a good night, we also met a biker, Zoe, who also had some interesting tales. As I often say, whilst Charles and I get along very well there is only so much to talk about when you are doing the same thing every day so it was nice to spend a night with other people! 

(Evening dinner with the sun set!)

After a few days back at Fat Monkeys we moved further down the bay to Funky Cichlid, where we had eaten previously! The camp site itself was basic but the view from the bar definitely made up for it! It was a younger crowd of guests so we managed to spend more nights chatting to others before climbing into bed! On Saturday we had a message from Andi (Wheelie Adventurous - find on Facebook) that he was headed towards Cape Maclear and our camp site. The night started off well and ended up in many beers and jeiger! It was great to catch up with him, stories, banter and insults were trade, along with a lot of laughing and some dancing on the tables! 

We had booked to go kayaking and snorkelling on Saturday, so once Andi dragged his hungover back side out of bed we wondered back to HEEED to sort out the hiring. We went back to aquarium within the lake and saw so many fish - the visibility was amazing and the fish not at all timid! Moving onto Thumbi island we snorkolled again seeing shoals of bigger fish! It got cold and as the sun began to got back, warmed up and got back on the beers! It was great spending time with Andi and Inge, before he heads back up the East coast. Hopefully our paths will cross again! 

We have loved Malawi.. The people are so friendly, helpful and always interested. The north was full of unspoilt views, adventure and activity, there aren't many tourists up there so there is less hassle and more opportunity to interact on a personal level with locals. The south was full of tourists and travellers. It gave us a chance to chat and meet others, however the negatives with being some where popular were always present. I would recommend this place to everyone, there is so much to do and see.. Even if you just came here for the lake it would be a trip well spent!

(Last sunset from Lake Malawi!)

The plan from now is to drive back to Lilongwe to stock up before the long track through Zambia and Botswana to Pretoria to change the roof tent cover. We have decided to give Mozambique a miss from this end as having spoken to lots of people, and had messages from the Drivemoz face book site, the road we want to take relies on convoys and lots of police force. I don't want to have to deal with that!

#africa #overlanding #travelling #thisisafrica #malawi #scuba #capemaclear #wheelieadventurous #funkycichlid