Friday, May 18, 2012

Lilongwe and Lake Malawi

After 19 months in Zambia, we headed to the border of Malawi, making a quick stop in Chipata along the way to stock up on supplies.

The highlight of my day (sadly) was this awesome fruit salad. It
really was good though!
I had expected this border to be one of our easiest, however with the car, this was not to be the case. After spending a good couple of hours trying to get Ruth “temporarily” exported from Zambia, I was starting to believe that I may never be able to leave there. It turned out that no one at customs had ever exported a car for more than three months and no one was quite sure what to do. A couple of hours later the boss gave us a post-it note with a stamp and his details allowing us to drive the car out of Zambia without completing a Temporary Export Permit. I guess whatever works!

The Malawian side was fortunately hassle free and we had no issues bringing in three full jerry cans of diesel which we had been a bit concerned about given all of the recent political issues that had been taking place in the country. So on route to the capital Lilongwe for an overnight stop where again we arrived in the dark, limiting our choice of accommodation. We ended up staying at Mabuya Lodge and Campsite, where we opted for a room with shared bathroom, but wished later we had just camped as the room was very ordinary.

In Lilongwe we found a lovely Italian restaurant, Mamma Mias” and enjoyed pizza and Carlsberg beers to celebrate our first night out of Zambia.

Pizza at Mamma Mia's
Trying out the local brew
The next day we stocked up on a few items at the supermarket and withdrew cash; the banks in Malawi have a 20,000MK limit per withdrawal, the equivalent of AUD80, which means multiple withdrawals and ATM fees, argh! From there we made a fairly early exit and headed to Senga Bay only a few hours away and on Lake Malawi.

Senga Bay
Senga Bay was a lovely village and set on an area of the lake that felt more like a beach, with waves and white sand. We stayed at a campsite called Cool Runnings which had lots of lovely green grass for camping, an area to sit and look out onto the lake and its own entrance onto the “beach”.

Relaxing by the "beach"
Our camp at Cool Runnings
Just like the beach @Senga Bay
Senga Bay "beach"
After two nights at Senga Bay and days filled with reading, relaxing, swimming and enjoying more Carlsberg beers, we decided to leave and head further south for our next destination on Lake Malawi, Cape Maclear.

Mike getting into the "Flexirent" that we had saved up for our "out of Zambia"
.....and the result.....
.....result continued!
Only a couple of hours away and like Senga Bay, really a village, Cape Maclear is at the bottom of hills which seem to separate it from the rest of civilisation and make it feel remote. Cape Maclear is also a bit different from Senga Bay with no waves and it does feel like you’re on the shore of one giant lake.

After arriving in Cape Maclear we looked at a couple of camps/ lodges, having a lovely fish lunch at one (Gecko Lounge), before settling on Chembe Eagle’sNest, located at the far east of the village.

View from lunch at Gecko Lounge
Mike enjoying a quiet beer before lunch
Fresh fish and chips for lunch

Chembe Eagle’s Nest has a lovely campsite and chalets; as we were the only ones camping there when we arrived, we got pick of the site. It is set on a private “beach” area, with a small fishing village located next door.

Chembe Eagle's Nest private "beach" on Lake Malawi
Fishing village in the distance
And the view from our camp that we woke up to every morning. Not too shabby!
Our stay at Chembe Eagle’s Nest was about more relaxation and just enjoying being near the water; in fact we enjoyed it so much we decided to stay a third night! I guess that’s the benefit of having flexible plans, unlike all of our previous trips.

One of many Monitor Lizards. Surprisingly these guys are not particularly scared,
not too mention not particularly smart!
Awesome cheese burger we had at the camp's restaurant. I promise that we
ate healthy the rest of the time!
We did do one activity, a sunset cruise on the lodge’s catamaran boat. It was lovely to be one of only a few other boats on the water, the rest being mostly small fishing boats. At one point our driver, Jeff, stopped to feed the Fish Eagles, who seemed to know they were about to be fed (I think they may get fed by Jeff a lot!). And Mike was super happy to have a go at steering the boat, although Jeff did look a bit concerned at times, particularly when the wind picked up J
We were less keen to swim in this part on the lake due to the likelihood of Bilharzia being present in the water. We did get in, however it wasn’t as enjoyable knowing there is a good chance there are parasites entering our bodies as we swim. Need to get onto those killing drugs ASAP!

On the water
Mike in control of the boat and Jeff looking somewhat worried
View of the coast
After five nights on the lake and feeling somewhat recharged we felt ready to now tackle Mount Malanje!

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