Malawi, the warm heart of Africa

We entered Malawi on 2nd April 2014 after an easy time at the border. Malawi here we come – goodbye Zambia!! Did not do too much shopping before we left Zambia, it was really expensive there. We were continually bombarded by touts but found bank more reliable to change our Zambian Kwatchas to Malawian Kwatchas. Border post is quite rundown but not a problem.  It took awhile but we got through with no hassles.
On our way to Lilongwe we found the countryside very  pretty and the little villages similar but different to Zambia. Houses are built with mud bricks and square or rectangular in shape with rather untidy thatch roofs (bit like Ians hair). Lilongwe quite a big town with lots of traffic,  difficult to get round circles,  just got to push your way through and be PATIENT!!
Found Shoprite,  prices sooo much better than Zambia.  But no ICE! We never found ice for sale anywhere in Malawi.  We have been thoroughly spoiled all the way, been able to buy ice everywhere. Now we’re making our own. Takes a long time but at least we know it’s clean!
Had to get Malawian sim cards and changed more money. Stayed the night at Mabuyo Lodge right in Lilongwe, a backpackers place. Quite okay and we had electricity.  Might as well enjoy it while we can.  Even bought a kettle to boil water instead of using gas. The camp was also close to the old city centre and not far to drive – in fact we could have walked. The next day was spent exploring Lilongwe town. We found David Whitehead’s factory (fabric manufacturer). Quite an experience getting there.  Streets narrow, hordes of people, product on side of the road, vendors selling anything and everything you can think of. I was escorted by two locals who very kindly showed me the way.  Ian stayed in Tortoise, bit anxious to leave our home unattended.  We are South Africans – you know!!! Was a bit disappointed with cloth. Not much to choose from.  Anyway bought 3 pieces!!
Had lunch at Papaya – a Mexican  type restaurant and bought a  beautiful wooden bicycle for Sven and Anka.


Wooden toys

The curio tourist market was amazing.  The people really are creative and talented.  Stunning stuff. Interacted with all and had a really good time.  Learnt their special handshake,  connected with some Rastas too. People are sooo special.  Love connecting, love people. We had a simple salad supper back at camp.
The next day we set off to Lake Malawi, Cape Maclear and Monkey Bay. Road was good and scenery beautiful.  Amazing to see ploughed and organised farmlands and the hills are terraced.  The rocky, volcanic outcrops are picturesque and little villages lovely, green and treed. Up and down hills, sometimes quite steep, curving roads with hairpin bends. OMG and then Lake Malawi.  Think we landed in Paradise!! Stunningly beautiful,  the lake with volcanic islands.


The sun was setting when we arrived,  lighting the clouds, water and many little boats.
We stayed at Fat Monkeys Campsite.  Great, right on the beach. Wonderful to feel sand instead of dirt between your toes.  Parked right on the shore.  Before anything else,  a glass of wine for me, beer for Ian.


Fishing boat named Anka.........

We just sat in awe of the vista before us. 
For supper, jaffles, coffee and rusks. Oh what a life!! Then bed to the sound of water lapping on the shore to lull us off to sleep. Heaven!
Woke up to a beautiful sunrise.  Never seen Ian jumping out of bed so excitedly with camera in hand.  Got some really beautiful early morning light pics.


Early morning at Cape Maclear

Well worth the early rise. Found we had parked in full sun with no shade. We moved back and shared a tree with Verena and Patrick. A young German couple, Patrick and Verbena in a huge overland truck, Hamomag,  they left Berlin, Germany in 2010 and are still cruising.


They’re probably staying at Fat Monkeys untill June,  waiting for a new battery charger being sent from Jhb. We still had a magic view of the Lake and sand between our toes. Spent time in the beach pub catching up with blogs and Facebook.  We actually enjoy the writing and sharing. Soo cool in the pub, chatting and sharing stories with other travellers while sipping G&T’s and Carlsbergs. We took a look around at the crafts in the vicinity.


Red bicycle

Spent rest of the day relaxing on beach loungers (are you envious??!!). Approached by loads of touts wanting to sell us stuff – curios,fishes, fruit and vegetables, boat trips, snorkeling, fish eagle watching and island hopping. Ian was very tempted but at $35 US each decided to wait till we got to Tanzania.  All in all a magic day. Verbena and Patrick came over after supper and spent whole night chatting. Lots of wine consumed and late to bed. Another beautiful day in paradise.
Took a walk along the beach and watched people washing themselves.


Bathing in Lake Malawi

 Amazing to see white soap suds all over black skin. Looked a bit like a tribal ceremony.  Washing clothes and pots and pans and  crockery.


Capenta drying

Capentas (tiny fish) lying out to dry. Children squealing and playing in the water.  Ladies, a bit reticent, did not like pics being taken of them.  The guys actually posed. Quite awkward taking pics.  Chatted to guys, especially older ones with greying hair. We compared hair and age. Oh the people are just the best.  Another late night with the Runtewegs youngsters. They want to get a business going on the internet and continue travelling the world.
I washed my hair in best shower ever. Ablutions are not always great – no hot water, trickling and difficult to rinse out shampoo.  So just wash hair when there is a good shower. What the hell,   Clip or tie it back. It doesn’t matter,  perfect hairstyling is definitely not on my list.  Clean body much more important!
Sooo sad, but time to move on northwards. Packed up and drove around a bit to check if we could find the two young South Africans from Pretoria who had bought a Lodge 9 months ago. Great to drive through the village of the locals.  Got to Chombe Eagle View Lodge. Had a cup of coffee and chatted to a Finnish girl who was working there, but is leaving soon.  She told us of another Finnish lady who owns a house in Cape Maclear and is in Finland at the moment. The young SA’s are renting her home while she’s away and are fixing up their Lodge which is right next door. So we found them!


Chris and Noleen in front of their renovation

We had met Chris and Noleen Labuschagne at the petrol station on our way into Cape Maclear.  Their lodge is Thumbi View Lodge. So great to see them again. It was really getting too late to leave, so we decided to stay. Had our arms twisted and rented a little chalet – BED. Yippee!! With mozzie net. How great to sleep in a bed again.
Had a communal dinner in their dining room with the other guests. Ian got his fish and they specially made me a great curry stew. So nice, we all ate together and chatted and drank G & T’s and Ian had Malawian Rum and Coke. Bit sweet and tasted like sensen sweets from our youth. We met a Belgian, Jasper, an Australian, and a French and Italian couple who we had met at the Chipata borderpost.  Again, such a small world.  Some British folk of Indian descent arrived and chatting continued till late.
Now we have to move on!!!! Belgian dude came up to us and asked “are we from Gordons Bay?”. He had stayed a whole week with Marijke (my wonderful friend and hairdresser, the one who created my pink streak!) Now is that not a small wonderful world!! Many pics were taken to share. Lots of goodbyes and hugs and we were off.

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Author: Ian & Solveig's Overland Adventures

Although we never achieved our original goal of reaching Norway overland through Africa, our experience was so unexpectedly rewarding that we've not been able to settled down again! So we added new destinations to our lust for adventure. We hope that you will join us in sharing new exciting places and encounters with the amazing people we meet along the way.

6 thoughts on “Malawi, the warm heart of Africa”

  1. Damn but you guys are giving me itchy feet! We divided between visiting Iceland and camping in Croatia later this year. Got to see the aurora borealis sometime!

  2. I’m so happy for you that you are hvaing such a good time…. I wish I can do the same thing one day…

  3. Great to follow your blog. I took the lazy way back to UK last night on the BA A380. 11 hours from Joburg but no fun in that at all, other than fast and comfortable. Staying with John who was with me when we met at the craft fair. He’s going to be in Nanyuki mid May, are you heading that way? Safe travelling and lenjoying reading the blog.

  4. Great to hear that you enjoyed Malawi.
    Last year I took Liv to Malawi on one of my work visits, and we took a high-speed RIB boat from Nkahtabay to Likoma Island. Quite a trip! 2 1/2 hours one way with 160 HP on the back of the boat!
    Safe journeys as you head North! Michael and Liv

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