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Dramatic landscape
Day 12
After an awesome experience at the Ngala Beach Lodge we departed for the next stretch of our journey. Due to some rookie errors we managed to lose track of each other due to some 8 foot swells. Day 12 and we have already lost half our team, Matt, Caiden and myself paddled to a point and waited for Sam and Guy for about 4 hours, after a long walk up and down the beach we decided to carry on thinking that they were ahead of us, we landed up camping apart for the first and hopefully the final time. We were stuck with the sleeping bags and Sam and Guy with the mattresses, was not our best decision to put all the phones in one boat. Caiden had a humbling experience when he went to the local village to get us some dinner; the chief (an old lady) was very happy with what we were doing and through translation she said that she new God would bless us and may the wind be at our backs. Once again the friendly Malawians have been there for us. When we pulled into the beach we were greeted by a local by the name of Victor, we were astounded by the knowledge he had of South Africa, he even knew where Wartburg was and half of South Africa doesn’t even know where it is. With the help of the locals we collected some fire wood and boiled some water for the next day. Caiden was kind enough to buy some Nali hot sauce which tickles the taste buds and makes horrible tasting food taste great. Three grown men stuffed into one cape union mart tent was not great but we had to stay out of the mozzies reach. Was very hard to sleep due to the fact we didn’t know where the other half of the team was.

Day 13 and we were up early to catch Sam and Guy. We paddled straight across the bay to Kande Beach, where the owner, Dave was kind enough to accommodate us. We couldn’t find our mssing team members or reach them by phone. (By the way, this is the first time our parents are hearing of this as we didn’t want any unnecessary alarm bells ringing back home.) Finally we received a message to stay put.  It turned out that they had been waiting close to our night stop, watching super rugby on tele! We suddenly heard a familiar voice and there, sopping wet and exhausted from a long paddle were Guy and Sam. We exchanged gratitude that everyone was safe. Apparently Guy had even shot off a flare to attract our attention.

Guy then shared his memorable night’s experience. While visiting the local chimbudze (toilet) he made one foot-fault and landed knee-deep in local digestive by-products. Not your best Robertson! We all agreed never to let each other out of sight on the water again.

Kande beach is an awesome place to stay. Thatched roofs and hammocks lined up everywhere. Gregelby Davies joined us and once again we landed up having a festive evening with a group of over-landers. 
Days 14 - 16

Day 14 was a day of relaxation and a short 8km paddle to the next lodge. Richard and Lauren Slater were kind enough to give us a bed and a meal. Good old South African steak and braai broodjies! It feels as though we are slowing down but I know that it is going to be totally different on the east side of the lake and we need to stock up on protein while we can.

Once again it was great to sleep in a comfy bed. 17 kms later we have pitched tent on a secluded beach in the middle of nowhere. Spaghetti with tomatoes and onions and a bit of the local chilli was probably our best meal outside of a lodge.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our sponsors and donors. Without you this trip would not be possible. We have lived in our reef ski pants and rash vests every paddling day and none of us has had the slightest hint of a rash. Island tribe sunscreen has prevented sunburn and Ark dry-bags have kept our precious supplies safe!

We woke up as the sun was peeping over the horizon and hit the water for the final day of stage one. The scenery has changed incredibly over the last two days. It has become mountainous and the water has become crystal-clear. As we came around the corner into Nkhata bay, the water changed to a deep blue. It’s amazing how it can change over such a short period.

Personally, I’ve found that my right shoulder gives me some problems towards the end of the day’s paddle but it is so worth it when you get out of the water. We are staying in Aqua Africa and it has a serious Mediterranean vibe to it. We all agree that it feels like we are in Greece.

This is the end of the road for Sam. It has been a pleasure paddling with her and she has really helped us out along the way. We wish her safe traveling mercies back to Senga bay and we will definitely join her for a cold one in about 2 months time.

Marc Hampson

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The end of stage 1 and we say goodbye to Sam
 
 
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A calm days paddling
Days 6 & 7

A celebration was intended last night due to the crossing of the first 100kms, but we found ourselves falling asleep at the dinner table, like the majority of the nights on our adventure so far. Our days usually start around 5:45am, when the sun peeps over mountains on the Eastern boarders of the lake; the first rays immediately turning our Cape Union Mart tents into a baking oven. The end of the day, 4pm, is usually signaled by the odd grunt of discomfort on the lower back from one of the team members and so we find ourselves drifting to the closest beach, which hopefully isn’t inhabited by hippos, snakes, crocodiles, ants or dragons. Personally, I would far prefer anything to ANTS.

I would like to take you back to day 3, where Matt wrote on the previous blog about a few of the problems we have encountered so far on this magnificent trip. He mentioned a situation with a nest of ants eating through our tent floor. I think I should touch up on that story as he was not present during the attack and doesn’t give the encounter enough justice. As a key witness to the brutality that took place, I swear these attackers were the size of small baby rabbits and had teeth like some insect out of Jurassic Park. Marc and I may have discovered a new type of ant, I’m sure David Attenborough would be proud.

I’m digressing…

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Maintaining the kayaks
Day 6 was a surprise for us. I was expecting a sleep-in, but due to the past few days’ sleeping habits, we were all up at sparrows. A day of relaxation and repairs to the crafts followed.

The ‘Mwera’ wind is not uncommon- every Malawian will know about this. It starts to pick up around the end of April and steadily grows stronger and more frequent as winter gets closer. My knowledge on this is limited, but what I do know, I have gathered from the local people. Luckily for us “Miss Mwera”, tends to be a Southerly wind, which means it’s blowing from behind us. Ultimately wind is not a paddler’s best dream, but we are glad to be with it rather than against it. This situation I gather, is different on the East side of the lake.


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Calm waters
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Local fishermen
Day 7 seems to be dominated by the wind. It has picked up really early and doesn’t seem to be leaving. A decision is made to leave a little late- around 2pm.  Another tough paddle, but through great team spirit and a lot of banter we’ve made it around the corner, clocking up 17km, which wasn’t so bad considering the 6 foot swell from all directions. It’s a Saturday evening. Marc and I are doing some reconnaissance and find a TV with Satellite. A quick agreement with the locals and we’re sitting with a “Green top” beer watching the Bulls give the Lions a ‘clap’ in the Super 15 rugby. (I keep wondering if this normally goes on during expeditions  - does Riaan Manser do this?)


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Dinner
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The local pub and grub
Days 8 to 11

Energy build-up may not be noticeable when you are at home doing the normal routines of playing X-box and the odd run, but I can now say that carbo-loading and a high protein intake is essential to take on the water. Well- nourished after our past few days at Pottery Lodge, today was a momentous occasion for us. We clocked up some serious mileage;a whole 35km. A few grumbles and groans about the lower back pain brought us into a small beach lying at the foot of a beautiful cliff-face. On our arrival we are greeted by a Fish eagle, perched up on his stilt, as well as a few of the local people. Once again, ‘Malawi’ smiles on us. We met a kind local man by the name of Andrew who took the trouble to run to the market, a good 3km away, to buy us bread. He also instructed some of the youngsters to assist Caiden  with the fire starting.  Caiden is such an asset to the team with his Bear Grylls knife on hand and he had a fire going in 5 minutes.


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Yet again we surprised ourselves the following day when we completed a fine session on the water. The wind was at our backs the whole day and we ended our morning activity at the Stewart’s cottage just past Dwangwa.  We had knocked up a cracker 3 days since Pottery Lodge and had put 85km on the board. A well-deserved break was needed.  Matt had organized the cottage through a bloke he had met in Harare and through the word of mouth, we were very fortunate to stay at this great little place. Now I thought South Africans where good hosts but the kindness and compassion we received from Nicky and Andy Stewart was mind- blowing. We were a bit taken aback at how a family we had never met was so willing to bend over backwards for our cause. This hasn’t been the first time a Malawian family has shown such generosity; the Wynn-Jones’s from Senga bay have also leapt on this band-wagon. 

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A hospitable local chief
An awesome day and a half was spent at the Stewarts’. Matt and I decided to take a quick trip into town to replenish the food stocks. According to John (the Stewarts house keeper) this would take 15 minutes, while Sam, Marc and Caiden  guarded the fortress. We have learnt  you can never trust a Malawian (especially a fisherman on a dug-out,) with his perception on distances. Whatever he tells you, multiply that by three and you know you're not even half way. Matt and I spent 4 hours on the “dumpa” bicycles that we had borrowed from John, before we returned home. This is a “no-speed” bicycle, that only Olympians could manage or the common Malawi taxi guy who uses these “wonderful” contraptions as a transport service. They are made of pure lead and have no shocks. This is not how a “luxury” tourist would like to see the country-side, but luckily we are not here to be pampered, although the Stewarts certainly gave us a taste of that.

The next morning we spent the day on the golf course, with Sam in tow and in the afternoon we were given a tour around the Illovo sugar mill. Back at the cottage, in the evening we enjoyed a few beers and a braai with new friends, once again organized by Nicky and Andy. 


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Lang's first monster
Day 11 didn’t have much in store for us. The water was flat and we needed to get back on the trek. Not far from us was the Ngala Lodge. Once again, a Malawian by the name of Greg Davies had us fooled on the distance issue- luckily for his sake it wasn’t so drastic. He met us that night for a toot at Ngala, which is a beautiful spot tucked into a reed-bed, with a view from heaven.

Guy Robertson


 
 
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We are currently 57km’s into our journey, just north of the fishing town Kombedza. Upon our arrival on the beach, we were immediately welcomed by the village chief who said that we could stay the night for free. I now know why they call this beautiful country ‘The warm heart of Africa’ and the hospitality of the people thus far has definitely laid testament to it. The people may be quite overwhelming at times but it is purely out of fascination and not hostile in the slightest. I am sure that a lot of them have not seen an ‘Azungu’ before. 


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Our drive up to Senga Bay went very well. We were a little worried with border crossings especially the notorious Beit Bridge border between South Africa and Zimbabwe. We however were very blessed with travelling mercies and had no problems whatsoever with crossings. We had a few speeding fines in Zim and Malawi but one should always expect a few minor set-backs when travelling through Africa. One such setback was when we were roped into the Harare night-life where we had a couple cold ones at the local watering hole Tin Roof. We left a bit later than expected the next day so were caught in Tete, Mozambique late into the night which isn’t the most kosher of spots.  Lucky our spirits were still high from the drive through the Tete corridor which is the road from the Mutare border post through to Tete. Vast expanses of natural bush are littered with massive granite domes which were ignited by the ethereal light of the setting sun: the quintessential African Sunset. 


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We have a good friend of ours, Samantha Luddick, joining us for the stretch from Senga Bay to Nkhata Bay. She runs backpackers in Senga Bay called Cool Runnings. She has been such fun to have on board and has helped us so much with local relations.


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Our departure from Senga bay was special as some of the kids we will be raising funds for came down to the lakeside to see us off. We have decided to donate the excess of our fundraising efforts for hope for the Future foundation to 'All Angels School' in Senga Bay in order to build some interest among the Malawian people.


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Things havn't run as smoothly as we had hoped since we have been on the lake. Day three saw the arrival of a colony of ants which ate their way through the bottom of our tent and then through Marc’s blow up mattress. Not ideal! The double ‘Yak’ has been taking in quite a bit of water, we suspect through the rudder shaft which is not actually sealed onto the boat. We were assured that this wouldn’t be a problem but we think it might. Other than that the muscles are all very tired as can be expected and we are quite drained due to the hot weather. 


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The food we have been eating isn’t exactly your gourmet fare. Today we ventured into the nearby village where we got stuck into a traditional chow of ncsima (mielie pap) and usipa (local fish) and Sam being the vegetarian ate pumpkin leaves and tomatoes with her ncsima. Other than our one venture into a local restaurant, we have been eating mainly rice with stock cubes for flavouring.


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Day 5

Today marked the crossing of the 100km mark. I think a celebration may be in order as a small milestone of the trip was achieved.

Last night the weather picked up out of nowhere and we were left running around in the dark packing things into the boats and putting up tents. At one point I thought my tent was going to blow away when it started hugging the ground, almost as flat as a pancake. Then the rain started coming down in buckets. We had really been blessed with ‘perfect weather up until then but I think the lake was giving us a taste of what we should expect as winter is around the corner. 


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We woke up this morning and the winds hadn’t died down, however the rain had stopped. The water was very choppy and ‘white horses’ could be seen in the distance. Sam and Marc came across some guys doing repairs on their dugout canoe just down the beach who said that the wind would die down between 3pm and 4pm. It is amazing how helpful the local people have been to us. Often we have asked directions to the local market and they have guided us to and from it without expecting anything in return.  


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By lunchtime the wind hadn’t really died down so we decided to brave the rough waters knowing that a decent nights’ accommodation was about 15kms away. The paddle was tough and marc currently holds the record for falling out the most. After 3 hours of rough water with swells coming at you from all directions we landed at our destination, Nkhotakota pottery lodge. A nice warm shower and a good meal are in need after 5 days of ‘rustic’ camping.

-Matt Hampson


 
 
After 4 days of traveling through Zimbabwe andMozambique the team arrived at Senga Bay to a warm, Malawian welcome.
They set off at 12 on Easter Sunday in perfect conditions.
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Maritzburg College old boys, Mark, Caiden, Guy and Matt on departure day.
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The team with Sam from Cool Runnings backpackers
 
 
The team left Pietermaritzburg at 5 a.m yesterday (3rd April) and head for the Zimbabwe border post.