There are few greater feelings than the feeling of accomplishment that comes from finishing what you started. Paddling into Senga bay was one of the best moments of my life. But I am getting a bit ahead of myself…
Spending a week with the families was incredible. I think we each put on a couple of much needed kg’s during that time. It was wonderful for us to share the adventure with the people who have supported us the most. In the back of our minds though, we knew that we still had 120km to paddle to the finish line.
We left Cape Mclear at 6 in the morning and paddled 49km into what was mainly a headwind. It had been a long standing joke amongst us that the wind actually changes direction to blow into our faces. This day however was no joke and confirmed to us that we actually can change the direction of the wind just by steering our boats as the wind makes absolutely sure that we know it’s there by blowing right into us. Ok not really although it is irritating how often that actually happened on this trip. The next day we paddled to the Malerie Islands and spent the night there. That evening, the four of us sat on the rocks and watched the sunset knowing that it would be our last night together on the lake. It finally dawned on me that our adventure was coming to an end and although I was excited, the feeling was dulled by the knowledge that I had to get back to “normal life”. I put that in inverted commas because for us normal life had become waking up, paddling, having lunch, paddling, having dinner and then bed. It sounds mundane but understand that this all happened within the backdrop of sunsets, sunrises, mountains and valleys. So sitting there on that rock watching our last sunset will be a moment I will never forget.
Our last day of paddling was relatively easy and by late morning the finish line was in sight. We stopped paddling a couple km’s off shore to prolong the experience. When we reached the shore our families were there to greet us and congratulate us. Our remaining flare was shot, the champagne was popped and the celebrations began.
There are so many people who made this trip possible and who helped us along the way. To all of you I would like to express my thanks. To those who sponsored us and made the trip a possibility, you have helped create memories and to those kind hearted people who were there along the way, many of which happened to be there when the going got tough, we thank you for being the shove on the back that we needed to get unstuck.
Matt, Guy and Marc you guys were amazing. We made an excellent team. Before the trip we said that the only way to eat an elephant was one bite at a time and that’s exactly what we did. We faced up to the problems as they presented themselves and revelled in the good times all the while making each other laugh. Thanks for getting me safely around the lake and I look forward to many years of reliving stories over a ‘traditional cup of Game’.
Finally I would like to say that although this trip has been a personal accomplishment for each of us, the reason behind it all has never left our thoughts- This being the ‘Hope for the Future’ foundation and the ‘All Angels School’. Our hope is that our efforts will be rewarded and that we raise the money that we are hoping to. We were fortunate enough to spend time at both of our charities and the need of these children is a real one and one that we are lucky enough to be in a position to provide for. Donations can be made at www.malawiexpedition.weebly.com
Thanks for reading. Keep it real.
I want to begin by saying what a privilege it has been doing this trip and I can’t thank our supporters enough. Without you guys this trip would not be possible.
The trip from Likoma Island came with exciting times and it was probably the wildest section of all. One day we were paddling quite close to the reeds and not 20 metres behind us a hippo decided to pop his head out of the water and snorted which gave us the fright of a lifetime. I have never seen Matt paddle so hard in his life. That was the beginning of the hippo and croc fiasco. At times it has been very nerve racking paddling when you know that hippo can pop out at any moment. But when they do surface it is amazing seeing these beautiful animals in their natural environment.
The Mozambique coastline was epic, from mountains falling into the lake to plateaus stretching as far as the eye can see. The people in general are very nice, they are interested but not overbearing (as we have found the Malawi locals to be), except the government officials! They were absolutely terrible and they left a sour taste in our mouths. We found they would try everything to fatten their pockets and they were persistent. One day in Meponde they actually searched our boats. They made us take everything out which I think was a little over the top but anyway we got away without paying a cent. The malaria has been rife down the east coast - both Guy and I got sick but luckily a course of Coartem did the trick.
Have you ever seen a bush-pig swimming about 200 metres out from the coastline? We have! We actually had the privilege of herding the poor animal back to shore. A lot of thoughts were thrown out there about eating bush-pig meat but the mere size of the animal would have sunk our boats and the war- wounds would not be worth it. There is really no joke when it comes to the wind on Lake Malawi. For about 3 days we were pumped in the face by the Mwera winds which made paddling such a mission. Thus the idea for a moonlight paddle was brought to the table. For two days in a row we woke up at 2 in the morning and paddled through until the winds picked up again. It is quite satisfying paddling 20km before the sun has even risen.
We came across 2 South Africans on the lake shore who decided to drop everything back home and build a hunting Lodge (Lake Niassa Lodge) Guy was in his element chatting about the bush and all his hunting experiences. We are currently 64 days into our trip and we have seen both the top and bottom of the lake. The bottom part of the lake was the perfect occasion for the “naked paddle” which gave us a few weird looks from the local fishermen.
Guy lost a bet and had to shave his head which lead to the rest of the team doing the same thing, so we all have no hair and long beards which is going to put a dampener on the female following - but its chilled.
Our parents are going to join us in the next couple of days which is very exciting. Yeah so it’s the last leg of an amazing trip and we are quite sad that it is coming to an end.
Our kayak was stacked onto a, now fully loaded, coal truck en route to the lake .With heads held high and spirits rejuvenated the team was ready to attack the next leg of our journey to Likoma Island.
Once in the water the double kayak seemed to be running smoothly again. The previous events on Day 40 (where we had a few issues), are not a good representation of the actual performances of our boats. They have been put to the test numerous times along the way; covering over 1000 km’s through some heavy waters, not to mention the 4 day trek to Malawi on top of the Land Rover. There are no other boats we would rather paddle in. The singles have been outstanding and are easy to handle and maneuver whilst the double isn’t as sharp on the turning but is stable and quick. All in all, the Paddleyak crafts are the way forward.
Day 45 was a rather ominous day. With the clouds brewing above us we couldn’t tell if it was going to rain or snow or both. We set off with the intention of reaching Mbamba Bay which was 35km from where we had camped. We reached a point ten km’s into our paddle when Mother Nature, with her boundless sense of obscure humour, made it abundantly clear that we were not going to be travelling on her lake for much longer that day. A brutal wind pushed a rather large swarm of lake flies into our path. If you don’t know what those are, they are a tiny insects, smaller than mosquitoes, that fly in the millions like small clouds just above the surface of the water and they easily find their way into your nose, mouth and ears. As if this wasn’t bad enough the heavens opened up and rain drops pelted into our faces making it difficult to see. After about half an hour the rain subsided and we gathered on the water to laugh at how ridiculous the past 30 minutes had been. We decided to call it a day as the “Mpepo”(wind) was just too strong to fight against. A wise move! A short while after beaching we looked up and not 500m away a water spout had formed quietly, it stretched up like a snake reaching for the dark sky.
Once clearing the immigration office in Mbamba Bay we were driven by the idea of getting to Likoma Island, this would also signify the end of stage 3. Using broken Swahili and many hand gestures we found out from the local fisherman that the new moon was due during our travels to Likoma, this was a good sign as it calms the waters for a few days. We took full advantage of our new discovery and managed to clock up 141 km in 3 days, crossing into Mozambique waters and finally to Likoma Island (which is part of Malawi.) I may have made it seem easy, but we had to complete a 25km crossing to get to the Islands. This is normally a 3 and a half hour paddle but roughly 1/5 of the way a head wind came from the South East, extending our crossing time to 5 hours. Taking a break for a bite to eat was simply not an option as you would lose hard earned yardage. It was an almighty battle and one we wouldn’t like to do again.
An awesome 3 days was spent with some great people and hospitality at Mango Drift which is situated on the West side of Likoma. The island is small with few developments. A beautiful cathedral lies on a hill overlooking the central town which is worthwhile having a look at especially as it has an interesting history behind it.
Build-up to water spout
Fixing the craft - hopefully for the last time
Day 40 has definitely been our worst day yet. We woke up to gale force winds which, on this side of the lake, is a head wind and thus smashes you straight in the face and is extremely difficult to paddle in. We decided to push through it nonetheless just to get moving and managed to survive quite a scary launch through some big surf.
What happened in the next 5 hours could so easily have put an end to our expedition. In short, the double kayak became so waterlogged that it was impossible to keep upright for more than 10 seconds and to make matters worse we were about 4km from shore. Luckily a fisherman in a dugout canoe came to the rescue. I was ordered to hop in with him along with some luggage. The rest of the team had to go straight to shore as the double was literally about to sink. The dugout was heading straight across the bay in the opposite direction. I soon realized, after much debate in broken Swahili, that the dugout would have sunk if he had gone straight to shore because of the big surf. Needless to say my new found paddling friend and I made it to shore in one piece but I was still not sure about the rest of the team.
I later learned that the 2 singles landed in usual fashion but Caiden, along with the double, rolled into shore which we learned is actually croc infested. After emptying the double's luggage into the singles, Caiden paddled the double across the bay, alone. I don’t know how he managed through that wind and swell but he did. Marc and Guy could not launch at this point as their boats were too heavy to get through the large surf. So now, Caiden and I were stuck without the rest of the team and we actually were not aware that they couldn’t get out at that point.
We landed up meeting a fellow South African named Theo who works on the coal-mines in the area, and he helped us out. It was probably a 10km walk along the beach before we found Marc and Guy. We were finally back together. It was a very long day and we were so thankful that everyone was safe.
Now onto the good side of things. The stretch from Matema to a little town called Manda is home to some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen in my life. There are no words to describe what we saw along that stretch. Pictures may do some justice but you would have to see it first hand to have any idea. What I can say is that for that first week we completely lost track of reality. For the first time on this trip I can gladly say that for most part, we were isolated, and it has been the best part of our trip thus far.
Campsite near Manda
Secluded beach to ourselves
Before we began our expedition, people asked after the Tanzanian side. They enquired as to whether we knew anything of it; if there were shops, if there were wild animals, if there were any people. So what I thought I would do is write a little about everything on what you can expect when travelling along the first half of the shoreline of Lake Nyasa as it is called in Tanzania.
Scenery: The scenery is very similar to what Caiden described in his previous blog. The mountains are immense and they unfold higher and higher into the sky until their peaks are lost in the clouds. Dense forests cover these steep slopes, and very few are ‘tainted’ with cassava crops which show sign of human life. Around every corner waterfalls appear from unseen sources, and they make their way down through these dense forests, cascading in and out of sight before falling into the lake.
Exploring one of the many waterfalls
Guy taking in the scenery
Dinner at a fishing camp
Population: There are hardly any people along this stretch. For the first time on this trip we could arrive on a beach, whip off our kit and have a ‘rinse off’ in peace. We had plenty nights camping on beaches where we were completely secluded. I must add that most of the beaches we have found are pebbled with hardly any sand, so luckily we have decent mattresses to sleep on. There are the odd fishing camps along the way which can be expected. They, however, only contain at most 15 people but should you wish to bypass, there is sure to be a secluded beach up ahead. The people are very friendly and, unlike the Malawian people, carry on with what they are doing when we Mzungu’s arrive on the beach. There are a few bigger towns along the way where you can buy the basics but we only stopped at them to stock up on food supplies and then were out as quickly as possible.
Cleaning fish for lunch
We have come to the conclusion that spear- fishing is the way to catch fish in Lake Malawi. Although we have caught a couple of fish with rods, spear fishing has definitely supplied the majority of our meals along this stretch and we have all contributed to the table with some very tasty fish. For those of you who asked and may be interested, the fishing is very good and is worth the trip to come and ‘work the structure’ as the hardened fisherman may say. I think it was by pure fluke that I landed a 3kg Bream whilst trawling with a Rapala a couple of days ago and Guy shot a 2.5kg ‘Ngumbe’ fish whilst diving on some remote beach, so there is definitely sign of some decent size fish around. We have been living off the land as our rice stocks have been diminishing, so luckily the fishing has been good.
Guy's 2,5kg Ngumbe
Matt's 3kg Bream
The last couple of days have been very ‘testing’ for the team especially on day 40 so we are extremely grateful to Theo from ‘Tancoal’ for letting us stay at the mining camp. We are currently fixing the boat and I think we may have found the problem so we are aiming at being back on the water as soon as possible where we will carry on towards Likoma Island in Mozambique.
Matt overseeing the cooking
The last two weeks has been an experience like no other. After leaving Nkhata Bay we continued our journey northwards towards Tanzania. If you were to look on a map, you would notice that there are no roads leading down to the lake from Nkhata bay to somewhere near Chilumba-a stretch of about 120 km. The steep mountains that greeted us as we began to amble our way into stage two of our circumnavigation accounted for this. The next 6 days was spent in the midst of what is probably the most dramatic scenery I have had the pleasure of seeing. Whoever first used the epithet “crystal clear” to describe water must have spent some time in this area of Malawi. The mountains rise arrogantly from the deep blue water and you get the feeling that time has had no effect on these titans that, with austere simplicity, lay rocky fingers of protection on the life below. The isolated villages that lie within this protection dot the hillside without any uniformity and the people here are solely dependent on the land and lake with little or no outside influence or corruption depending on which way you see it.
The day of the sunrise
Lunch on the water
If you asked me what happened on Day 7 of our trip I would be hard pressed to give you details. It becomes a bit like this after a while. The memories are there but it is difficult to grasp them on request. The scenery however, is a part of the trip that has stayed with me in detail and recalling it helps render details difficult to pry out on their own. What I mean is that if someone mentions ‘that one morning with the sunrise’ I can think to my self –ah yes I had a sore back that morning and the screws on the left rudder peddle were irritating me. Sort of like when you get a stone in your shoe and you ignore it for a while and the stone feels like it grows in size to mock your stubbornness in fixing the issue. I digress. What I was talking about was the scenery. It is amazing how the surroundings can breathe life into a tired body. ‘The day with the sunrise’ was the first day when we were on the water before dawn. We had been paddling close on 10 minutes when the sun peeked with eager rays through the clouds that shrouded the escarpment on the Mozam side. A better writer would undoubtedly come up with some obscure metaphor that would liken the sunlight hitting the water to some metaphysical moment when an ageing alchemist catches his breath as he discovers the formula of transforming water in to liquid gold. I am no such writer so all I can say is that if I thought that this trip would quell some of the wanderlust that I feel then this particular sunrise has left me sorely mistaken and wanting more.
If the previous two paragraphs has left you with the impression that it has been plain sailing for us then I apologise. The crafts are still taking in quite substantial amounts of water despite all our efforts to locate the leak. Our diet for the last week has consisted mainly of rice and a spice of our choice. After the other night we are all in agreement that mixing rice and uncooked tomatoes is a terrible idea. Every now and then we manage to shoot or catch a fish which provides much needed protein albeit in meager amounts. Our fitness has increased dramatically and we are all feeling strong and the increasing number of km covered per day gives testament to that. Despite this there are plenty of niggling injuries that have started to creep in which can be expected given the nature of the trip. We are all losing weight, some more drastically than others, even though we are eating ridiculous amounts of carbs. Other than that our health is great and we are looking forward to stage three of the journey which will take us down the east coast of the lake towards Mozambique.
By the way, I am writing this post from the Hope for the Future orphanage in mBeya, Tanzania where we have spent a wonderful two nights in the enthusiastic company of Sharmala Buell and the orphan children who benefit from her care. It truly is a wonderful feeling to be in a position to help these children who are so deserving of anything that we are able to give.
I could spend hours writing about all that we have experienced however I am running out of space. Nevertheless I want to briefly tell you about two memorable moments, one highlight and one lowlight, of our trip so far. We woke up one morning on a beach in Karonga. The wind was howling and the fierce waves were dangerously close to the tents. We were informed by one of the locals that we should enter the lake with extra caution as that morning a dug-out canoe had washed up a few hundred metres from us with nets and a rod still on board but no person. This news was eerily punctuated by cries of grief from a lady who we later learned was the mother of the drowned fisherman. Adding to this terrible news we were also informed that two weeks prior to us being there, a local had been taken and eaten by a croc. The events of that morning left us a bit shaken. It was a reminder that for all of its exceptional beauty and romantic appeal there lies a darker side to mother nature that needs to be respected.
On a lighter note after a morning of heavy swells we pulled in to a beach for our midday break. The village where we stopped was no doubt one of the smallest and more remote villages we had encountered. We laid down Terry (the tarpaulin) and after five minutes of relaxing one of the villagers came over and said that the village would like to invite us to lunch. We followed him and joined the locals for a lunch of Nsima and usipa which was surprisingly delicious. These people had next to nothing yet still had so much to give. It is for this reason, and the scenery that I described earlier, that has made Malawi such a special place for us. We are sad to leave it and it is with slight trepidation with which we proceed down the east coast of the lake to the sparsely populated and somewhat mysterious coastlines of Tanzania and Mozambique.
To end off, here are a few things that I have learnt so far:
· I can paddle 45km in a day.
· Mark can sing for about 50 min without taking a break.
· It is extremely difficult to catch fish on the Malawian side with artificial lures.
· A fire cracker will still go off under the water.
· It is possible to fall out of a kayak.
· In some places in Malawi a coke costs the equivalent of R2 which is cheaper than buying a plastic packet to keep it in.
· You and your rash vest begin to smell awful after a month of not wearing deodorant.
· Having a mustache is frustrating when spear- fishing as water keeps getting in to your mask.
· Guy can actually grow a beard.
· After a month of sleeping pretty much on the ground it is difficult to adjust to a proper bed.
· There are more stars in the sky than I ever thought there were.
· Goat meat is surprisingly tasty.
· When a Malawian gives you a distance in km to the next town it is necessary to times it by two and you know that you will be about halfway.
P.S. Happy 21st birthday to a lovely young lady who, no matter how old she gets will always be my little sister.
P.P.S. Congratulations to Mark on the appearance of his first two abdominal muscles. He has informed me with great optimism that number 3 and 4 are on their way.
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.
The end of stage 1 and we say goodbye to Sam
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.
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.
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?)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Maritzburg College old boys, Mark, Caiden, Guy and Matt on departure day.
The team with Sam from Cool Runnings backpackers