Wednesday, August 12, 2009 - Nkhata Bay - added by Steve

We had planned to get to Malawi by driving over the old Dona Ana railway bridge which crosses the Zambezi River just south of Villa Nova de Fronteira. The railway has been defunct since the Mozambican civil war, and vehicles have long since been able to cross the mighty Zambezi here. Unfortunately for us, Mozambique's reconstruction is making good progress, the railway is being repaired and vehicles can no longer cross. Detouring, we crossed the Zambezi by ferry and made our way up to Malawi's eastern border at Mulange via Murrumbala , using an off-road track we found on Tracks4Africa. This turned out to be such a stroke of luck, as I would venture to say this was the most enjoyable drive we've had on the trip thus far. The track is obviously hardly ever used by vehicles, so was in fantastic condition, completely free of corrugations and potholes. The road was only just wide enough for us to drive along, bordered by Elephant grass which was often higher than our roof! Passing through tiny remote villages, Songololo caused quite a stir as she rumbled up the road, every man and his dog emerging to see what the awful racket was all about and children running away in fright as they saw our white skin! We bush camped just off the road on a high escarpment overlooking a beautiful wild landscape, smoke from cooking fires curling its way upwards as the sun sank below the horizon, and the days sounds exchanging for those of the night. It was moments like these that I dreamed about when the idea of the trip first started forming in my mind over two years ago.

This first town after the border, Mulange, is famous for the large mountain underneath which it nestles, and from which it takes its name. Mount Mulange has excellent hiking which we hoped to take advantage of, but the weather was against us, rain lashing the upper slopes daily and the summit hidden in cloud.

Sadly we gave up on our hike and decided to move on, hoping to find better weather further north; although I wouldn't allow us to move immediately, first I had to watch the Springboks take on the All Blacks in the Tri-Nations! It so happened that the country club where we were watching was also hosting a bash for local MPs who have recently been re-elected into parliament. We were hustled into a side room and asked the keep the noise down. In payment for our excellent behaviour, Rox slipped out during the proceedings and helped herself to some chicken from the buffet, which was delicious and much appreciated!

Heading north in search of sun, we made our way to Cape Maclear, on the southern shores of Lake Malawi. Widely regarded as the best place to stay on Lake Malawi, as you can expect, we were not disappointed! The clouds remained in Mulange, we camped literally 2m from the water's edge, and while we had planned on staying for a few days, a week quickly flew by and we had to tear ourselves away to continue our journey. Some family friends who live in Malawi were in Cape Maclear while we were there, and while I'd never met them before, they took us out fishing in their boat, invited us over for several meals, and looked after us like we were family!

Jim and Vicky, thank you so much for your incredible hospitality! One quirky place in Cape Maclear which we didn't expect to find was Hiccup's, an English pub in the middle of this tiny village in Malawi! The manager, a young Malawian guy called Sven, was a complete breath of fresh air... he has all the makings of an eccentric English gentleman!

Our time in Malawi was spent hopping our way up the lake shore en-route to Tanzania. Our final stop up the coast was Nkhata Bay, a village jostling with Cape Maclear for top spot in the list of best places to stay on Lake Malawi. We went on a boat trip along the shore, stopping to leap off high rocks into the water and stopping on a beautiful beach for some beach games. We spent the afternoon teaching the locals cricket, which they were sceptical about at first, but in the end were completely engrossed and fast on the way to becoming budding Don Bradmans!

While in Nkhata Bay we met a super English couple, Alex and Katie, who started in London, and are doing the classic Cairo-to-Cape Town overland route via Turkey. What made them stand out for me is they are doing it in an ancient Land Rover which they bought for only 800 quid! Needless to say they've had a few mechanical problems along the way, and at the moment they're using a couple of pints of oil a day! However that said, it goes to show that anything is possible... many people wouldn't dream of doing what they're doing, certain that such an undertaking would spell disaster, which as had been proved, is not the case!

Malawi is truly beautiful, with the lake's crystal clear water, fantastic snorkelling, an abundance of fish-eagles - their calls, for me, the quintessential African sound, and the friendliest people we've met on the trip so far. It was easy overlanding, and we wholeheartedly agree with the frequently stated Malawi is Africa for beginners.


1 .
Great to see you're having fun! Keep on trucking!
Doug - 8 Sep 2009, 10:06
2 .
Wonderful stuff and great to hear it is all so good. Keep going, if it gets any better it will be epic! X Mum
Mum - 8 Sep 2009, 12:13
3 .
Great Stuff! You guys are having such an EXPERIENCE... Am so green with envy!
Greir - 9 Sep 2009, 15:01
4 .
So glad that Jim and Vicky were so hospitable. We knew they would be, as will Shelley and Will in Tanzania. All good here in Zim. and we look forward to seeing your folks next week Steve. Rox, we look forward to hearing about Zanaibar. lots love from the Kitcats
Chrissie and Rolfe Kitcat - 12 Sep 2009, 11:35
5 .
Wow guys! How absolutely amazing! Inspirational stuff! Good luck for the rest of the way! Lots of love Em
Emma McP - 12 Sep 2009, 21:35
6 .
Hi - the trip is amazing! I am glad you two are still in awe of the sites and sounds. Each stop seems better than the last. I look forward to your next update ... do take care x Karla
Karla - 21 Sep 2009, 16:04
7 .
Oi ! I hope you're not wearing my truck out.......only jealous really. :-)
Jono - 22 Sep 2009, 10:06

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