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22 August 2009
 
Did you know – Malawi is about 900 km long and 150 km wide at its widest part.  It has no ocean coastline, but Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and covers almost 1/5 of Malawi.  Lake Malawi has more species of fish than any other inland body of water in the world, with a total over 500.

We only realised after we entered Malawi how small this place actually is (we normally only start reading about our next country a day or so before we enter it).  You can almost drive from north to south in one day. It will be a long day on the road, but definitely possible.  We spent our first night at a little place on the lake called Chitimba, run by a Dutch couple.  We didn’t stay here long, only 2 nights, because Europeans normally charge European prices.  This is also where we met 2 guys from SA, canoeing their way around all the big lakes in Africa and eventually canoeing around Zanzibar – now that’s a challenge.

We left Chitimba to go to Livingstonia  - only a short drive, but very steep and windy road up the mountain. Livingstonia is an old colonial town and a church mission, which was moved from the lower areas of Cape Maclear to its current position on the eastern escarpment in 1894.  It’s supposed to have a colonial feel to it, but to be honest it felt pretty ordinary to me.  The view of lake Malawi is very nice from up there, but that’s about it.

We carried on along the back dusty roads through the villages to get to the next town.  This is where a bit of dramas started for us. The road was fine, a bit dusty in places, but overall not bad, until we turned one corner and we heard this nice loud bang!!  We carried on driving a bit and eventually stopped to see what it was.  It turned out to be a smashed window.  Some little f#*ker threw a stone at the car and smashed one of our rear windows.  Luckily we have tinting on the windows, which kept it together,but it was completely shattered.  A tricky roadside repair to carry out, that’s for sure.  After about half an hour and some careful taping of the shattered window, we were on our way again. 

This ruined our day a bit and also our plans for the next few days.  We really wanted to go to Nyika National park, but we weren’t really prepared to take the chance with the window.  It ‘performed’ ok on the tarmac roads, but corrugation would definitely shake it around a bit.  So we made the decision to bypass the park and head south.  We found a Toyota dealer in Mzuzu, one of the bigger regional towns.  It was late Saturday afternoon, and the place was closed.  As luck would have it, one of the managers was there, catching up on some paperwork. Very helpful guy – he phoned his parts guy to come and check if they had one lying around.  No such luck this time unfortunately.  He also checked the stock in Blantyre and Lilongwe for us, but nothing there either.  The last time they had one of these windows in stock was 3 years ago.  We left it at that and decided to enjoy our time in Malawi. We headed to the lake again to drown our sorrows a bit.  We found a little place on the lake, not really a camping place, but more backpackers. We ended up staying in the car park, but had one of the best meals we’ve had in Africa.  Nice chicken curry and other yummy stuff…all at a very good price too.

And so we carried on down the lake the following day,staying at a couple of nice places like Fat Monkeys in Cape Maclear.  Not much to report really to be honest, because we actually did nothing.  Mainly relaxing and chilling out a bit wherever we went.  It seems to be the new theme of our trip, this relaxing thing.

We ended up in Blantyre after a few days and decided it was time to fix the window.  We couldn’t find any place that could supply us with the correct type of glass, so we decided in the end to use some Perspex instead.  Not a bad decision in the end. I can’t really say that the guys we found to fit the Perspex pride them on their workmanship.  It turned into quite a drama in the end.  They made a complete mess of the whole thing, getting black silicone on the interior of the car, drilling holes in the wrong place for the window latch etc, etc.  I lost it a bit and gave them a piece of my mind with a few colourful words thrown in for good measure.  Lets just say that they had a very clear understanding of the way we felt in the end. It almost turned into a handbag-throwing contest in the end.

Our Malawi experience was very quickly turning into a big disappointment for us, all because of the little shit that threw the rock at us.  In the end, we surrendered to our bad feelings towards the place, and decided to head for the border after a few more days.

Some people really enjoy Malawi, but we unfortunately didn’t.  It had a bit of an Ethiopian feel to it.  A lot of people begging, always trying to get money out of you, and we’re a bit fed up with it now.  Maybe we’ll have a better experience if we come back again one day, who knows!?