Chipata, Vipya Moutains and Nkata Bay
With Buck’s malaria abated, the cruiser loaded and fuelled up, we headed toward Chipata – the border we would use to enter Malawi. The newly built roads took us over the beautiful, wide flowing Luangwa River, past tiny towns lit by state of-the-art solar street lights and fuel stations few and far between. Our progress was only occasionally checked by the efficiently manned police road blocks and the enormous speed bumps (‘launching worthy things’ as described by a friend) before each town. It had taken us much longer than we had anticipated (again) to get through Lusaka leaving our arrival in Chipata to a late 9pm.
After a good deep sleep at the clean Mama Rula’s Campsite and Lodges and a good old Afrikaans interpretation of an English breakfast in our protesting bellies, we crossed into Malawi. After being in the country for literally 15mins, we were flagged down at the first roadblock and abruptly after being asked to engage reverse, fined. ‘Oh Bugger, just like Babwe’, we thought as we grudgingly handed over our newly acquired Malawian Kwacha. The difference between Malawi and Zambia either side of the border is stark – top soil, ground cover and tall trees are found firmly on the Zambian side of the border while Malawi boasts of Mafuta feeding programs, days long power cuts and lots of lots of people (comfort stops along the road are much harder to execute than in the less populated Zambia).
Our first stop in Malawi was to visit an old family friend running a sustainable honey harvesting project, Keepers of the Forest in the Vipya Mountains. We arrived to a landscape clothed in eerie mists revealing patchwork scars where the plantation was either in a state of harvest or recovery. Almost the entire day in the mountains was spent sipping on hot cups of tea and listening to local tales of intrigue and hardship while the rain drummed above our heads on the tin roof. Thank you to Jed for the experience, entertainment and delicious honey!
It is hard to believe that in just 240km the environment transforms from cold, wind whipped mountains to sweltering beaches grooving to the constant tune of the most recent Malawi dance hall hits, all night long. The road that links the mountains to the valley is flanked either side by beautiful indigenous forest before you drop to the floor of the escapement and find yourself in what can only be described as Heaven on Earth. Nkhata Bay has just yielded the swim of our lives! If ever you find yourself waiting to catch the ferry and with time to spare in Nkhata Bay, follow the signs to Mayoka Village – at the roads end you will find ice cold green one’s (Carlsberg is the local brew), wood fired pizzas and the best swim spot around for miles.
Now we feel like the (working) holiday has begun! Tonight, we catch the grand, old Ilala ferry to Likoma Island…