24 July 2024
Day 3731 December 2019 in Malawi ⋅ ☁️ 23 °C

Slept very well last night and up at 6am to allow time to shower, and move stuff to the truck for 7am breakfast and 7:30am departure for Kande Camp, our next destination. As I am showering, I look out of the bathroom window onto an area where firewood is stored and where a heavily pregnant goat and her kid are kept. The goat is by a tree and seems to be eating a stick. I wonder what nutritional value could be in an old dried up stick. I notice she looks like she is playing with it as she keeps lunging at it and biting at it and then moving back. Then I notice that the stick is actually a brown snake about a metre in length and fairly thick. It looks quite dead but the goat keeps lunging at it and biting it. I wish I could stay longer to see what happens or go around the back to get a closer look at the snake to see what species it is, or was, but, tempus fugit, I have to get back on the truck to leave.

Breakfast is a bit rushed. I hate rushing but accept that we need to get on the road ASAP. There are dozens of small bees buzzing around a honey jar on the table. I have cereal and make a flask of coffee for the journey.

I bought a clever little gadget on Amazon before I left. Its a cafetiere that’s also a flask and a travel mug. You put freshly ground coffee in the bottom, top up with hot water, insert the filter section and wait for coffee to brew. Then you plunge the filter section down, like a regular cafetiere, and add milk. Presto, a flask of fresh hot coffee. Then screw on the lid which contains a sealad and leak proof drinking clip. This keeps the coffee hot for several hours. Coffee is extensively available in East Africa and is really good.

Back up on truck and we trundle back onto the road again, along a small path with branches of trees bashing inside the open sides of the truck and maybe dislodging the enormous African spider we keep expecting to see or maybe a venomous tree frog whose touch kills agonisingly or maybe even a tree snake, fangs poised and glistening to sink into some unexpecting pink exposed flesh. But the worst thing that ever happens are the long 4-5cm thorns of the acacia tree. So far, nothing has happened.

I was snoozing once and the shout “Brian, incoming” caused me to instinctively jackknike forward to avoid involuntary flagellation. “Is there such a thing as voluntary flagellation” you might ask. “I couldn’t possibly comment” I might have to reply.

The scenery on the road is very beautiful, with the lake in the growing distance as we climb higher and higher and lush greenery and sparsely wooded hills. There are many little terraced farms along the way. Some of them are on impossibly steep slopes. How people farm there and don’t roll down the slopes is a puzzle. Maybe they do, frequently, but have no choice. No work, no food, no welfare state and, eventually, no existence at all. Chilling thought for a citizen of one of the richest countries in the world with an extensive public safety net, especially for old folk like me.

I did notice that there are a lot more men working in the fields. In the more Islamicised countries we passed through, men sat in the shade and scratched their arses while the women work in the fields in the broiling sun, enveloped in voluminous swathes of clothing so the same men never have to take responsibility for, or even consider, their inability to keep their dicks in their trousers. OK, culturally insensitive rant over. For the present.

Malawi is a mainly Christian country. The religious breakdown is:

Roman Catholic (17.2%)
Church of Central African Presbyterian (14.2%)
Seventh Day Adventist/Baptist/Apolistic (9.4%)
Pentecostal (7.6%)
Anglican (2.3%)
Other Christian (26.6%)
Muslim (13.8%)
Traditional (1.1%)
Other (5.6%)
No Religion (2.1%)

The name Malawi comes from the Maravi, an old name of the Nyanja people that inhabit the area. The country is nicknamed “The Warm Heart of Africa” because of the friendliness of the people.

I can attest to this. We constantly hear the high pitched delighted cries, almost screams, of children as our big yellow truck heaves into view “hello, hello” as they run beside the truck, either close by or at a distance. Their faces wide open with huge smiles and beautiful white teeth and eyes contrasting with the matt black skin. Adults are the same. Everyone smiles hugely as they wave at us. Being around such human beauty and beautiful humanity has a very uplifting effect on my spirits.

The only time this seems to change us when we take photos from the open truck. They get very angry at this. We stop for lunch and to change money at a market town with a huge open-air series of markets selling almost everything. People wave and smile at us and some of us succumb to the temptation to take photos of this very photogenic scene. When the local people notice this , the mood changes and turns ugly very quickly. It seems a mob mentality is arising with people shouting at us and with very angry faces. One guy, his face distorted with hate, brandishes a sharpened stick like a spear and moves forward. Another guy pucks up a stone and prepares to throw it but doesn’t. I think it’s more threat posturing and not an attack but who knows what might happen if we didn’t desist from taking photos? A darker side of the dark continent? Meanwhile, the locals take photos of us and the truck while this is happening. One of our guys leans out and shouts “no photos, no photos” while gesticulating. They ignore him and keep taking photos. Ho hum. Different sauces for the goose and the gander here.

Back on the truck and off again. We stop at roadside handicraft market. I buy a lovely carved wooden round traditional hut with 6 carved coasters for cups nestling inside. The guy wants $35 and I bargain him down to $10 by pretending to walk away. I feel awful about this because I think the set is worth $25 to me and that’s the price I should pay but I get carried away with the bargaining frenzy. $15 would mean more to him than to me.

We remount Chui again for the final leg of the trip. She lurches off road and up a small path. More opportunities for involuntary flagellation and then we arrive at our campsite at Kande Beach, on the shores of Lake Malawi.

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