16 June 2024
Day 3731 December 2019 in Malawi ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

Chui shudders to a halt. We’re here, at our New Year’s Eve campsite. We’re here for 2 nights. Jemma, our tour leader, comes up the steps and opens the back door. “we’re the only ones here” sez she. “ah” I think to myself “chance of an upgrade, then” I’m really going off camping now, due to the rain and the humidity at night. We go to reception and a beach cabin costing 7 €uro a night is mine. OK, it ain’t the Ritz but it’s not a tent and has a big fan blowing delicious cool air all over me. It also almost on the beachside itself. Perfecto.

I get myself ready, bring my night bag to the hut and have a snooze until around 5ish. I consider having a shower but decide against. I had one earlier today so not too whiffy. At least, no more so than the others. Ramble around the camp and along the beach so get a sense of the place. Really nice relaxed place. I notice a whole suckling pig being spit-roasted over a charcoal fire. It even has an orange in its mouth. It looks delicious. I push my vegetarian consciousness deep. I chat with the guys cooking and buy them a beer.

At 6pm we all meet with Jemma, our tour leader. She tells us how the evening will pan out. Herself and Often, our driver, are cooking a New Year’s Eve dinner for us. It too looks delicious.

But first, to kick off the evening, we have a fancy show. Yesterday, we were invited to pick a piece of paper out of a brown. On it was written the name of one of our fellow travellers. We were invited not to divulge that name but to buy some fancy dress at today’s lunch stop. Today, we would buy that fancy dress. I chose a blue art deco style dress for a woman. To tell the truth, I wouldn’t mind wearing it myself. It looked very me!

We go around in a circle and present the surprise to the person we had bought for. It’s great fun. I am presented with a brown shapeless dress whick would have easily fitted a 600lb mom, with room to spare for a weeks shopping. It is topped off with a shapeless scarecrow type hat. Not the height of elegance. It’s a great laugh.

Then the call to dinner and what a spread is laid on for us. The spit roasted suckling pig is the piece de resistance and there are many other dishes. All this is cooked on 2 gas burners. Silence reigns as we tuck in and go back for seconds. The roast pig is delicious. One of the local guys who cooked it said he started cooking it at 8sm this morning so it was on the go for 11 hrs.

In the meanwhile, most of the others make a huge bowl of pretty lethal looking punch based on the number of bottles of gin and vodka poured into it. It’s really fruit flavoured neat gin and vodka mix. Then they get stuck in and start to get slightly sozzled, leading to great craic.

After dinner, the party drinking games start and ‘never have I ever; starts. I bow out and go to made some phonecalls to friends and family back home. I rejoin the group an hour or so later and the volume has increased in direct proportion to the wideness of the grins. All great gas.

A new game starts. An empty giant cornflake box is put on the ground and you are invited, in turn, to bend down and pick it up with your teeth. Then you tear a strip off the top to make the box a bit smaller for the next person. And so on, tfe box getting smaller and smaller all the time. The older ones start to drop out; I get around halfway through and feel quite proud of that. Near the end, the ones with the elastic hips and flexible knees won the day. It was really enjoyable.

Then a lull. It’s about 1015pm and we retire to the bar where a New Year’s Eve party is in progress. We stay there until midnight and count the New Year in with a fireworks display. We all hug each other and stand around chatting. I keep a weather eye open, as always, for lively lads of my particular persuasion. Alas, my gaydar stays silent all night and doesn’t even ping once.

A local guy starts chatting to me and I welcome having contact with an African person to learn more about his culture and world view. He had some contact in the past with Irish people and knows some of the Irish expressions. I engage with him. He starts to tell me a story about his difficult family circumstances and how he wants to study to be a kindergarten teacher but has to support his family and could not pay the fees. He says he has a little shop where he sells his art and carvings and would like me to visit.

With a sinking feeling, I recognise that I have heard this story, or various versions of it, before. It’s all a ruse to get me into his shop where he will sell me overpriced tat I can buy all over Africa. I’m disappointed but also understand the economic imperatives at play here. I make a vague promise and move on.

I hang around until 12:30am-ish and then head off to bed. I read for 39muns and then to sleep, perchance to dream.

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