From Lilongwe, we first drove north on the M1 towards Kasungu, then cut across east on the M18 to get to the lake. The vegetation had become very tropical, with many banana trees and tall grass. The eastbound leg led us through the Nkhotokota Game Reserve, a beautiful stretch of tropical forest with elephant and buffalo. Unfortunately, because of the high grass, we didn‘t spot any, only signs that they had been there. We saw many baboons on the way and these cute animals are fun to watch – as long as they stay outside of the car! The baboons here were very shy compared to what we had experienced in Livingstone, and ran away as we approached, to hide in the grass beside the road.
From Nkhotokota we continued up the M5 along the Lake Malawi coast towards Nkhata Bay. Along the road, we enjoyed beautiful views of the lake, which from a distance looked like the sea. The lake is almost half the size of Bavaria. There are a dozen or more campsites along the Lake Malawi shoreline around Nkhata Bay and we had a difficult time deciding which one to try. We were looking at reviews in an app called iOutlander, that a Swiss couple from Zug had recommended to us when we met them at Mama Rula campsite in Chipata. Some of the reviews dated back several years, so you couldn’t be certain what to expect, but somehow we decided for a campsite called Sunga Moyo down at the lakeshore. We took the exit off the M5 about 30 to 40 km before Nkhata and followed the narrow path through thick tropical forest down to the lake. When we arrived at the campsite we were struck by the beauty of the place. It could have been the scenery of a lonely tropical island from a Robinson Crusoe movie. We parked the car around 100m from the lakeshore and before we set up the tent went for a swim. The freshwater was clear and warm.
We had a variation to our BBQ & beer dinner routine and cooked meatballs in tomato sauce with fettuccine. Had beer with it, of course. Unfortunately we couldn‘t go online that evening as our data volume on our new Malawi SIM card was used up and I somehow failed trying to top it up.
We sat outside long that night. With only a few lights on the campsite and from fishermen on the lake around us, and the moon not yet up, it got very dark, and we enjoyed being able to see the stars exceptionally well. Later the clouds closed in, and at night it even got a little bit stormy. This is probably attributable to cyclone Kenneth, which hit Mozambique only a few weeks after the prior cyclone and was expected to bring up to 1000 mm of rain in places. that is a ton of water, literally, per square meter! Luckily so far we have not been affected by this weather, but will continue to watch it. It seems as if in the meantime the cyclone has calmed down a lot.
We woke up after a good night’s sleep to the sun rising over the lake and went to have breakfast on the terrace of the campsite. The owner Stella, a lady from Germany who had lived in South Africa for 17 years before coming to Malawi told us about how she bought the then run-down place and how she and her husband manage it today. We have met many remarkable people on this trip, and often their story is that they have traveled the world for years and then somewhere found „their place“, that they then over the years with a lot of passion turn into these very special gems. Truly impressive.
When she brought us our bacon & eggs however, she had to apologize for not having eggs. There had been a box of eggs in the fridge but it turned out to be empty. The staff must have taken the eggs and put the empty box back in the fridge. Well, there is challenges everywhere, even in this paradise.
When talking about what to do or where to go today, Mark’s advice was: „Today is Sunday. We should rest“. Said and done. Mark is a wise man. His latest hairdo – or lack thereof – visually underscores that point. But it wouldn‘t be Mark if he wasn‘t busy even while resting. So he has now established a desk in what is arguably the nicest office in the world and is busy with Excel spreadsheets.
In the meantime I went to have a look at the local fishermen‘s boats. The canoes are carved from a single piece of wood. We saw the fishermen go out in them in the morning to check on their nets. They skillfully rode the high waves, first with the legs wrapped around the outside of the canoe, then as they had passed the waves and the water was calmer they climbed inside the canoe.
I went to see Alex at the beach, who introduced himself as an artist from the village. Earlier in the morning he approached us very unobtrusively, saying that whenever we were done relaxing he kindly wanted to invite us to have a look at his work. I bought four paintings from him for 10 USD each. I think this is a lot of money for him. We chatted for quite a while about life in his village, kids, school, houses while he skillfully crafted a roll out of bamboo for me to transport the canvases.
Tomorrow we will continue our journey up north.