After the rather disappointing news that the Malawians and Irish ceased their reciprocal free visa 2 months ago, and the inevitable pulling out of huge pile of dollars, we made it to Malawi, and made it to Lilongwe that night. We treated ourselves to a great curry in the capitol, something we were both craving. The restaurant was great, with curry as good as back home, but some interesting service. After our meal, we were delivered the bill in record time, despite not having asked for it. Not having quite finished, I asked for a second glass of wine, and was met with a blank stare and then the waiter shouting “What? Wine? But you have had the bill!” As I saw his manager leg it across the restaurant and drag him away, James nervously pointed out that he may want a beer in a bit. The waiter grumpily took the bill away and started despairing at the additional maths I had put on him.
At the hostel in Lilongwe, we noticed a sign for a triathlon that weekend in one of the towns on the lake, Cape McClear, and with James having done a few triathlons before , this seemed a good place for us to head for the weekend. Cape McClear was an absolutely stunning destination, with a sandy, golden beach and the lake so clear you can see the fish around you as you swim, and we were both happy to stay there for a few days. James signed up for the triathlon and renting a bike, and I volunteered to help out with the organisation. The rest of the day was spent checking out the local clinic, run by a charity called the Billy Roland Malawi Project, an Irish run charity which supplies eight healthcare professionals ever four months to the rural community, with a view to me applying to volunteer in the new year.
The morning of the triathlon arrived, and with collectively an hours sleep between us, due to our poor choice of accommodation, right next to the bar, we got the start of the race for 6am. James was lent a bike, which seemed to have been bought over the Africa as a part of a charity project, and had CycleAfrica written on the side. Possibly not the use they were hoping for, but it wasn’t terrible and I kept the time, as James and 50 others dived off into Lake Malawi to swim the 800m of the first stage. It was pretty well run, with the only real differences between this triathlon and any of the others he had done being having to avoid strawberry sellers as he ran round town, and being overtaken on the ride by two Africans carrying several 20 kgs of charcoal. Despite this he still managed a respectable 9th. After the triathlon, there was a swim from the nearby island, a kayak race and a volleyball competition. It was a geat mix of Malawians and ex-pats, and the party carried on all day (after we went home for a nap) and night, with local bands and a party on the beach to finish. As we danced at eleven at night, the local kids came for a dance too, and were eventually sent home after trying to steal the empty bottles to return for a small fee. It was regretted the next morning, but what a fun day.
We moved up the coast to meet some friends, at Livingstonia. This is a town where missionaries settled in Malawi, their third choice, after being ravaged by disease and the difficult to convert of the other sites they had tried. It is high in the hills and offers stunning views over the lake, as well as a distinctly Scottish church.
A few more days on the beach, games of volleyball and Carlsberg beers (disappointly the only beer available in Malawi, as some government official sold the sole rights to brewing to the goliath of undrinkable beer), and our time in Malawi had come to an end. We made our way back to the camp after a few drinks, and found a genet, a cat like animal had moved into our car. They're normally super shy so it was a bit of a surprise. We were very pushed for time as we still had 1000 miles to drive to get to Moshi, in Tanzania, where I am planning to do a course in tropical medicine for 3 months. Despite only spending a week in this tiny country, we are both completely in love, and thankfully we did have a reason to leave, or I think we both would have struggled!
Liz Jarman & James Nunan
Our trip from Essex to Cape Town & back again
Km travelled : 50818km
Countries visited: 30