Journey into Africa: Lake Nyasa

Baboon

The journey had taken us up through a series of mountains, with incredible views over Lake Nyasa and the occasional roadside baboon that made for an excellent photo. Eventually we descended down to the edge of the lake, and found home in a cliff side cluster of wooden huts that nestled in amongst the trees and sewn together by a series of bricked paths and wooden walkways.

We arrived just as the sun was setting and the blue and yellow lake flickered under the wooden veranda of the camp’s bar. Warm showers and cold beers made it an excellent location to break the journey, and we took the opportunity to enjoy a late night.

Rich produced three cartons of something labelled “Shake Shake, International Beer”. Like nothing have ever tasted before, this alcoholic slush has all the charm of battery acid mixed with milk. The slurry texture it has is like someone added the end of a bag of Dorritos and left it to rot in the bottom. Apparently it is something of a local delicacy, but for why, I have no idea.

It turned into a late evening, with some injuries sustained (Mike spectacularly managed to cut his nose on the felt of a pool table in a manner that I never thought possible).

The next day we took our battered bodies out onto the lake with a local guide. There was cliff jumping, fish eagle watching, and best of all – the opportunity to assist local fishermen pull their haul of whitebait in. It’s extraordinary how much net brings in a relatively small catch of fish, but the silver flickering tube-like bodies glimmer brilliantly metallic under the blue skies, and the local kids all come down to pull the stragglers out of the worn black mesh.

Once that task been completed, we played some beach games and finally a slightly more than five-aside beach football tournament with the local kids. Some epic demonstration of technique by Ben – using his head alone, but while completely lying on the sand – almost redefined the modern game as we know it.

Before the day was over Dave, JP, Jon and I commandeered the resort’s two canoes and we spent the final few minutes of sunlight playing about back on the lake.

One delightful aside to this is that most sub-Saharan African freshwater is plagued by parasitic snails – the cause of the rather nasty and dangerous bilharzia – and so now back in the UK, getting the right stuff to kill their eggs before they start hatching out of you is just one thing to do upon your return.

We moved on again the following morning and made tracks to the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe. Sunset here is at 5.30, and so we made another early start in order to make the most of the light. That afternoon we arrived in Mabuya Camp, a series of two-bed thatched cabins with the use of a bar and pool, and effectively home for the next week.

We met some girls at the bar and invited them to join us at the famous Lilongwean Friday night hotspot, Harry’s Bar. We partied until the early hours.

Despite this, I was still needed up early the next day to accompany Rich to make a visit to the two local schools we would work with that week. It took an hour of incredibly bumpy track travel, and here we met the various staff who would be working with us in the subsequent days.

After that, I took the rest of Saturday and Sunday to recover, and made the most of the pool and the only physical book I’d bought with me. Jon and I were up for cooking duty on the one evening, and whipped up BBQ’d honey and ginger chicken, guacamole with pumpkin and sweet potato mash, and a dessert of sweet papaya rice. From what I could work out, it thankfully seemed to have be well received.