Malawi and Mozambique (Part 1)
The crossing from Harare to the border was uneventful and we were stamped out of Zimbabwe by 11am. Three hours later we cleared Mozambique Immigration and continued our journey north on good tarred road with warm sunny Dry Season weather.
The differences in both countries both geographically and economically was obvious as soon as we crossed the border.
The living standards are significantly lower in this part of Mozambique compared to rural Zim with thatched roofed villages dotting the landscape and long lines of people carrying water from the local well in the midday heat.
The roadside stalls of bananas and avacodo were replaced with hundreds of bags of charcoal and large scale agriculture replaced by subsistence farming.
We also left behind the hilly granite boulder strewn topography and replaced it with parched flat sandy baobab savanna.
Our first night in Mozambique was in Tete on the banks of the Zambezi. The infamous Tete Corridor is the narrowest point to cross the country and on this visit that’s all we’ll be doing. A short two day crossing and on to Malawi.
Mozambique is a large country with a 1800km coastline, some great mountains, spectacular beaches and stunning offshore Islands. I’ve planned a multi week visit for next year.
Country no. 30 Malawi
Malawi sits on the western edge of the Great Rift Valley and straddles three quarters of Lake Malawi. It’s a long thin, poor and densly populated mountainous country with lush green plateaus and a thin coastal strip of land, much of which has been cleared for subsistence farming.
After a day in the capital Lilongwe we traveled north through predominantly agricultural land and countless small villages with less vehicles the further north we drove. Between the villages was a constant stream of people on foot and the occasional bicycle. Malawi is a country where everyone walks.
Our next destination was Kande Beach where we stayed in the local resort which is a campground with a bar and a few chalets spread out over an idyllic stretch of lakeside property looking out to a small island 800m offshore.
Disapointingly the dive shop was closed and I couldn’t organise a SCUBA dive during our two day visit.
I hired a set of mask, snorkel and fins off a local guy and swam out to the island myself. Once there I spent a couple of hours snorkeling and jumping off the cliff with a few of my travel buddies who rowed across.
After diving with the Cichlids in Lake Tanganyika last year I was really looking forward to getting back in the water with them again this year. Lake Malawi has over a thousand species of Cichlids, more than any other lake in the World. The disappointment quickly vanished when I was back in the warm gin clear fresh water with thousands and colourful fish.
Late that afternoon we jumped on a couple of horses and rode for three hours through the local forest and past several villages, eventfully finishing on the shore of Lake Malawi.
We took the saddles off the horses and rode them down to the water for a refreshing late afternoon swim.
I really enjoyed Kande Beach and while I was there found out about a couple of lakeside lodges only accessible by boat which look really nice. Needless to say I’m already planning on coming back next year.
From Kande we drove North to Mzuzu, had lunch and travelled back down to the coast, arriving in the small village of Chitimba mid afternoon.
Chitimba Camp was very similar to Kande with a long white sandy beach, several chalets surrounding a bar restraraunt area with a beach volleyball court and campground on the side.
There were no offshore Islands or rocky headlands so the diving wasn’t as good as Kande. Rather than spend time in the water we opted to visit the local village, primary school and orphanage.
There’s one thing that Chitimba has in abundance and that’s children. The school was a collection of old rundown concrete buildings without desks and chairs and only a blackboard to indicate it was a classroom. The teacher told us the school had over one thousand children and sometimes had 150 in a classroom.
We walked through the village to the orphanage which was the size of a small house. They have seventy nine orphans registered with most staying with extended family or carers in the community. The others sleep in the orphanage with ten children under a single mozzie net. Most of the children have lost their parents to AIDS, with a small percentage to malaria and road accidents.
From the orphanage we visited the local Witch Doctor or Traditional Healer. He put on a good show for us with a dance and a private fortune telling session.
“You’ve traveled a great distance to get here.” Yep!
“You’re on a long journey.” Yep.
“You’ll come back to Africa one day. ” Cool!
“You’re very healthy and will live to be very old.” Cool!
With my health sorted I hired one of the local trekking guides and spent the afternoon following the river up into the mountains, stopping to watch a late afternoon local village game of soccer. The men played soccer, the women played netball and the rest of the village watched from the sidelines.
From Chitimba we continued north and after a week in Malawi we crossed the border into Tanzania.
I really enjoyed Malawi. The lake is beautiful, the beaches are clean and the diving is fantastic. The resorts are all medium standard with cheap meals, drinks and activities. For example, a SCUBA dive is $35.
It was good to see there were no huge four star resorts along the coast and only a few tourists where we travelled. Having said that, Malawi is one of Africa’s poorest countries and tourism has the potential to be a huge source of income and employment. I certainly want to go back one day.
I’ll be in Tanzania for two weeks visiting places I didn’t see last year. First on the agenda, after driving to the coast is the island of Zanzibar.
Bye for now.