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Flowers found on the Shores of Lake Malawi - Cape Maclear
JULY 01, 2007

A Hidden Gem

After a few days dealing with the police, and a few evenings knocking back some beers with some of the younger travelers in Malawi, we decided it was time to move north again. Rather than follow the crowd and head directly into Tanzania, we opted to take some time out from the crowds and check out the small mission town of Livingstonia, halfway between Mzuzu and Karonga in the north of Malawi. After a few bad runs with the bigger busses we opted to mini-bus it for the next few legs. We managed to score a lift in a ute from the lodge to Nkhata bay, and from there we climbed straight into a minibus. An easy hour ride through the lush green hills took us to Mzuzu.

For some silly reason we decided to stay the night in Mzuzu, with the offer of a free buffet dinner at Mayoka Village it was extremely tempting to stay another night, as it was the hour ride north was a token effort at putting a few kilometre's under our belts. After getting some vital currency (Mzuzu is one of the few town's in Malawi with banks) we pushed north again, this time about five hours to the lake side town of Chitimba. Chitimba is not really a town, more a police roadblock with a few stores that have sprung up to support the passing trade.

At Chitimba we had a four hour wait on the side of the road for a vehicle heading up the mountain to Livingstonia. Transport is a real problem here, the winding road is passable only by 4x4 and there are no public offerings. Strangely enough the wait gave us a great opportunity that other travelers may not experience. In the four hours we met half of Chitimba's youngster population, as well as a few of the local shopkeepers and odd bodies. We had a great chance to see life going by, all from the side of a dusty dirt road.

Finally, after being snubbed by a couple of South Africans and a local aid worker, we managed to hitch a ride with the Escom (Electricity Supply Company of Malawi) people in the back of their ute. They were going to drive past until a doe eyed Donna pleaded for a ride. 10km's up the road, and as the sun was setting we pulled into the Mushroom Farm.

We have had few expectations of Malawi as a country, yet we have had so many great experiences and met some fantastic people. Lake Malawi was Africa's hidden gem, The Mushroom Farm is Malawi's hidden gem. Set in the remote bush 5km's from Livingstonia, Mick has built the lodge right on the edge of the escarpment. Our A frame hut's balcony perched right over the edge of the cliff giving us breathtaking views down into the valley below.

With our Kilimanjaro climb looming, although are hoping our natural fitness will get us to the top (not very confidently) we decided a decent walk was in order. Setting of early we had a good 5-6km walk up the mountain to the township of Livingstonia. The climb was fairly steep in places, providing a good stretch out for the legs.

Livingstonia is a quaint little mission town built atop of the escarpment, established over 100 years ago by Dr Laws, a disciple of Dr Livingstone, the town is essentially a couple of schools, a university and a hospital. Oddly for Africa, all of the buildings are made from brick and the roads are neatly paved, it had an eerie emptiness about it.

One of the benefits of taking the local transport options, aside from some hair raising adventures, is that we get meet and talk to the real locals, not just the people running the guest houses. In Livingstonia we were greeted on the street by Moses, a gentlemen who recognised us from the ute ride up the mountain the previous day. We were invited into his home, built in 1903, where we had a cool drink and a chat about Australia and life in Livingstonia. We were finally sent on our way with some fresh fruit, the most sour oranges we have ever tasted.

From Livingstonia we had an 8km walk down the mountain, as an alternative route we walked back along the track via the Manchewe Falls. The falls, maybe 25 metres from the side of the road drop unexpectedly down a sheer cliff in two stages.

When we arrived back at the Mushroom Farm, Mick was quick with a beer, and to break the monotony of vegetarian food, killed one of his ducks for a feast that evening.

All in all, this was the prefect way to end our time in Malawi, a peaceful bush retreat, good weather, and plenty of time to relax, either sitting on the balcony looking over the lake, or around the fire in the evenings with a cold Kutche Kutche.

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Wow! Some thoughtful insights from you . I seem to be living through these with you the writing is so alive . There's just so much here. If this was all you were to achieve then your journey would have been worthwhile. Continue to dream . Do keep safe. I'm so glad you are giving yourselves time to reflect in beween journeys. Life has so much to offer. You only need to reach out and embrace it. Go safely as you continue your travels.

Anonymous - June 27, 2007



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