Sunday 19 May – After a light breakfast we left for Dar es Salaam via Bagamoya. At Dar es Salaam we queued for the ferry to take us across to our campsite on the sea. John and Lina were stopped from boarding the ferry as they had their gas bottles on the roof of the car and were deemed a danger to board the ferry. Fortunately my John, who is fluent in Swahili, managed to negotiate a deal with the security officers that the gas bottles could be taken across the river on a small boat instead – his Swahili certainly got us out of a lot of scrapes.
We arrived at Mikadi Beach Lodge late afternoon and for once I was quite happy to pitch our tent as we had a site right on the beach and right next to a wonderful swimming pool.
We were there for three nights while two of our party paid a short visit to Zanzibar. The main dining/bar area was delightful with comfortable seating areas.
This was truly 3 days of relaxing, swimming and generally chilling out.
Flushing toilets with toilet paper provided was a luxury we hadn‘t experienced since we left Pretoria. The showers were open air, big, with hot water although the water was salt – you can’t have everything I suppose. We were now bothered by sand fleas as the campsite was made of beach sand, but liberal applications of insect repellent and spending a lot of time in the swimming pool sorted them out.
Spent the evening with a young German girl called Manuella who was one of the many wide-eyed youngsters from overseas who was in Africa hoping to change the world as we know it. Fluent in Swahili, she was on contract to spend her time living in remote African villages hoping to civilize them, but I have a sneaking suspicion she has found out that their life is much easier and simpler than hers and she was very sad to be going home to Germany for a while as her contract had run out.
Monday 20 May – Got laundry done by the lodge – felt I was in 5-star accommodation. It was so hot that I even managed to get my husband into the swimming pool. He had had no intention of swimming on this trip so hadn’t bought his swimming shorts so I persuaded him to swim in his sleep shorts with underpants underneath to cover his unmentionables.
Tuesday 21 May – Another day at leisure – what a treat. John took a tuk tuk into the local village to buy cool drinks – quite an experience. The other passengers looked very squashed!
That evening John and Lina returned from Zanzibar and were very relieved to be greeted with a package containing a new radiator for their Isuzu car which Alex had arranged to be flown up from South Africa. Can you imagine trying to organise that if you were travelling on your own in a strange country? It was one of many times when we realised the advantage we had of having Alex with us.
It also brought home to us how much of an advantage you have if you are travelling in a Toyota. Spares would have been very easy to obtain in Dar es Salaam as the majority of vehicles in most African countries are Toyotas. That evening the Lodge put on a big seafood spread for us compliments of Alex. We were really starting to settle into this life but it was all over the next day, very sad.
Wednesday 22 May – Decamped and headed for the ferry on our way to Iringa to stay at Old Farm again. There were lots of delays getting across on the ferry and then a nightmare ride through Dar es Salaam as we lost our leader, Alex, and had to rely on our Garmins which was pretty dicey as they had detours for roadworks in the city so not even Garmin could really get us out of trouble. Anyway, trusting our instincts we finally all found ourselves on the right road out of Dar much to everyone’s relief. Again stayed in rooms at the Old Farm Lodge – really starting to feel spoilt now. They had prepared a wonderful organic supper for us – spinach soup, beef and vegies and chocolate mousse which was served to us in our private boma.
Thursday 23 May – Set out for Malawi today via Mbeya. Great agricultural industry – every square inch cultivated, potatoes, bananas, mealies and closer to border, tea. Still many overturned trucks on the road. Through the border post where they have a huge parking lot full of impounded cars, trucks, buses and even a fancy speedboat. Thank goodness we had the right paperwork!
On into Malawi where we saw many rice fields and cassava. There were scenic fishing villages on the shores of Lake Malawi although there is not much fish left in the lake except for a few capenta.
Arrived at Chitemba Lodge which was situated right on the shores of Lake Malawi. Again Alex took pity on us and we upgraded to a quaint beach cottage with an en-suite bathroom.
Very basic and only had a cold shower but at this stage we were grateful for small mercies even when I had to share the shower with a rather revolting cockroach! It had a lovely main lodge with bar and restaurant but we ate at the campsite with Alex.
The sunset was amazing and then the full moon on the water gave us plenty of scope for photography. A big plus was a mosquito net over the bed – for the first time the little buggers couldn’t get at me!!
Friday 24 May – Decided to stay an extra night at Chitemba and got some washing done which was all dry by 11am as the weather was so hot.
Just chilled today and visited the local curio shops with their fine Malawian carved wares. Very tempted to buy stuff but at our age are very aware that we don’t need any more stuff in our house! After a chicken braai that night we went onto the beach to sit around a huge log fire before going to bed.
Saturday 25 May – Left Chitemba and drove along the coast and then up a small scenic mountain pass. The mountain was made mostly of coal but difficult to mine as the mountain was found to be unstable and would cost too much to fix first. The locals do a bit of mining for themselves.
On to a rubber plantation – Alex showed us how latex is collected from trees. Looked at more curio shops but, like every country you visit, seen one, seen them all.
Arrived at Chintheche Lodge, late afternoon. Now this was more like it. Lovely main lodge on the beach with big screen TV for watching the rugby and a lovely grassed campsite and ablutions with large HOT showers, flushing toilets and handbasins with plugs – luxury.
Even had electricity at the sites so immediate charging of cameras and lights was the first order of the day. The beach was really beautiful with wonderful white sand – one could almost imagine being in the Caribbean.
Next up – Mozambique, no ablutions and finishing line in sight…