Cape MacLear, Lake Malawi
The weekend of August 8th-10th we ventured to Cape MacLear – a beautiful town in the South of Lake Malawi in Monkey Bay. The journey there was filled with incredible sights and brought us to an even more breathtaking destination.
We hired a car and the driver, Peter, picked Noreen, Charlotte (Noreen’s friend from North Carolina) and myself up from Lilongwe. We drove through many villages as we traveled further into the mountains. As the sun set the moon and stars came out in full force, and we began our 14-kilometer decent over the side of a mountain range into Monkey Bay.
The headlights briefly illuminated the people we passed as they walked back to their homes carrying buckets of water or crops atop their heads. There were patches of thickening smoke periodically on our journey – the only indication that we were nearing the next village. The smoke was from the charcoal fires. These fires, I think, are set in order to burn the brush and debris as it accumulates. This prevents a massive accumulation that would otherwise ignite a catastrophic fire as Malawi progresses further into the dry season.
One aspect of being in Malawi that I will never get used to is every night I look up to a completely different sky that I have ever seen. The sunrises and sunsets are different in colour, size and beauty from Canada. But Charlotte made me aware of something pretty incredible that I had not yet realized: because of the time difference and thus the positioning of the earth relative to the sun and moon, when the moon is not full it is the top that is unseen. Here, it is the bottom! So I’m seeing the moon in a completely new light. Traveling is so fascinating.
Anyway, we arrived in Cape MacLear well past sundown. I settled into my room at Thumbi View Lodge by 8:30pm. Thumbi View Lodge has incredibly friendly staff, great food, and even better beer; it was an amazing experience!
Every morning I sat on the lodges’ veranda overlooking the crystal blue water of Lake Malawi; a sight interrupted only by the massive Thumbi Island. There, I worked and wrote, interrupting my work by meeting new people from all over the world and enjoying the odd beverage while we shared life and travel stories.
As the day progressed fishermen began leaving the mainland to find a spot out on the lake to fish. They use lamps to attract the delicious Chombe Fish and return with their catch the next morning.
In the afternoon, I ordered tea to my work spot and watched the scuba divers as they set out to explore the depths of Lake Malawi. The sun sparkling off the waves mesmerized me.
All of this made for an enriching view and relaxing weekend.
Sunday, I met up with Noreen and Charlotte who stayed at a different lodge, and took a catamaran out on the water for the first half of the day.
We sailed around Thumbi Island to Otter Point and back, making two pit stops to snorkel. There were fish the brightest and deepest blue; some canary-yellow; and I even saw a school of white fish that, when the sun’s rays caught their scales at the right angle, shimmered with all the colours of the rainbow. Two beautiful swallow-like birds had a nest under the catamaran’s main structure, and they would fly out and play on the water as we sailed across the lake.
I managed to fall asleep for some time as we sailed across the water. How could I not? This unique view, African birds chirping, and the rhythm of the waves as my soundtrack surrounded me coupled with the rocking of the boat from the push and pull of the waves made for one relaxed – and sleepy – Andrew.
I learned that Lake Malawi’s water level used to be quite a bit lower. There was a cement brick under some rubble that was engraved with what I can only imagine to be a former street address. Apparently farmers used to walk along what is now the lake’s bed to farm maize fields in the very spot that we snorkeled.
In between working and relaxing the bar manager provided me with lessons in Chichewa – a language, I have come to realize, that is very difficult to learn and one in which I do not see myself ever becoming fluent in.
I was reluctant to leave for Lilongwe Monday morning to start work again. I loved the relaxing and beautiful scenery. It was a much-needed weekend, which allowed me to relax and re-charge my batteries.
But here I am, midway through my second-to-last week of work. I still have plenty I want to get done, and you can bet that I will take full advantage of my final 18 days in Malawi before I set off for Paris and then back home to Canada.
The next two and a half weeks will be filled with more story-worthy events and memorable experiences.