I’m sitting out at Lake Malawi, my home for the week. Getting here was a bit of an ordeal, but it could have been worse, and was totally worth it. Yesterday morning I headed off from the hostel and met lots of nice Zomba locals who helped me find the bus station. The bus station was an overwhelming place; the moment I stepped into the forecourt I was approached by numerous men trying to get me to take their buses, as well as hawkers selling food, drink and other bits. I found the minibus to Monkey Bay, then someone took my luggage off me and I squeezed into the front seat with another woman, in a seat that was definitely made for 1 person. I suddenly realised I hadn’t even checked the person who took my backpack even worked there as it all happened in a blur and I started panicking, asking everyone if they had seen it. Luckily it was fine, it had been shoved in another person’s leg space, but all the Malawian people were laughing at me for getting so worried. I paid my fare and everyone started laughing again and speaking in cheChewa, so I think they might have overcharged me and I was getting paranoid. It was ages before the bus even set off, and I was feeling a bit disconcerted. I let go of my worries once we got moving and I could just watch the world go by. We passed by many little villages where people were going about their lives, washing clothes, children playing, people cooking corn on grills and trying to sell through the minibus window when we slowed down. The drive itself wasn’t too terrifying as the number of vehicles on the road was relatively low but the seatbelt didn’t work (I kind of tied it around me so it would do something), the windows were mostly smashed and there were about 20 Malawians and me squeezing into 10 seats. We got stopped at several checkpoints with armed police checking for receipts for any goods purchased. If the driver couldn’t show a receipt, they would take the items. I have no understanding of why, but the driver explained it to me like it was obvious.
I didn’t know how long the drive was, but it seemed to go on and on. It stopped regularly, and I ended up sitting with a 17 year old schoolgirl who was fascinated by my culture, as I was by hers. She played African pop music out of her phone and thought it was hilarious that I’m 28 and unmarried. There was no chance to use the toilet, and I wouldn’t usually be able to go anywhere near that long without a loo break, but I was so dehydrated in the heat that I was actually fine. Another minibus took me from Monkey Bay to Cape Maclear where I’m staying, and it was a beautiful drive through the national park.
I found my lodge where I had booked a dorm, but there’s no one else staying in the room at the moment, which is nice. The dorm is just a hut right on the beach and about 100 metres away from the main area of the lodge with a bar and hammocks. It’s so dark after the sun has gone down that I feel a bit anxious walking between the 2 areas, but it’s safe round here. The bug situation here is a bit grim. Yesterday evening I had hundreds of what I thought were mosquitoes, crawling through my hair and covering my clothes. I realised they aren’t actually mosquitoes which is good because of malaria, but I don’t know what they are and they bite. I had a really early night last night, but after seeing cockroaches and lizards in my dorm, I felt like things were crawling all over me as I tried to sleep.
Today has been really nice, but it’s taking a bit of getting used to. The Pace of life is much slower here than I’m used to – for example, it wouldn’t be abnormal to order a coffee, go off and do things, and for the coffee to be brought 5 hours later when you’re back. The time passes slowly, and as I don’t have a lot of money, I’m doing a lot of relaxing rather than activities. I know it’s good for me to just sit and be sometimes, but I’m so used to having every hour accounted for. I’ve wandered around the village, met lots of locals that have shown me their artwork and woodcarvings and children running up to me to say hello. Some of the locals see travellers as ATMs, trying anything to get money. It’s hard to find a balance between wanting to support the economy and local businesses, but also not wanting to get taken advantage of. I don’t mind paying a bit more than things are worth, but Within reason. I met some really nice people though. In the afternoon I went for a run along the beach, which was really challenging in the heat and the sand. I didn’t take water so I couldn’t carry on for too long, but it felt good.
It’s hard to know what to do once the sun goes down. There is electricity but the light is dim, so it’s hard to read a book. There’s African drumming going on later in another lodge, but I’m not feeling very peopley today. I might just sit on the beach and meditate.
It really is a magical place though.