Malawi – The Warm Heart of Africa

So there we were…gazing out our thatched roof hut perched over the water at the most stunning lake either of us has ever set our eyes on. Fine white sand beaches, crystal clear water and beautiful colorful fish, we could have easily been sitting on the edge of an ocean.

Crossing the border into Malawi was immediately welcoming when our taxi driver, who was only able to drive us a quarter of the way to our final destination, asked a local semi-truck driver if we could hop in his cabin as he was heading where we needed to go. After a few minutes, a price had been negotiated and we headed down the road, Jason in the passenger seat of the truck and Becky on the drivers sleeping quarters behind the seats. It was a welcome (and fun!) change to the packed African buses we have been accustomed to riding in.

Lake Malawi is an obvious attraction when visiting the country and we quickly made our way to its sandy shores. Being so large, the lake is incredibly diverse from north to south, with Nhkata Bay’s lush forest being reminiscent of The Virgin Islands, while Cape Maclear reminded us of arid Baja California. The water was a refreshing change to the Indian Ocean and it was apparent the lake is the life blood for the Malawian people. The women from the village spend their days gathering and using the lake water for washing, boats dot the horizon with men gathering fish to sell or feed their family and the children spend all day frolicking in the water to try to keep cool from the hot sun.

Our days were spent reading by the shore, relaxed in a hammock, playing with the local children who are always curious about the Muzungus in the water, and even a boat cruise to feed the fish eagles and watch the sunset. If it wasn’t for our timeline to move onto Zambia, we could have stayed in Malawi for months. Most people probably only know its name because Madonna made front page headlines by adopting two children from here, but let us tell you, it should be on the top of anyones list who is heading to Africa.

The lake is just one aspect that makes the country so spectacular. The National Parks are filled with wonderful flora and fauna and the mountains and vast plateaus provide incredible hiking terrain. But one thing above all others put Malawi on the top of the list of places we would like to return to – the incredible people.

Highlights

  • “Accidentally” finding the incredible Venice Beach Backpackers when we got stuck in Monkey Bay overnight
  • All of our interesting transportation throughout the country; our semi-truck ride from the border, a private ride to the capital city in the personal car of the manager of Venice Beach Backpackers, and several rides in the local matolas where just went you think the back of a truck can’t carry any more sugar cane, fish, bags of rice or people, they pull over and pick up 10 more passengers and their belongings
  • Jason making friends with a group of young village kids while swimming and spending hours flipping them in the air.

 Lowlights

  • Our 12 hour bus ride down through Tanzania to Malawi taking 18 hours because of several breakdowns.  On the bright side, we broke down in Mikuni National Park and got to see loads of animals from the bus.
  • Waiting for 4 1/2 hours for a ride out of Cape Maclear.  Not a car or matola in site for hours.  Luckily a nice American couple on their honeymoon with a rental car picked us up and drove us back to Monkey Bay. 
Monkey Bay
Jason swimming with the local kids
Becky riding in the back of a matola, the local shared truck taxi
Boabob tree
Sunset cruise in Cape Maclear
Sunset over the Lake Malawi
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