To Tanzania

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:41 pm
Jun 192011
 

After looking around Livingstonia we took the dirt road back down the escarpment to the lake. The 11km took us nearly an hour as the road is made of big stones and gravel, is quite narrow in parts, has lots of hairpin bends in it and is quite steep. The view to the lake is lovely all the way down.

Chitimba Camp was our overnight stop and we were easily there by lunchtime, which was just as well as we needed to do the laundry and catch up on things. Our car was so dirty by now that I am sure it was increasing our fuel consumption with the extra mud and dirt we were carrying, so we asked the owner if he could organise someone to wash the car for us. It would cost us a grand total of 250 Kwatcha ($1.65). The guy must have spent 3 hours washing it, and even then it wasn’t entirely clean, but the dust was gone which was the main thing.

This morning we headed for the Tanzania border. Exiting Malawi was simple and took just a few minutes. Entering Tanzania was also pretty straightforward although took a little longer and cost a lot more! Tanzania required a visa each ($US50), a Foreign Vehicle Permit ($US20), a road levy ($US5), and we decided to finally buy a COMESA ($US120) which is insurance that covers most of our remaining countries and will save us money in the end. The only tricky bit was the COMESA as you don’t actually buy that until you are out of the border post and you need to purchase it in a tiny shack that is amongst plenty of other shacks and chaos, naturally though there is a local to show you his shop.

As soon as we crossed the border to Tanzania you could tell that the country and its people were better off. The houses were still rectangular and made of brick, but very few were made of homemade mud bricks and they were now held together with cement. Most also had tin rooves instead of thatch, with real windows and were larger. The people were dressed better and everyone wore shoes which was unusual in Malawi. The use of land had also changed. Now there were tea and banana plantations everywhere and the land was being used rather than remaining idle. A variety of fruit and vegetables were now being sold by the side of the road, rather than just the bananas and tomatoes of Malawi. There was also more cars and trucks and less people (although still a lot of people) on the road.

We drove through the mountain scenery and headed for Mbeya hoping to be able to find a supermarket as we had no meat or vegetables, nor eggs, cereal or bread for breakfast and very little drinking water, in fact we had pretty much exhausted everything except our emergency tin supplies. I am sure there is a supermarket there but we were unable to find it, so we made the decision to drive on to the Kisolanza Farm about 50km out of Iringa as we knew we could camp there and eat in their restaurant and that the food was good having been there previously. After fuelling up with diesel that was thankfully a reasonable price again and becoming millionaires by withdrawing 1.2 million shillings, we were on our way.

We arrived at Kisolanza Farm about 6pm (we lost an hour in a timezone change at the border, but the sun comes up and goes down now at a reasonable hour!). By 7pm we had setup camp, had a super hot shower that even needed cold water mixed with it (a super luxury these days), and bought a kilo of baby potatoes, a bunch of baby carrots, a huge bag of snow peas and a lettuce for 6000 Tsh ($3.95). Dinner in the restaurant was a delicious three course meal with tea and coffee for $US15 each. We were both starving as all we had managed to eat all day was some bananas for lunch and the meal went down extremely well.

The people on the farm are really helpful. The chef kindly made us a loaf, sort of like a date loaf but without the dates, for our breakfast the next morning. You can not only buy vegetables from the farm, but meat as well, so we stocked up on meat for a ridiculous cheap price, and the meat has been lovely. The owner also told us where to shop in Iringa and tips for our route. All in all an excellent stop over spot.

(Sorry no photos as I’ve been getting a bit complacent with the scenery around us).

Livingstonia

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:03 pm
Jun 172011
 

We retraced our steps along the rough road to Rumphi, where we then took the dirt road to Livingstonia rather than taking the tar road back to the coast. The road wasn’t too bad for most of the way, but the last 20 km or so was pretty much a rough dirt track and slow going as it wound its way through the mountains. The scenery was reminiscent of Asia with terraced gardens hugging the sides of the hills and lush greenery. Even though the road was a bit slow, it seems that it was faster than taking the tar as some people that left nearly 2 hours before us and took the tar road arrived at the same time as we did, and they only stopped for an hour or so.

The view from the restarant and bar area, Lukwe Lodge, LivingstoniaWe stayed at Lukwe lodge which is situated right on the edge of the escarpment. The restaurant and bar area as well as the chalets are perched right on the edge with fantastic views down the valley to Lake Malawi. The showers are hot and clean, but a little interesting as the doors are so short they offer no privacy for someone my height! There are only 2 showers which are unisex and Wayne had to stop another guy from coming up whilst I was showering. The toilets are different too. They are composting toilets built on the hillside meaning you have to climb up to them. The doors are only about as high as the seat, but you get a nice view whilst sitting on the loo!

Shower, Lukwe Lodge, LivingstoniaBasins, Lukwe Lodge, LivingstoniaToilet, Lukwe Lodge, Livingstonia

We walked to the falls through the bush from camp. They are pretty impressive being Mangechwe Falls, Livingstonia200 odd metres high and there was plenty of water going over them when we were there. Some young kids escorted us back half the way to camp through the bush although I’m not exactly sure why!

At Livingstonia itself we visited the museum which is housed in the old stonehouse that was used by Dr Laws when he lived there as a missionary. The house is a lovely old building that is now used for basic accommodation. The church has a lovely stained glass window depicting Livingstone. At the church we were warmly greeted by one of the locals who were having band practice. He chatted to us for a bit then asked if he could take a photo with my camera. I let him and showed him how to use it and he seemed so pleased when he saw the photo he took. Funny how such simple things can give pleasure to someone. Livingstonia is quite a pretty village with a large hospital, university and nice houses right on top of the escarpment and pleasantly cool.

Church, LivingstoniaThe Old Stonehouse, Livingstonia

Nyika National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 5:17 pm
Jun 162011
 

We left Vwaza Marsh and headed for Nyika, taking the “smoother” road through the villages with all the friendly locals. The road to the park and the road within the park to camp are both rough and slow going. For a lot of the time the road within the park is below the surrounding landscape, totally preventing you from seeing anything but the road in front of you. I don’t think we missed out on too much game, but we could hardly see the scenery either.

Once you get closer to camp the road opens up and you are in hilly, grassed plains which is quite scenic. The wildlife is limited, but we did see lots of Roan Antelope and Bushbuck. We also saw the zebras which are unique to the area as well as a couple of Eland and some Kilpspringers. The wildlife seem to be based close to camp and near the dams.

Bushbuck, Nyika National ParkCrayshaws Zebra, Nyika National ParkRoan Antelope, Nyika National Park

The camp is quite nice with 3 sites each having a large thatch shelter and picnic table to use. (There are more sites just not with shelters). There were a few bushbuck that kept coming and going in the camp and you had a good view across an open plain to sit and see what came past. The camp attendants supplied piles of firewood and lit the fire for us both in the evening and before we rose in the morning. It was much appreciated as it was REALLY cold up there! I slept in thermals, long pjs, my down sleeping bag and another down sleeping bag over me (but I was warm). The showers were thankfully really hot, although actually undressing to get in them was a bit chilly!

We cooked our dinner over the fire and spent some time chatting to a couple we first met in Senga Bay drinking Amarula – all very pleasant. The camp attendants insisted they wash up all our dishes for us, which was really nice, but made us feel a little guilty. If we had all the time in the world we probably would have stayed a few more days to relax, but we decided we would rather have some extra days where there is more wildlife to be seen.

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

 Posted by Elizabeth at 4:11 pm
Jun 152011
 

We left the shores of Lake Malawi and headed inland towards Mzuzu where we managed to top up our diesel, ensuring we will have enough to get us across the border and into Tanzania. About an hour out of Mzuzu the road becomes pretty rough and slow, passing as usual through rural villages where we were warmly waved at by both children and adults.

Vwarza Marsh Wildlife ReserveVwaza Marsh is a small reserve, somewhat off the beaten path, but was well worth the effort. We arrived at lunchtime and our campsite gave us a clear view of the marsh and open plain (the picture at left is part of the view from our campsite). As we sat and ate our lunch, within 200 metres we could see a group of elephants, hippos, impala, baboons and bushbuck. Not a bad scenic backdrop. In the afternoon we took a drive along the marsh, managing to drive quite some distance right beside the water and plains with an unobstructed view and loads of animals. There aren’t many roads in the park, and those not directly beside the water had tall, thick scrub so game viewing was not very good. There are so many hippos in the park – more than we have ever seen in the one are. There were pods of 10-20 all huddled together on the water’s edge. There are also heaps of kudu, as well warthog, impala, baboons, bushbuck and elephants. We stopped off at the lodge and went down to the open shelter they use for dining. Not 30 metres in front of us there was a group of around 10 elephants eating, including 2 babies. 3 of them got really close, and one started walking straight towards us but finally stopped about 5 metres from where we were sitting. Very cool! As we sat and ate our dinner back in camp there were 2 hippos grazing about 8 metres from us, again an awesome experience. All night we heard the hippos calling, which was great, but they also managed to wake us up  numerous times as they were so close and loud.

Impala, Vwarza Marsh Wildlife ReserveVwarza Marsh Wildlife ReserveVwarza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

Chintheche

 Posted by Elizabeth at 5:59 pm
Jun 142011
 

We had another reasonably short drive north to Chintheche where we were hoping to escape the horrid wind. The drive passed through typical villages with friendly people waving to us. Today I actually had to get out of the car to do our shopping! We bought 8 bananas for 20 Kw (13 cents) and 5 tomatoes for 100 Kw (66 cents). Roadside shopping is definitely cheaper than the supermarket. The Mozambicans make excellent bread and we could buy rolls or loaves for next to nothing in every small village. The bread in Malawi though always seems to be at least a day old even though they assure you it is fresh today, so we are missing the fresh Mozambican bread for our lunch!

MakuzI Lodge was our campsite for the night. It is situated on a beautiful, secluded bay with rock cliffs at either end, which provided some protection from the wind. It has a lovely sandy beach, lots of grass and shade and pretty gardens. We set up camp on the grass and relaxed all afternoon doing nothing more than taking a short stroll along the beach. If you want a place to relax and swim this is a perfect spot, but I missed being able to watch the village life.

Makuzi Lodge, ChinthecheMakuzi Lodge, ChinthecheMakuzi Lodge, Chintheche

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