Instalment 12 – “Leaving Dar! & entering Malawi” AKA: “A (Book) Mission to the (Catholic) Mission”

AKA: “Sister Act 3” (maybe?? depending on how many previous Sister Act films there are, you know me and Jen are crap at films!)

Ben – We had arrived at Woody’s in Dar-es-Salam on the 11th February, and after 5 nights on Zanzibar for the music festival, a couple of days cleaning and servicing the Disco, a couple of days helping Woody out with a few things and a couple of days relaxing in his house & pool, and another day visiting the beach and museum, and finally getting our passports back from the Mozambique embassy with Visa’s installed, it was 27th February, 17 days later!  Thanks so much to Woody letting us treat his lovely house like our own, after 146 days on the road is was luxury, but the stay had caused a large plateau in my graph of days passed verses kilometre’s covered….

Back by popular demand its ……

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Geeks corner :

On today (13th March) it is day 176 of our trip

We are in our 8th African country Malawi (and before: Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt)

We have covered 24,353km, in about 555 driving hours, using 2783 litres of diesel – Price ranging from 0.11 £/litre (Egypt) to 1.53 £/litre (Turkey)

The disco has been serviced 4 times, still only the rear shock has given us any real trouble, although a window winding mechanism, a set of rear brake pads and the clutch slave cylinder have been changed too, and a tinker with the diff lock mechanism was required in Kenya.

Sadly our bush-camp percentage is down to 10% as from Ethiopia south it’s a lot less easy & necessary (but in Namibia we hope to pull that back up again).  Nights in our tent has nudged up to 71%, the rest were in boats & rooms, including a new category “stayed with friends” which enters the chart at 8%, mainly thanks to Woody, but also thanks to Father Chahali & the Sisters (read later), and Ben&Lucy&Orla way back in Hassocks last September.

We have finished 4.3 cans of “Ultrathon” Mosi spray

Jen has finished 3.5 tubes of Pizbuin all day sun cream, Ben has used about 0.1.

Jen has won 53% of the Backgammon games, but only cos she’s lucky with the double 6’s.

Things lost:

The washing line (Jen blames me)

Our decent head torch (Jen blames me)

Large spoon (way back in Turkey, Jen admits it was her fault, definitely)

A plate (Before we even left home, no idea?)

10,000 Tanzanian shillings, thanks to a dodgy money changer guy I knew was diddling us, still that’s only 4 pounds, it still infuriates me!!

Our sanity (on occasions)

Bart, just for you, we’ve now used about 42 Dickshnoodles.

Days of torrential set in rain that looks like going knowhere fast, ONE, Today, can you tell I’m a little bored.

So, back to the story…

We left Dar 2 weeks ago, and with a Mission.  Woody & Roy’s company Wild Thing Safaris, also runs a lodge in the Udzungwa Mountains called Hondo Hondo.  The lodge is in an area that Roy has visited for various reasons for the past 18 years.  He’s particularly well known in a small town/village called Itete which is about 150km south of Hondo Hondo, and well off any kind of main road, and here Wild Things & Hondo Hondo have been helping build a medical facility & with other things.  It just so happened that as we left Dar there were 450 text books that needed taking down there…  Here starts our “fortnight of good will”.  Good deed no. 1:

Jen:  We had a lovely day in the Udzungwa Mountains with a very knowledgeable guide called David. He spotted lots of different animals and birds and was extremely patient with me and Ben being particularly blind in seeing anything (you’d think after nearly 5 months in this continent we’d be a little better but clearly we have a long way to go!). We hiked up to Sanje Falls with beautiful views below towards Selous National Park. We got suitably hot and sweaty on our climb and enjoyed taking a dip in the refreshing (ie pretty chilly) waterfall pool at the top. We returned in the afternoon to Hondo Hondo where we enjoyed sitting at the bar looking up at the forested mountain slopes and then treating ourselves to a very nice three course dinner and one too many glasses of wine.

We’d planned to leave Hondo Hondo the following morning but pulling out of the camp that morning Ben had thought something was a bit wrong with the clutch (as normal I’d not spotted a thing). After unpacking various boxes of spares from the back and me pressing the clutch “up” and “down” a lot Ben started to change the slave cylinder (I was listening to his mechanical ramblings for a change). It was particularly hot this day and Ben had managed to get quite nicely covered in Clutch fluid (nasty stuff) and a lot of oil and grease – I definitely had the better job. After some wurble wurble semantics (one of my Dad’s phrase that means general swearing and unhappiness) Ben finally got it all back together and it seemed to be working as good as new. We did however decide that driving a couple of hundred kilometres into the middle of nowhere, further away from any sort of help wasn’t the most sensible thing to do and therefore took it for a test drive up to Mikuni to check it out which proved all good.

The next day we were ready to make our trip down south, past Ifakara down to see Father Chahali at the Itete mission. We had a good drive down to Ifakara, a relatively big town considering it’s not on any main road. We had a nice wander around the market, stopped at the local Womens Weavers Association and tracked down the local nuns who apparently made good bread. From there we continued to the Kilombero Ferry crossing and down to the small town of Itete. We arrived at the Catholic Mission and were immediately made to feel very welcome by the Sisters and Father Chahali. As we were chatting to the Father over a cup of tea Ben just mentioned in passing that it happened to be my birthday, Father Chahali responded that we’d have to celebrate later that evening and I thought no more about it.

At 7 that evening we met with Father Chahali outside the mission for a couple of glasses of wine/ beer. As we were sat there we could hear some ladies singing and some drumming, the sound got closer and we then realised that the group of ladies were heading in our direction. The 7 trainee nuns had come from the convent to invite us back to dinner.

On arriving at the hall in the Convent it was clear a large amount of food had been prepared for us, Ben and I were ushered to the top of the room and sat at what seemed like a top table for a wedding. We had a lovely dinner with Father Chahali, the Sisters and the trainee nuns. After dinner there was mention of my birthday and then the next minute everyone was leaving the room. I had to stand by the top table whilst everyone re-entered the room in a long procession to “cheer” me a happy birthday. Some more sisters arrived with a large stereo and some dancing then followed before everyone again left the room. A long procession then came into the room, with each person bringing me a flower to add to a large bunch they’d already presented to me. Some more singing and dancing followed and everyone was clearly enjoying themselves.

Finally everyone again left the room and I was particularly surprised by the finale of my birthday celebrations –  the sisters filed into the room with the front lady carrying a huge birthday cake, fully iced with “Happy Birthday Jenny” the cake was still hot as they’d only had a couple of hours to prepare this. I really couldn’t get over the effort they’d made to celebrate my birthday. Father Chahali then insisted that I cut a slice of cake and Ben and I had to feed it to each other in front of everyone. I then cut the cake into 19 slices (they got a lot smaller as I went) in order for everyone to share in the delicious cake I’d been made.

More dancing and singing followed and there was mention that everyone was happy to be joining my birthday Saturday night rather than preparing for church the following morning. Finally we each had to make a speech, all I could really say was thank you, thank you over and over again. Ben who’s had slightly more practice at making speeches did a better job and explained how we’re so lucky to be doing what we’re doing and that over and over it’s the people we meet on the way that make is so special, a point that couldn’t have been more proven on this evening.

Ben – After getting back to the Tarmac it was a long couple of days slog down the “TanZam Highway”.  We’d heard from a few people that this was horrible with dangerous truck drivers, and long 50kph stretches through town and the endless police checks & roadwork’s.  We encountered all of this, but to be honest it was OK, we just took our time.

On March 6th we entered Malawi and breathed a big sigh of relief, it seems so chilled here.  It’s clearly way poorer than where we’ve been recently, few vehicles but lots of bicycles & pedestrians with no shoes.  But the people are so friendly, big smiles and waves, and a keenness to chat (the standard of English here is high).  Just over the border we stopped at Karanga for lunch & a “museum” visit.  The area is famous for its fossils and ancient remains, and particularly for a dinosaur skeleton discovery that is shown in a small but quite interesting museum in this otherwise unremarkable town.  The dinosaur is called the Malawiasaurus, how can you not stop to see that?

From there we headed for a camp on the shores of Lake Malawi before heading up a very steep & twisty road towards the old missionary town of Livingstonia.

ChitimbaBeach_LakeMalawi

ChitimbaBeach_LakeMalawi

We camped up 5km short of the Town, and planned to drive up, over and through it on the way to the Nyika Plateau the following day, but we hadn’t banked on the RAIN.  Overnight it poured, and was still trying in the morning.  We tried to drive up to Livingstonia, the mud on the road was of the African zero-friction variety that means when you try to drive forward, gravity takes control not traction, and you actually just edge sideways towards the big ditches.  We parked up and decided to walk, that was slippy too.  Livingstonia is like a little slice of Britain in Africa, built mainly by early UK missionaries.  The views off the hillside over Lake Malawi were beautiful.

When we returned to the Disco we popped into “Blessings Restaurant” as we had the previous day for lunch.  Charles the owner sorted us Nsima (maize based stodge) & mushrooms which was delicious, but I preferred the Nsima & Beans he produced the day before.  Charles is a lovely man, we chatted for a while and it turned out he was trying to get himself and 2 huge bags of  maize back down the hill to the main road to take it to market, hence good deed no. 2:

We loaded the maize in our 3rd seat, and Charles climbed onto the back bumper and held on tight.  After half an hour of bumping (the road was already nearly dry, it happens so fast), we rounded a corner to find a small Toyota saloon car in the ditch, the 7 grown men who were travelling in it were stood scratching their heads, hence good deed no. 3:

We dug out our towing straps and shackles, attached Disco to Toyota and with remarkable ease dragged the car back onto the dry bit of road in the middle.  Then we carried on for another half hour down to the main road and dropped of Charles and his Maize.

The rain and good deeds had shaken our plans up a lot, so we decided to stop en-route to Nyika in a small town of Rumphi, and we happened across a fantastic camp site run in conjunction with a large orphanage and medical centre called Matunka.  They had the place running sweetly with a good basic restaurant, and small Safari company too. We decided straight away we’d stop here on the way back from Nyika.  As we left the following morning Patrick (the Safari guide) stopped us and said “Are you still going to Nyika?  I have a friend with a small water pump who needs to head to the lodge up there”.  Hence good deed no.4:

We said yes.  The pump turned out to be about 1.5 meters long & weigh about 100kg, but it was accompanied by a very smiley guy called Rasarus, so we strapped the pump on the roof, and Razarus in our 3rd seat, and headed off

Jen: The drive up to the Nyika Plateau was slow, the rain meant we had to take it really steady. We’d climbed up to nearly 2500m although it was a gradual thing. The scenery had changed to something very reminiscent of Wales or Yorkshire with rolling hills, forested areas and lots of greenery, the main difference being the zebras and antelope wandering around. On arrival we managed to get the pump off the roof and then head up to our little campsite and chilled out with zebras grazing just in front of us. Sam and Razarus looked after us at the camp with constantly seeing to the camp fire and ensuring there was always hot water (a very nice treat indeed).

NiykaPlateau

NiykaPlateau

The following morning we decided to rent a couple of mountain bikes and enjoy some of the trails in the park. Rich, Dave, Cathy, Chris, Jon, Darren & Karen you’d all have been thoroughly unimpressed with Ben and my biking skills. The terrain was pretty hilly and we struggled with some of the hills almost immediately, we did try and blame some of our unfitness on the altitude. We battled on for a few hours before heading back, now every time we hit a hill my legs just turned to jelly but the scenery all around was beautiful and it was so so peaceful up there.

Despite wanting to explore the park more the following morning we woke up to a cloud of greyness and the rain looked like it was very set in for the day. We therefore reluctantly decided to head back to Rumphi. From there we stopped off in Mzuzu, a relatively large town for Malawi where we could stock up on some supplies. We’re now in Nkata Bay. Yesterday when we arrived the Lake was a beautiful turquoise colour and the beach just stunning. This morning as Ben has mentioned it’s raining and everything looks a little more grey. From here we’re going to head down to Lake coast and towards Liongwe (Malawi Capital)  before gradually heading towards Mozambique. Fingers crossed the rainy season doesn’t bring too much more rain!

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This entry was posted in Malawi & Mozambique, Uganda Rwanda & Tanzania. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Instalment 12 – “Leaving Dar! & entering Malawi” AKA: “A (Book) Mission to the (Catholic) Mission”

  1. Leesa says:

    Ңighly energetic post, I enjoyed that ƅit. Will there be a part 2?

    • Glad you enjoyed it. The request for comment approval has been a lovely little interlude whilst sat at my desk having lunch – not quite the same as Malawian and Tanzanian adventures 😦

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