After a ‘complimentary’ but fairly shonky breakfast in the grubby hotel in Blantyre we filled the Landy up with fuel, refreshed our supplies at a large supermarket and topped up our phones. We then fled the city lights and made our way to Cape McClear on the southern shores of Lake Malawi. It must have been water melon season as a section of the road was lined with stalls stacked to the brim with the mouth-watering fruit.
For the first time in what seemed like weeks we started to see some wildlife. Malawi is a small country with a relatively large population that seems to have cultivated every bit of land that it possibly can. As we approached the lake the land became wetter and hence less suitable for cultivation and the difference showed. No large mammals but lots of wetland birds.
Cape McClear, known locally as Chembe, is on a sheltered outcrop in the south of Lake Malawi. En route we quizzed our guide book for places to stay and places we might be able to watch the rugby. A couple of phone calls later and we had two in one. Fat Monkeys was a backpacker lodge with fairly cheap camping on the beach. What’s more they had DSTV and were happy to put the 6 Nations on for us. We were the only campers and we set up camp under a large shady tree overlooking the beach and the lake. It was beautiful.
View to the right…
View in front (who needs Horseguards?…)
View to the left…
The staff were really friendly and despite the fact that there were several football matches on (mostly UK – we were surprised how many people out here support Chelsea, Man U and Liverpool, until we were told that they tend to support whoever is top of the league at the time…). We watched the Wales game on Saturday and England on Sunday. The results went our way, along with several bottles of the local beer.
Lake Malawi, and this part of the lake in particular, is renowned for its diversity of fresh water fish, notably the huge variety of cichlids. Gareth’s brother and his wife, Huw an Helen, have several varieties of these beautiful fish at home and had told us that the fish in the lake are supposed to be the nearest you can get to the colour of tropical marine fish in fresh water. They weren’t wrong. We went snorkelling at places such as Otter Point and The Aquarium. Sadly so otters but the fish were fantastic and the Aquarium lived up to its name. There was almost a wall of fish in so many different colours – electric blue, orange, silver, black and gold, you name it they were there. Stunning. We were amazed to find that they followed us and wondered if they felt secure near a human but later were told that the guides feed them to attract them for the tourists. Hey ho.
A nearby lodge offered PADI accredited SCUBA diving courses, which is something we both wanted to do. The prices here were fairly cheap so we decided to go for it. First we had to get medicals. We went to the local clinic and spent 2 hours in the queue with the locals, metaphorically fighting to make sure we didn’t lose our place in the ramshackle queue. We felt slightly unworthy as most of these people were there for real medical issues whilst we wanted to be signed off to go diving. Our consciences were salved by the large sum we, as tourists, had paid for our time with the doc. At least 50 times the local rate. Gareth was signed off but the doc, a young Brit, was not happy with Ange’s mild asthma, advising her not to do the course and not signing her off. We were really disappointed. The doc told us that, if it was any consolation, he couldn’t dive either, due to a pierced ear-drum. His diving mates had told him that you can actually see most of the best stuff near the surface anyway so snorkelling was sometimes as good as diving. Well they would wouldn’t they…
We consoled ourselves with a kayaking trip and more snorkelling. In the morning we left to head north, but not before we had our breakfast stolen by a very cheeky Vervet Monkey. We knew they were around but turned our backs for a few moments and lost a slice of toast straight off the toaster! He was way too quick to stop him. It must have been burning hot but it didn’t bother the monkey one little bit.
Vervet Monkey enjoying our breakfast