Our trip north took us via a camp at Nkhotakota, with an interesting bridge to cross en route.
Unlike Cape McClear, this part of Lake Malawi was affected by the sediment carried by river run-off and the water was a murky brown. Not very inviting so no swimming here.
The next night we stopped in Mzuzu. A fair-sized town with good facilities, it was our main chance to stock up with food and fuel before heading further north. We stayed at Macondo camp, another place run by Italians! What is it about Malawi and Italians? Anyway, it was a nice site but we didn’t meet the owners and, fortunately, didn’t get the same vibe as we had in Zomba so saved our wallets and waste-lines and moved on the next day.
Our destination was Livingstonia. Named in honour of the great Scottish missionary and explorer who has left such a lasting legacy on this part of Africa, this is where the missions finally established their base in the country. It is on the edge of the Nyika Plateau, which we will be exploring ourselves in a few days time, and has a fantastic view down over the lake and the mountains of Tanzania on the far shore.
But first we had to get up there. The road was a 15km ascent over a very rough track through over 20 hairpin bends. Why build a mission in such an inaccessible place? Originally it had been on the lake shore but so many of the missionaries had died of malaria that they moved the mission up the mountainside until they found a less mosquito-infested site. What this meant for us was one of the most beautiful 4×4 drives we have ever done. The track was fairly narrow and the hillside dropped away steeply in places, but not enough to be worrying or dangerous. The views were just beautiful.
We stopped at a fantastic camp called Lukwe. It was an eco-friendly camp owned and run by a Congo-born Belgian. He’d built it himself, including a fantastic permaculture garden that he’d created on the mountain-side. The bar / restaurant was in the most stunning position imaginable (unless, that is, you don’t like heights…)
Bar with a view
We set up camp, having a great chat with a lovely Dutch nurse who was on an internment in the hospital at Mzuzu and up here for a few days r&r. Then we headed for the bar. “Two gin and tonics please”. Off the barman went, returning with a brand new bottle of Malawian gin which he handed to Angela. (No comments about ‘old soak’ please). Slightly perplexed we tried to explain that we needed some in a glass. He returned with two wine glasses literally full to the brim… with neat gin. Now we might be known to enjoy a tipple or two but a whole glass of gin each is a bit much even for us. Eventually his colleague came to the rescue, explaining that he was new, and showing him how to make a proper G&T. We joined a group from the British High Commission who were up there hiking for the weekend and spent a nice hour putting the world to rights and trading travel stories, before leaving them to order their dinner and heading back to make ours.
The area had some interesting residents. As anyone who has ever listened to Angela knows, there are no spiders in Africa. Not quite sure what this fella was doing there then… Fortunately they weren’t that big, maybe 2.5cm wide.
Kite Spider (but don’t tell Angela)
In the morning we went for a nice walk through the gardens and found a great lookout rock, with a very sheer drop, from which to see a pair of waterfalls at the top of the valley.
This is a shot especially for our mothers….
We then drove up the final 6km to Livingstonia which, as a collection of colonial buildings, was quite interesting to have a quick look around but no more than that. Although we wanted to go onto the plateau itself, and the campsite we planned to stay at was only a few kms from here, there was no road, only footpaths. We would have to drive the 6 hour trip down and around to the other side of the mountain to get there. Still, it gave us the chance to tackle the long and fun twisting descent to the lake shore again.