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A Mild Case of Likoma

Likoma is a small, pretty island on Lake Malawi just off the coast of Mozambique, and if I may say not the easiest place in the world to get to (that, I believe, would be the back seat of Jude Law’s Bentley). In fact, Likoma is actually located Mozambican waters but for reasons not entirely clear to us somehow remains tied to Malawi economically, politically and, just to be safe, by some of those strings you use to keep kids from losing their mitts. Dry and dusty, at least at this time of year, but covered in scenic mango trees and dotted with occasional giant baobabs, something we haven’t seen much of since the Serengeti. Friendly, unpretentious people and a laid back atmosphere that drags you into its wonderful lethargy with all the sly tenacity of Uncle Frank jostling you from the couch after Christmas dinner. Excellent. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and, especially after the fact, wish we could have stayed longer but unfortunately transportation to and from the island is extremely limited (2 ferries per week or a 4 passenger plane…on standby) so 5 days at wonderful Mango Drift resort was all we got. Sitting in Mulanje four days later hiding out from the oppressive rain we found ourselves wishing we had just said, in the venerable words of Jay Leno and that homeless guy who lives right in the middle of the busiest sidewalk in the city, “screw it, I’m not going anywhere” and spent our entire last two weeks there. Alas, we did not do that (and ended up doing a great hike, despite the weather, but that’s another story, next week’s story, in fact), but we did do this:

The Beach

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4:02 pm Nov 30: After 18 hours on the Ilala, a crowded boat into shore, a one hour wait for a ride, half an hour bouncing around in the back of a little truck all capped off with a ten minute hike down the beach – finally made it into the water for a swim as exhilarating and energizing as the one in Chitimba, without the crusty Dutch guy or semi-domesticated baby owls.

4:03 pm Nov 30: Frolicked like mating sparrows.

10:39 pm Nov 30: Watched the nearby Mozambican coast absorb a thorough thrashing at the hands of a raging storm, most likely in retaliation for that lewd tail they added to the letter “ҫ”, and began to dream of its cool winds and refreshing rain reaching our parched beach, all along suspecting it would just turn out to be just a malicious tease, like a nun asking you how you think she’d look with a nipple ring.

12:12 am Dec 1: Trees around Likoma began to rustle ominously – narrowed down the source to either a gathering storm, a tribe of mischievous baboons or Richard Gere nervously trying to remain hidden while recovering from plastic surgery.

1:12 am Dec 1: Storm hits! Our rickety bamboo hut is buffeted soundly. Through trial and error we eventually positioned our bed in such a way as to stay partially dry, mostly covered by the mosquito net and entirely surrounded by crawling night creatures.

Aftermath of the Storm

9:04 am Dec 1: Ensconced in our respective hammocks.

10:37 am Dec 1: Shuffled to bathroom, the hot sand frying the bottom of my soft pink feet like juicy, astonished prawns.

3:14 pm Dec 1: Discover that my back is now semi-permanently imprinted with outline of mesh hammock like a very poorly chosen gang tattoo.

3:22 pm Dec 1: Burnt feet on sand.

4:41 pm Dec 1: Went snorkeling, saw lots of colourful cichlids, lots of rocks, lots of cichlids hanging around the rocks, motionless, suspended in time like a TBS laugh track.

7:03 pm Dec 1: Startled by dubiously large, Desert Storm coloured frogs.

8:39 pm Dec 1: Watched Season 2 finale of True Blood. Saucy! (“What happened to Bill!? Who has taken him!?” Now picture it in an woman’s Australian accent…)

8:32 am Dec 2: Continued to enjoy the peanut butter.

10:04 am Dec 2: Burnt feet on sand.

11:20 am Dec 2: Taught to play the Malawian game of bao by an Australian man, humiliated at it by said man twice, kicking off an 0-7 start which, while frustrating, did serve to reveal a slight masochistic streak that may explain why I’m always pushing away on that partially ingrown toenail.

1:17 pm Dec 2: Chuckled.

2:08 pm Dec 2: Burnt feet on sand.

3:46 pm Dec 2: Went kayaking (I’m a kayaker!) in a tiny little unit reminiscent of a plastic popcorn bowl, and roughly as steady. Plans for recklessly dramatic Likoma beach entrance go awry as I skid to a shaky stop in 6 inches of water and slowly tip over.

A rare moment of balance

4:43 pm Dec 2: Started playing solitaire obsessively.

7:51 pm Dec 2: Ouwe the German regaled us with his plan to reintroduce smoking on airplanes. Generous use is made of the phrases “Hmm, maybe”, “I see what you’re saying, I guess” and “Yeah, and this wart I grew in high school is going away any day now”.

2:28 am Dec 3: During late night foray to the bathroom I crossed paths with a huge hybrid insect, part spider, part scorpion, part grasshopper, the likes of which I have never seen before, but which I have since decided to call either a Sporpion, or a Scoiderhopper. Either way, I can tell you it was very large, very fast and harbours an unhealthy attraction to head lamps. Hilarity ensued, unless you’re the Sporpion, I suppose, because it’s dead.

9:57 am Dec 3: Burnt feet on sand.

10:42 am Dec 3: Thought of the phrase “teased us like a nun with a nipple ring” – immediately began to work on a way to fit it into a relevant sentence.

11:45 am Dec 3: Sat in the shade typing my blog while the staff, those who spend their days cooking with wood fires and sweeping sand, regarded me as suspiciously as if were a Canuck fan (a little skittish, poised to flee, totally gay). The same look was given to the wet underwear hanging from trees around our hut.

2:33 pm Dec 3: Successful result to my four part strategy for dealing with the infected cut on my foot – antibiotics, antibacterial cream, oregano oil and generous helping of love. The first three worked quite efficiently but, unfortunately, the fourth made my penis pretty sore.

Laundry time

7:22 pm Dec 3: Laynni – “Do you realize that for the last 13 hours you haven’t spoken at a normal volume except to say yes to sex?”/ Dean – “I did not.”

8:10 pm Dec 3: Convinced Laynni to let us start Season 2 of Parks and Recreation – she likes Tom, finds Leslie incredibly painful, but was eventually swayed by Ron’s dashing mustache.

9:26 am Dec 4: Finally won a game of solitaire. Celebrated with victory parade from the bathroom to the clothesline. Laynni told me to quit following her.

12:00 pm Dec 4: Ilala Ferry scheduled to arrive. Horizon draws a blank.

1:45 pm Dec 4: Finally finished reading all the magazines at Mango Drift, even Alert Diver and South African GQ (who else would do a 7 page interview with Charlize Theron?), and moved on to the 1988 Official World Atlas (oh, where have you gone U.S.S.R.?) and the Lonely Planet Western Europe phrasebook (Guten Tag! Sil Vous Plait! Danke wel! Arrivederci! God Save the Queen!)

2:12 pm Dec 4: Came tantalizingly close to actually leaving the grounds of Mango Drift but scurried back after encountering a gang of young, unkempt goats loitering about with sinister indifference.

Loitering hooligans

4:12 pm Dec 4: Heard tell of a Vancouver couple getting married elsewhere on the island by a witch doctor in a suit and turban, witnessed by strangers, and in no way legally binding. Also, burnt feet on sand.

6:04 pm Dec 4: Informed by text message of arrival of Ilala ferry a mere six hours late.

7:30 pm Dec 4: Boarded Ilala ferry.

7:36 pm Dec 4: Giddy as Sean Connery with a mouthful of haggis after getting our hands on a couple dirty plastic sleeping mats.

Mmmm, mattress

10:12 pm Dec 4: Lift off!

11:31 pm Dec 4: Sleeping peacefully.

7:07 am Dec 5: Enjoyed decent, prompt breakfast.

7:45 am Dec 5: Disembarked at Nkhata Bay with nary a complaint to voice. Believed to be first such occurrence since Alf was cancelled.

11:40 am Dec 5: On bus to Lilongwe woman in aisle braced herself by impaling her ample behind on the point of my shoulder like some type of sword swallower in reverse (wait a minute, or would that just mean she spits out swords? Not important…)

12:45 pm Dec 5: Shifted in my seat and inadvertently became something of a puppeteer.

2:16 pm Dec 5: Bus smashes through nasty pothole and for some reason my mind drifts to thoughts of grapes, and what the definition of sodomy is, exactly.

3:35 pm Dec 5: Arrived in Lilongwe. And, of course, showered for the first time in days.

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