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Malawi

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Well, at long last we have reached the end of our East African adventure, and as I write this at my parent’s kitchen table while gazing out at barren trees and two feet of snow it is difficult to fathom just how much can change over the course of a couple days. After an amazing hike up Mt. Mulanje followed by an epic journey that included four separate flights and a corresponding number of layovers, both short and long, like my calf and thigh hair respectively, totalling roughly 40 hours from the time we squeezed ourselves sweating and anticipatory into a tiny cab on the outskirts of Lilongwe to welcome home hugs, reluctantly donned winter gear and our hesitant emergence from the doors of the Saskatoon airport into the harsh embrace of Saskatchewan winter. Ah, the magic of air travel. Now, back to Malawi, and a brief narrative on how…

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…

The Ilala Ferry: More than Just a Fishy Smell Special Advertising Feature Tired of the well-trodden tourist trail? Looking for something different, something uniquely African, and maybe just a little bit disgusting? Look no further than the Ilala ferry – a working cargo ship plying the clear blue waters of Lake Malawi from Chilumba in the north all the way to Monkey Bay in the south, stopping off at all sorts of curious backwaters along the way. For many, the Ilala’s affordability and authentic African atmosphere have made it the highlight of their entire trip. Some of the main attrractions: Terrific Views Gaze out over the vast expanse of blue water. Take pleasure in the haunting images of distant Mozambican mountains. Experience the stark humanity of children being dangled overboard to defecate. Revel in the austere beauty of barren Chizimulu Island. Feast your eyes on the dramatic multi-coloured sheen of…

Southward bound and curiously titillated1, based on hearing rave reviews about the scenery, swimming and socializing, we made our way quickly and rather painlessly to the backpacker haven of Nkhata Bay. The area itself consists of a number of attractive little inlets filled with deep, clear water surrounded by steep, hilly shorelines and teeming with local fishing boats. Good snorkeling2, great swimming and plenty of places to buy a beer or 74 – what’s not to like? Sure, the place has a bit of a party reputation – on its best nights described as fun and social, on its worst – loud, obnoxious and highly susceptible to unplanned pregnancies3. 1 Excitement and arousal stemming from an unlikely source, often experienced by depressed, recently divorced middle-aged men upon sight of Meg Ryan’s naked breasts. 2 The only place to see Cichlid fish, hundreds of slight variations endemic to Lake Malawi…

We now find ourselves in Livingstonia, Malawi, somewhat less popular as a safari destination than Tanzania or Kenya, and less prone to headlining CNN than Rwanda, Uganda or the Congo, but with their very own flag nonetheless. So far we’ve been quite impressed by its wide variety of attractions – a relaxed atmosphere, terrific scenery, extremely friendly people, disconcertingly damp handshakes. Our journey concluded last time around with a delightful dip in the clean, cool waters of Lake Malawi off the beach at Chitimba – a wide swath of brown sand, easy refreshing swimming and a hut on the beach, what more could we ask for? Well, maybe a fan in the room. The nights were a bit on the sweltering side. And I maybe could have done without the strange cold I either picked up from a sniffling member of the staff, or one of the dozen babies on…

With the Tazara train finally in the rear view mirror, the pair shuffle through the strangely tall wooden gate, relief etched on their faces like savage incontinence. They stop, slowly gazing around, taking in the shaded grounds, the rustic thatch huts and the glorious blue of the lake not so far off, not now. Shaking their head as though waking from a dream they push themselves back into motion, invigorated by the tantalizing proximity of their ultimate goal. It is 12:15 pm several kilometers outside Dar es Salaam and the sign in front of the Tazara train station is demoralizing in its simplicity. “The 13:50 train will be delayed until 20:00. Sorry for the inconvenience.” Six suddenly discovered hours to look after. The choice – return to the city and pay for another night’s hotel, or spend the day in the faded, crumbling 70’s glory of the station built in…

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