By Guy Robertson
Our kayak was stacked onto a, now fully loaded, coal truck en route to the lake.
With heads held high and spirits rejuvenated the team was ready to attack the next leg of our journey to Likoma Island.
Once in the water the double kayak seemed to be running smoothly again. The previous events, on Day 40 (where we had a few issues), are not a good representation of the actual performances of our boats. They have been put to the test numerous times along the way; covering almost 1000km’s through some heavy waters, not to mention the 4 day trek to Malawi. There are no other boats we would rather paddle in. The singles have been outstanding and are easy to handle and maneuver whilst the double isn’t as sharp on the turning but is stable and quick. All in all, the Paddleyak crafts are the way forward.
Day 45 was a rather ominous day. With the clouds brewing above us we couldn’t tell if it was going to rain or snow or both. We set off with the intention of reaching Mbamba Bay which was 35km from where we had camped. We reached a point 10 km’s into our paddle when Mother Nature, with her boundless sense of obscure humour, made it abundantly clear that we were not going to be travelling on her lake for much longer that day.
A brutal wind pushed a rather large swarm of lake flies into our path. If you don’t know what those are, they are tiny insects, smaller than mosquitoes, that fly in their millions like small clouds just above the surface of the water and they easily find their way into your nose, mouth and ears. As if this wasn’t bad enough the heavens opened up and rain drops pelted into our faces making it difficult to see. After about half an hour the rain subsided and we gathered on the water to laugh at how ridiculous the past 30 minutes had been. We decided to call it a day as the “Mpepo” (wind) was just too strong to fight against. A wise move! A short while after beaching we looked up and not 500m away a water spout had formed quietly, it stretched up like a snake reaching for the dark sky.
Once clearing the immigration office in Mbamba Bay we were driven by the idea of getting to Likoma Island, this would also signify the end of stage 3. Through broken Swahili and many hand gestures we found out from the local fisherman that the new moon was due during our travels to Likoma, this was a good sign as it calms the waters for a few days. We took full advantage of our new discovery and managed to clock up 141km in 3 days, crossing into Mozambique waters and finally to Likoma Island (which is part of Malawi.)
I may have made it seem easy, but we had to complete a 25km crossing to get to the Islands. This is normally a 3 and a half hour paddle but roughly 1/5 of the way a head wind came from the South East, extending our crossing time to 5 hours. Taking a break for a bite to eat was simply not an option as you would lose hard earned yardage. It was an almighty battle and one we wouldn’t like to do again.
An awesome 3 days was spent with some great people and hospitality at Mango Drift which is situated on the West side of Likoma. The island is small with few developments. A beautiful cathedral lies on a hill overlooking the central town which is worthwhile having a look at especially as it has an interesting history behind it.