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By Caiden Lang

The last two weeks has been an experience like no other. After leaving Nkatha Bay we continued our journey northwards towards Tanzania.

If you were to look on a map, you would notice that there are no roads leading down to the lake from Nkatha  bay to somewhere near Chilumba-a stretch of about 120km. The steep mountains that greeted us as we began to amble our way into stage two of our circumnavigation accounted for this. The next six days were spent in the midst of what is probably the most dramatic scenery I have had the pleasure of seeing. Whoever first used the epithet “crystal clear” to describe water must have spent some time in this area of Malawi…

Lake malawi landscape expedition kayak
The dramatic landscape of Lake Malawi Photo © Hope for the Future

The mountains rise arrogantly from the deep blue water and you get the feeling that time has had no effect on these titans that, with austere simplicity, lay rocky fingers of protection on the life below. The isolated villages dot the hillside without any uniformity and the people here are solely dependent on the land and the lake…

If you asked me what happened on Day 7 of our trip I would be hard pressed to give you details. It becomes a bit like this after a while. The memories are there but it is difficult to grasp them on request. The scenery however, is a part of the trip that has stayed with me in detail and recalling it helps render details that are difficult to pry out on their own.

It is amazing how the surroundings can breathe life into a tired body. ‘The day with the sunrise’ was the first day when we were on the water before dawn.  We had been paddling close on ten minutes when the sun peeked with eager rays through the clouds that shrouded the escarpment on the Mozambiquan side. A better writer would undoubtedly come up with some obscure metaphor  that would liken the sunlight hitting the water  to some metaphysical moment when an ageing alchemist catches his breath, as he discovers the formula for transforming water in to liquid gold. I am no such writer, so all I can say is that if I thought that this trip would quell some of the wanderlust that I feel then this particular sunrise has left me sorely mistaken and wanting more.

Lake Malawi sunrise expedition kayak
'The day with the sunrise' Photo © Hope for the Future expedition

The crafts are still taking in quite substantial amounts of water despite all our efforts to locate the leaks. Our diet for the last week has consisted mainly of rice and a spice of our choice. After the other night we are all in agreement that mixing rice and uncooked tomatoes is a terrible idea. Every now and then we manage to shoot or catch a fish which provides much needed protein, albeit in meagre amounts. Our fitness has increased dramatically and we are all feeling strong – the increasing number of kilometres covered per day gives testament to that.

I am writing this post from the Hope for the Future orphanage in Mbeya, Tanzania where we have spent a wonderful two nights in the enthusiastic company of Sharmala Buell and the orphan children who benefit from her care. It truly is a wonderful feeling to be in a position to help these children who are so deserving of anything that we are able to give.

I want to briefly tell you about two memorable moments, one highlight and one lowlight, of our trip so far. We woke up one morning on a beach in Karonga. The wind was howling and the fierce waves were dangerously close to the tents. We were informed by one of the locals that we should enter the lake with extra caution as that morning a dug-out canoe had washed up a few hundred metres from us with nets and a rod still on board, but no person. This news was eerily punctuated by cries of grief from a lady who we later learned was the mother of the drowned fisherman.

Adding to this terrible news we were also informed that two weeks prior to us being there, a local had been taken and eaten by a crocodile. The events of that morning left us a bit shaken. It was a reminder that for all of its exceptional beauty and romantic appeal, there lies a darker side to mother nature that needs to be respected.

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On a lighter note, after a morning of heavy swells we pulled in to a beach for our mid-day break. The village where we stopped was no doubt one of the smallest and more remote villages we had encountered. We laid down Terry (the tarpaulin) and after five minutes of relaxing, one of the villagers came over and said that the village would like to invite us to lunch. We followed him and joined the locals for lunch, which was delicious. These people had next-to-nothing, yet still had so much to give. It is for this reason, and the scenery that I described earlier, that has made Malawi such a special place for us. We are sad to leave it and it is with slight trepidation with which we proceed down the east coast of the lake to the sparsely populated and somewhat mysterious coastlines of Tanzania and Mozambique…

Here are a few things that I have learned so far:

  • I can paddle 45km in a day.
  • Mark can sing for about 50 min without taking a break.
  • It is extremely difficult to catch fish on the Malawian side with artificial lures.
  • A fire cracker will still go off under water.
  • It is possible to fall out of a kayak.
  • In some places in Malawi a coke costs the equivalent of R2 which is cheaper than buying a plastic packet to keep it in.
  • You and your rash vest begin to smell awful after a month of not wearing deodorant.
  • Having a mustache is frustrating when spear-fishing as water keeps getting in to your mask.
  • After a month of sleeping pretty much on the ground it is difficult to adjust to a proper bed.
  • There are more stars in the sky than I ever thought there were.
  • Goat meat is surprisingly tasty.
  • When a Malawian gives you a distance in km to the next town it is necessary to times it by two and you know that you will be about halfway.

P.S. Happy 21st birthday to a lovely young lady who, no matter how old she gets will always be my little sister.

P.P.S. Congratulations to Mark on the appearance of his first two abdominal muscles. He has informed me with great optimism that number 3 and 4 are on their way…

Hope for the Future

The Hope for the Future expedition team comprises of four South African university friends, circumnavigating Lake Malawi on their kayaks and raising money for charity. Caiden Lang, Guy Robertson and Matt and Marc Hampson plan to complete the 1400km of paddling unaided - no vehicle to follow them with backup and supplies! They'll be dodging hippos and crocs, fighting with swells and mosquitoes and fishing for their food, alone. They're raising money for the Hope for the Future Foundation in Tanzania. View their website: Lake Malawi Expedition