By Guy Robertson
A celebration was in order last night due to the crossing of the first 100kms, but we found ourselves falling asleep at the dinner table, like the majority of the nights on our adventure so far.
Our days usually start around 5:45am, when the sun peeps over mountains on the Eastern borders of the lake. The first rays immediately turn our tents into baking ovens. The end of the day is usually signaled by the odd grunt of discomfort from one of the team members and so we find ourselves drifting to the closest beach, which hopefully isn’t inhabited by hippos, snakes, crocodiles, ants or dragons. I would far prefer anything but ANTS…
Day 6 was a surprise for us, I was expecting a sleep in, but from the past few days sleeping habits, we were all up at sparrows. A day of relaxation and repairs to our crafts followed.
The ‘Mwera’ wind is a common feature on Lake Malawi, every Malawian knows about it. It starts to pick up at around the end of April and steadily grows stronger and more frequent as winter gets closer. Luckily for us ‘Miss Mwera’, tends to be a southerly wind, which means it’s blowing from behind us. Ultimately wind is not a paddler’s dream, but we are glad to be with it rather than against it. This situation I gather, is different on the East side of the lake.
Day 7 seemed to have been dominated by the wind. It picked up really early and didn’t seem to leave; a decision was made to leave a little late, around 2pm. Again another tough paddle, but through great team spirit and a lot of banter we made it around the corner, clocking up 17km, which wasn’t so bad when considering the six foot swell from all directions.
Today (Day 8 ) was a momentous occasion for us: we clocked up some serious mileage, a whole 35km. A few grumbles and groans about the lower-back pain brought us into a small beach lying at the foot of a beautiful cliff face. We were greeted by a beautiful Fish eagle, perched up on his stilt, as well as a few of the local people. Once again, ‘Malawi’ smiled on us…We met a kind local man by the name of Andrew who took the trouble to run to the market, a good 3km away, to buy us bread as well as instructed some of the youngsters to assist Caiden with starting the fire. Luckily for us team members, Caiden is such an asset to the team with his Bear Grylls knife on hand and had a fire going in 5 minutes.
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We surprised ourselves the following day yet again when we produced a fine session on the water. The wind was at our backs the whole day and we ended our morning activity at the Stewarts cottage just past Dwangwa. We had knocked up a cracker three days since staying at the Pottery Cottage, and had put 85km on the board. A well deserved break was in order.
Matt had organised the stay at the Stewarts cottage through a bloke he had met in Harare and through word-of-mouth, we were very fortunate to get this great little place to stay at. I thought that South Africans were good hosts… the kindness and compassion that we received from Nicky and Andy Stewart (Malawians) was mind blowing. We were a bit taken a back at how a family we had never met was so willing to bend over backwards for our cause.
There is one thing you can never trust a Malawian with (especially a fisherman on a dug-out canoe) and that is his distance perception. Whatever he tells you, multiply that by three and you’re not even half way there. Matt and I spent 4 hours on the “dumpa” bicycles (a “no-speed” bicycle, made of pure lead and lacking shocks) that we had borrowed from John (the Stewart’s housekeeper), before we returned home.
Day 11 didn’t have much in store for us, the water was flat and we needed to get back on the trek. Not far from us was Ngala lodge, our next stop. Again a Malawian by the name of Greg Davies had us fooled on the distance issue…luckily for his sake it wasn’t so drastic. He met us that night for a toot at the lodge, which is a beautiful spot tucked into a reed-bed , with a view from heaven.