From Chinteche and the glorious Makuzi Beach, we continued up the coast to Nkhata Bay. The plan was to wait there until the Ilala Ferry arrived, and then head over to Likoma Island for a few days. But the ferry never came.
Someone told us it broke down somewhere in the middle of the lake. Someone else told us it never even left Monkey Bay. It was a pity, as Likoma sounded pretty darn perfect. But there are far worse places to be stranded than Mayoka Village in Nkhata Bay, where we ended up spending three nights waiting for a boat that never came.
Run by a very nice British couple who have been there for over 20 years, Mayoka is the quintessential backpackers. The place has literally been carved out of a steep, rocky hillside, which plunges straight down into the deepest part of the lake. If you didn’t know better you’d think you were somewhere in the Mediterranean. We thought Mayoka’s payoff line summed the place up quite nicely: “For travelers. For the young at heart.”
From Nkhata Bay, we continued north towards the small town of Livingstonia, which sits high up on the western face of the mighty Rift Valley. The road up to Livingstonia is a bit of an adventure. It’s basically a single track most of the way, so things can get quite interesting when there’s an oncoming vehicle. Reversing down a narrow, rocky road when there’s a steep cliff down the one side is not something you want to do every day. The 9 kms up to the very rustic Mushroom Farm, where we stayed, took us over an hour, but it was worth the trauma. The views back down towards the lake were breathtaking, and it’s hard to imagine a more epic place to pitch a tent.
The next day we did a 12 km hike up to a place called Chombe Plateau. It’s a short walk for seasoned hikers, but we’re not seasoned hikers, and we felt like we had conquered Kilimanjaro when we finally dragged ourselves to the top.
As it turned out, it would be the northernmost point of our Southern African loop. As we sat trying to catch our breaths, perched high up on the lip of Africa’s Great Rift Valley, it certainly looked like it would be all downhill from there.