Vwaza life

Having left this blog for a few day’s,we now have a few more incident’s/event’s to report on daily life.

Firstly,the other night we had a close encounter with a Hippo of the largest kind. Having gone to bed ,in our little ground tent and with Michael gently snoring, I heard (above the snoring)loud munching,I knew this to be a Hippo as they are usually munching at night,but at least 25 metres away,but as they’ve got used to us being here,they seem quite comfortable to get a little closer, I, however was not quite as comfortable, so gave Michael a sharp prod in the ribs,he awoke,grunting rather like the Hippo himself, but couldn’t understand why I was fretting so much,not until he shone his torch out of the mesh window (this is what you are supposed to do) and Found himself face to face with this enormous(especially when you’re sitting on the ground)Hippo,the creature couldn’t have been less interested,thankfully,but I was cowering under the duvet,with Michael(Ray Mears) assuring me all would be well,I wasn’t convinced,but couldn’t do a lot,not having an emergency exit at the back of the tent and eventually, he strolled away,casual as you like. Needless to say we are now back to sleeping in the roof-tent !!

My version – They dont generally bother people unless you invade their turf -the lake – and despite fears they avoid tents etc as they perceive them as large solid objects. This one was a stubborn old bugger and just took a bit longer to respond than normal. But it was very large and very close. As an aside all the stuff you see on TV about campfires keeping away animals is utter rubbish both hippos and elephants take no notice of them what so ever and i understand thats true for just about everything else – lions included


We decided we would drop off some sacks of maize to the orphanage,as it’s very expensive right now and also in short supply. Having done so they asked us to come back and meet the children.

Godwin and Manwell loading maize

We duely obliged and arrived there early in the morning to be greeted by the local women singing and dancing,the orphanage committee,the village head man,elders and many children. The Malawians, being very polite placed us on chairs to watch the dancing, I was made to join in with the women’s dance and after some excruciatingly bad dancing from me ,assured them Michael was the better women(sorry man) for the job,as we know how he loves a good dance,even if it is only 9:00 in the morning. The women seemed very excited by this and a crazy lady named Justina took him in hand and they danced like things possessed (reminding me somewhat of him and Diana at one of our parties!!)

Welcoming comittee

Justina and Michael cutting some rug – well sand actually

After the singing and dancing the children,along with their teacher,spoke in some very good English,given that most of them are only three or four,they all stood up and pointed to eyes ,ears, nose, etc,some simply too shy to perform,but all just gorgeous.

Some of the children

We were thanked by the committee,who would be sharing the maize out according,to those most in need. Michael made a small speech and we assured them we would return,when back from South Africa. We mentioned that Katie might be able to have some fund-raising events at the school where she teaches, maybe a cake making day or the like, so……..no pressure there Katie!!

We left their sweet smiling faces,after what had been a really lovely morning.


The night-watch-man here, Pattison,who again we thought was about sixty,turns out to be seventy -three,became a grand-father for the fifth time,so we promised him a lift to the hospital in Rumphi,to visit baby,mother ,wife,in-laws etc,etc. This all turned into quite a fiasco,in typical African stylee,but that’s another story!

Cutting the story short he was so grateful for the lift(s) he invited us to come and meet his wife and family,whereupon they gave us two large bags of Ground nuts(monkey nuts) and a Chicken,complete with feathers and still flapping! Having tied its legs together we drove home.The worker’s at the camp here then, very kindly offered to slaughter and cook it for us,so we provided the beers and ingredients and we all tucked in and had quite a little party! Earlier, after we had shelled the bags of nuts these were roasted with salt on the fire and eaten as a starter,they went down a treat with the cold beer,which to these guy’s was something of a novelty(being cold I mean)

The chalet – we use it as a store as its hot and mossie nets are not good

The house/ camp viewed from across the lake


Heading back up to Nyika next week to visit Geoff&Patsy,before our departure to Cape Town,getting very excited about being on the move again.

The neighbours are very nice and often drop in for a bit of acacia


Thought we would add a few comments on our time so far in Malawi,in no particular order.

Firstly, the people here are genuinely very,very friendly. Even the street vendors aren’t that pushy and you soon find yourselves having full on conversations,the main local language here in the North is Tumbuka,our attempts are clearly hopeless,but met with a lot of laughter and our night watch-man Pattison,is trying to teach us a word each day (some hope) it’s also made confusing by the strong local accent,which leads to misunderstandings all round!

They really haven’t got a lot to laugh about, as the local daily wage is the price of less than a litre of petrol (500 Kwacha=£1).Fuel itself is once again in increasingly short supply,leading to queues around the block,but apparently this is still much improved upon what is was a few months ago, when people queued for five days. The currency has recently been devalued by 30%, which means everything(as it’s all imported) has shot up in price. To top it all the maize harvest this year was poor in many areas,so massive food shortages are predicted in the next few months,which will drive prices higher still,so things not looking too rosy.

On a lighter note, a unique feature here is bicycle taxi,s, these are strong, old fashioned bikes,fitted with sturdy, elongated carriers,with padded seats, foot-rests and a handle for the passenger to hang onto and a variety of attachments for carrying anything and everything, you name it .The more enterprising decorate their bikes in typical African fashion,complete with personalised number plates !

Food here can be very good, nsima(maize porridge) being the staple diet,which they eat with everything. Your average Malawian seems as fit as a fiddle and strong as an Ox generally and although very small, look incredibly youthful, although I’m sure this certainly isn’t always the case. “Young George” as we call him looks about ten, but is in fact thirty-five !

It’s also fair to say ,many live in extreme poverty and survive on virtually nothing,they seem to help each other out though and would still give us their last penny if they could. It certainly makes you realise want you don’t need in life.

Us Mazungu’s (white people) are still a source of interest to young and old alike, small children,sometimes burst into tears having looked at us, as some babies might cry in the UK at people who wear glasses, we are clearly very strange! The other day when giving some locals a lift to the village,we stopped briefly,two teenagers came running up behind us,as they got near the car we offered them a lift too,at which point they looked terrified,young George explained that many local people teach their children that white people are bogey men-or as he put it”The Mafia” and will take them away. This stems from the slave trade,(which believe it or not only stopped here in 1895,following a British battle with a powerful local Arab slave trader, known as Mlozi and his army. Long memories unsurprisingly.)

The markets naturally, are a great source of fruit&veg,although a bit limited to Onions,Tomatoes and Potatoes at the moment and every stall sells the same so we try to spread the Kwacha around by buying onions from one and tomatoes from another,delicious Bananas are always available and Mango’s and pineapples are starting to appear on the scene,not to mention the Paw-paws,which are enormous and delicious.

Huge heaps of tiny dried fish(usipa) is sold virtually anywhere and everywhere.

Beer here is extremely cheap. A bottle of Carlsberg, known as” A Green” is about 35p a bottle and you can eat in a restaurant for as little as £3 quid (for Chambo (fish) and chips,or steak)

Speed traps, well now, these are proving to be a problem for us,Michael, having only had one fine in the UK after thirty years of driving, has subsequently received three in five weeks in Malawi. They are very sneaky,and are expensive for the locals(£10) regardless of speed,who usually bribe their way out of it for a lesser amount. A local taxi driver told us that when out of their own district,they simply put their foot down as the police have no chase car and the system is so chaotic,there is no chance of being chased! Like it !!

Unless extremely poor,everyone here seems impeccably turned out,always smart,putting us to shame and as much as I kid myself it’s because we live in a Land-rover,most of them live in very dusty,basic, mud-huts,but still manage to look clean and colourful!

Our daily life is fairly varied with never a dull moment it seems. For instance yesterday,Friday when there’s a large market in our nearest village Kazuni,we gave a lift to Stevaria,who lives nearby to sell her home-made beer. This involved loading up the Landy with her,her mother,a large dustbin full of beer ,a 20 litre jerry can of beer, a sack full of bottles,all of which she normally carries by hand and on her head 3-4 kms to the market,we also took a huge basket full of maize,in addition to this normal load. (The women here certainly work, making me feel very lazy in comparison!) On reaching the market,there were plenty of willing (male) hands to help her unload- no surprises there then ! This same lady also bakes us some fantastic bread rolls,when we take her the ingredients, an improvement on Michael’s, but he’s getting better all the time-(I had to say that or I’m dead meat.)

The people who work at Vwaza, in particular Godwin,Pattison and Isaiah,look after us really well,fetching water when there is none,looking after our stuff if we visit town for a couple of day’s,warning us when Elephants are looming.

Pattison,Godwin and Isiah.

The weather is getting hotter now with each passing day,so we tend to get all our work/jobs done in the early morning,rising at about 5:30-6:00 am,as it gets too hot in our tent otherwise,but we are usually tucked up by 8:30 pm,so it’s not a problem,always dark at 6:pm so by the time we’ve eaten we’re ready to hit the sack! (today it reached 38 degrees) I could really do with some English chill factor right now!

Obviously we are always banging on about the wonderful Elephants,of which there are plenty,butbesides the larger beasts, we are discovering more and more of the smaller type of beasts ie-bugs me, I’m not so keen on the creepy crawlies but Michael- he just loves them (you may have noticed them in his grubby hands in photo’s.)

Very large hairy catterpillar

At present we have two Tree frogs living in the Loo,well not literally,but they cause us great amusement as they constantly change colour,I found the first one living in my nest of sauce-pans and nearly jumped out of my skin! Bat poo is a problem in the bathroom but we never see them.


tree frog – go dark in the day and can change colour quite quickly

go light colour at night/first thing in the morning







Mice eat everything from the Tooth-paste to the Cocoa butter body lotion,chewing their way through the packaging,food we keep in plastic boxes,so fairly safe there ,although the monkey’s would have anything they find,but we’re on their case now.(with Michael’s home-made catapult,we can take on anything!)

Many lizards and skinks of varying sizes,scuttle about and (far too large) flying insects,hit you on the back with a fair old thwack in the evenings.

Giant hairy caterpillars,corn crickets and luckily for me smallish spider’s have all been observed,quite sufficient I feel !(Toby would be in his element!)


Shortly, we shall be leaving our little homestead and heading for the civilisation of Cape Town. I have to say I’m very excited by the prospect of this. Everybody says how wonderful it is,especially at this time of year and we need to replenish and restock on many things,which we can’t otherwise find,but shall be returning to Malawi at a later date.