UPDATED 9th April – added photos new album Malawi 7 also posted
STICK IN THE MUD
On the way back up to Nyika a few day’s later, we experienced just how bad the roads had become,a combination of heavy rainfall and logging lorries meant with about 20 km to our destination, the deep mud became a bit hazardous ( at least it was for me) Up ahead, we could see a lorry, with 20 guy’s trying to make things better,they having created the mess in the first place, had attempted to build a log causeway, however the end bit was filled with much smaller pieces and was basically a deep mud-bath with a few large logs thrown in. With no alternative, other than to spend the night there and with Michael insisting we should have a go (ever the optimist) and me winging quite a bit,we ploughed on through,only to get wedged on a couple of big logs,so out we climbed , bare feet, trousers rolled up into the deep mud, as the guy’s set to work, promising to get us out. First using the high- lift jack, particularly dodgy given the mud,this failed, so they hooked the Landy up to some ropes from the lorry, whereupon these snapped, finally managed to remove the logs from underneath and with everyone pushing and pulling, out it came, to much applause and my relief at not having to spend the night in a lorry with 20 or so men covered in mud!
Having been warned of another two or three bad patches on our route, which did cause us a bit of grief, slipping and sliding about and ending up facing the hedge on a few occasions, as you have to keep up some momentum. To top it all off we then met some Elephants trumpeting in the road, but eventually we made it back. Since then we’ve heard reports of vehicles being stuck all over the place, including a crazy couple from England on a motorbike, who claimed they had nearly come off on several occasions.
Those of you in England will be pleased to hear it’s been raining quite heavily of late, We’ve also had some magnificently loud thunder but it is the rainy season and were quite prepared and are actually quite enjoying some cooler weather , the locals on the other hand seem to hate the cold wet weather, everything seems to stop and they go into hibernation,complaining of various ailments, all sorts of excuses,including the rain being the main cause of Malaria,it’s quite funny to see everyone run for cover though and we tease them, they would never survive the English weather!
Keeping ourselves busy, Michael sorting out the workshop, tools and equipment with Baxter, Joseph and Yobe, I’ve been trying to get my head around the books, office and house with Knox, Blessings and Nellie.
Michael’s achievements so far include getting our water supply to work,stopping the kitchen(and the rest of the house) filling up with smoke, by sorting out the old cast iron cooker, he’s quite chuffed with that one. Getting the Fridge/freezer to work after a long time of inactivity, this involved gently rolling it around the floor for quite some time,before it decided to drop in temperature, it runs on gas thankfully,as we have no electricity for most of the time, but what excitement, this means we can stock up without fear of starvation.
Office work is not really my thing, as most of you know but I’m learning quickly, having lessons from Knox,who is being incredibly patient, especially with my maths, whilst Nellie teaches me her bread making skills in the house and I in turn teach her some of mine.
Also keeping up with the veg garden, which Geoff has transformed into a wonderful fertile oasis, the soil is fantastic and completely organic, plant food comes in the form of Zebra and Eland poo in a sack, submerged in a barrel of water, lots of compost is then added to the various raised beds and as a result we are able to grow most veggies and the flowers are looking beautiful.
Giant Pied Ravens are the enemy as they attack everything from the compost heap,chicken coop (stealing eggs) and even come into the house and raid anything left out. (they are huge)
Also waging war with mice, they are much bigger in size than anything at home, about half a full grown rat size and pretty bold to boot. Our second night here,we had baited the various traps, including a strange wire Lobster type cage shaped a bit like a rugby ball,almost asleep we heard a hell of a racket coming from Patsy and Geoff’s room, thinking we’d had success,went to sleep,having decided to deal with it in the morning, on investigation we discovered that Mighty mouse, had scaled the walls it would appear, in the wire contraption, as it had pulled out huge amounts of dried mud from between the logs up the walls, leaving a terrible mess,then ate substantial amounts of floorboard, bent the wires of the trap and made it’s bid for freedom (with banana skin uneaten within)
Getting used to candlelit dinners as we only have power on some nights for a couple of hours, though having spent the last year in a Land-rover together I think we’re rather past any romantic notions!
Having said that, we did invite Nick (new fellow Brit) a ranger from Wilderness Safari’s over for dinner, much discussion on birds was had, we fed him Cottage pie, Malawian style after the Beef stock cubes turned out to be a strong curried flavour, but I think he appreciated the cheese sprinkled on top (a rare delicacy here) and we appreciated a little Muzungu time!
Trying to contact the outside world is incredibly tricky and unbelievably frustrating at times. It’s as well the neighbours can’t understand Michael’s cursing of the laptop!
Enjoying all the birds in the garden(apart from the giant ravens that is) and the other beasts, that frequent our patch, by day plenty of Bush-buck and at night Eland and Zebra.
The wild flowers are spectacular on Nyika and home to over 200 hundred Orchid species, many endemic to Nyika though sadly, these are being poached and the tubers sold in Tanzania for a very high price,likened to a European Truffle market. Paston says it became a problem about five years ago and is getting steadily worse year upon year, a sign of a sophisticated market.
Michael has instigated a local road repair improvement that was subsequently thwarted by a wheel bearing failure of the trailer, which had only being towed for the first time after repairing the toe hitch—- we’ll get there yet.
Have spoken to Paston about a few community ideas which we’re keen on, including building a children’s adventure playground,sorting out the football pitch (which came by way of invitation to be the local football team manager)- a long standing local tradition for NVT managers/a role which involves repairing the local pitch and nothing else,(that’s groundsman, not manager) Plus trying to get a video night going, once a week, for local people depending on power sources,largish TV screen, DVD player etc….. no mean feat.
A new week started in a normal rather chaotic fashion, but things were happening. A few jobs done around the house and garden, did some paperwork ,then mid afternoon, whilst chatting to some guys from The local and only safari lodge CAWS/ Central African Wilderness Safaris, Mr Phiri (Mr P as he’s known locally) the manager of the timber concession, knocked on our door. One of his workers was having a serious asthma attack and could we assist. Strangely enough I’d only been reading of two deaths,in recent years relating to asthma locally, with clearly no option, but problem was our “good vehicle” was out with the guys miles away doing a fire-break and wouldn’t be back until late, thankfully Baxter(the mechanic) had spent a few days fixing the other pick-up and said he was happy to go ,fuel was organised and donated by Ndaula it’s a five hour drive to hospital in Rumphi, and that’s in day light on a good day (only120 k)
Lameck, an ex NVT employee, who we seem to bump into everywhere and have got to know quite well, was taking the short cut route past our cabin the other night and bumped into a leopard…..as you do, no wonder we have large cat poo in the veg garden!
Nellie keeps telling me to bring my trainers in at night before the Hyena’s run off them, which I have to say we’ve certainly heard, but haven’t yet seen, apparently a delicacy for Hyena’s!
Took Sunday off to familiarise ourselves with the roads on the plateau. Seems strange to us, driving around a landscape more like Salisbury plain/Dartmoor/Scotland than Africa, yet seeing Zebra, Roan ,Eland and Reed buck,all big animals, in large groups, dotted around like cattle. Very surreal. The scenery makes that of Lord of the rings, look quite normal-(take note Tommy)
Left the plateau once again this morning,after a very early foggy start a bit weary having listened to a Leopard “coughing” outside for part of the night. From the workshop/ bus depot, having acted as travel agents and tour operators for the previous few days prior to our departure, the assembled throng and their “katundu”- luggage (anything from Beans to beds) somehow got itself loaded, despite being absolutely no order or logic to the process,travelling African style always consists of several unscheduled stops at which various passengers jump off and conduct some business or other and everyone seems more than happy to wait so we hang around, buying Bananas and the like. We eventually arrived in Mzuzu five hours later armed with huge shopping lists (not of the Sainbury’s variety) having reached communications once more and are able to post this blog !
Have just heard from Katie (our eldest) the very exciting news that she’s coming to visit in August, it’ll be wonderful to see her after so long. Recently her school has raised £300 for the Chigwere Orphanage, so well done to her and the children for that. The money will be much appreciated and maybe we can visit the Orphanage when she comes out.