When not on Nyika/ Vwaza, we can be found in Mzuzu, a bustling market town for the Northern region of Malawi. On arrival confronted by numerous street vendors, hawkers etc rushing up to the car offering fruit, veg and just about anything else, with a few hello’s, we hurry into the “Mzuzu Coffee Den” to deal with emails and admin ,as internet connection is fairly good here,(sometimes, possibly) this is the smartest and possibly the only café in town, used by business people and the odd tourist passing through. Doris, the manageress is doing a great job, improving the place, quite noticeably since we were last here, promoting good local produce,delicious coffee and tea (all quite Totnesian really) this is our HQ/ command and control centre, where we have to gather together a huge shopping list of bits and pieces,ranging from massive quantities of fuel ,tools, cement,nails and rations for the workers, including bales of Soya,sugar, sacks of Maize,Cooking oil and Soap.
After a few exhausting hours of dashing around the markets, which are fascinating, supplying just about anything and everything and a never ending maze of tiny alley ways, the hardware shops, which are particularly well stocked, give Michael many hours of pleasure, high praise indeed for the man that hates shopping!
We then head for “Mzoozoozoo” to prepare our sleeping quarters for the night.A sixties style bungalow, not far from the town centre,a hang-out for Back-packers really, with a few simple rooms and a dorm, but we just camp in the garden with all the dogs for company! It’s run by Gerard (Swiss) helped by Ray(English)
and a couple of others and with it’s very laid back style and loud music,it’s something of a Malawian institution, the whole set up is rather like an ageing hippy version of “Last of the summer wine” food and drink is good and cheap and although something of a party place, we usually pike early before things kick off …..of course we do!!
Being quite well established now, having stayed here on a number of occasions since last year wev’e met lot’s of interesting people from all over the globe. Recently we’ve commissioned Konduani, an African soldier to make us a Land rover (a replica of The Beast ) made solely from recycled wires, like the type you may have seen at home, it was good to meet him after admiring his stuff the last time we were here, he’s highly talented with a great eye for detail . We got tempted by a little Quad Bike, that he knocks out for beer money, but he’ll make just about anything, although I doubt it will be quick.
Made a brief visit to Vwaza on return from Mzuzu, earlier in the week, we heard a delivery lorry had been held up at the gate entrance for three hours, whilst an Elephant gave birth, sadly we’d just missed the whole drama!
Great, as always, to spend a chilled couple of day’s at Vwaza, but tricky working, when surrounded by Elephants, Hippo, Buffalo and Monkeys, the latter keeping us well entertained as they swung in the trees , the baby Hippo was a bit of a distraction too!
Made a trip to The Orphanage again,revealing the good news that Katie’s school had raised £300 on Comic relief day. They were thrilled, now we need to work out the best way in which to spend it and will be in touch with Sophie, the nurse who set the whole thing up.
After visiting the Orphanage, we popped in to see Pattison (the night-watchman at Vwaza) whose been very unwell,probably Malaria, but he wouldn’t go to hospital, preferring to use local remedies, as they do, we thought maybe we could persuade him, or at least help out in some way,but arriving at his house we found he had actually already gone to the hospital and were pleased to hear he is making a recovery.
Michael spent a morning travelling the central road through Vwaza (sadly not enough room for me as it was full of rangers, guns and all their kit) Not long after he’d gone, I heard the familiar sound of Elephants, behind our little hut. With no time to close the car doors (my fruit and veg in the back and smelling good, a tasty snack for an Elephant and highly prized by me too) I quickly crept inside the hut, thinking they would soon pass by, but before long I was completely surrounded. I crouched down in the corner of the hut, listening to them eating, whilst peering out of the mesh windows, but all I could see was grey, it was slightly unnerving when only inches of reed and bamboo are between you and an Elephant! They hung around for what seemed like ages, with all sorts going through my mind. I rather stupidly sent Michael a text, so he could share my anxiety, but of course I received no response…… a big help!! After some time I heard rummaging outside in the car and immediately thought of my pineapple, I saw them finally move off and slowly pushed the door open, only to find a load of monkeys instead about to invade the car ,but with no sign of Elephants I chased the monkeys away, happy to find all fruit and veg still there.
As much as I love to watch the Elephants, a little more distance between us would have been nice!
Back on Nyika the building work that was meant to start in February and still hasn’t begun, is becoming increasingly frustrating and expensive,the teams of workers are constantly being turned away, the delivery lorry seems to be permanently out of action, not helped by the fact there’s never any money to pay for the materials, the wages or most important of all, the fuel, a real African buggers muddle! Indescribably inefficient, the very definition of hopeless, Michael’s “John Cleese” impersonation is getting better daily!
We’ve been helping the workers to sow seeds in their newly created veg patch, cabbages, spinach, mustard and chard, which when harvested they use to create relish, they eat this with Nsima ()Meelie meal/pap, a porridge made from ground maize, which is incredibly bland, but they simply love it and take great pleasure from their garden, watering it daily……at least twice! Hopefully it will help supplement the wags as things are expensive here because of transport.
After a few days of hard work, we treated ourselves to a Sunday off. Firstly we visited Zovo Chipolo, a special ,high altitude evergreen forest, typical of The Nyika, quite strange as it’s completely surrounded by grassland,as you will have seen from the photo’s.(the forest itself being very jungle- like)
Apparently, Blue monkeys can be found here, in the canopy, however we failed to spot any, although we did see plenty of beautiful butterflies and heard many different birds. After a quick pic-nic we continued south along a little used track, which the guys had slashed the previous days, basically two tyre tracks along 30 k’s of the park,with stunning scenery, weird and wonderful flowers and then……..VEGETATION two metres plus high,with nowhere to turn around and the route back not entirely visible, so we slowly carried on with me jumping out every now and again trying to find the tracks/ a right Mrs Mears! Quite a while later we found the track we were heading for and turned North up another track to meet The Pendereds, who are Malawian Trustees. The meeting place was Chosi View a high point on the plateau ,the view from which is ridiculous, you can see huge distances,probably up to 50k overlooking hills, mountains, forests, a magnificent vista. A Leopard had been spotted the previous night, but we had no such luck and had to make do with Eland, Zebra, Reed buck and other Antelope.(shame!)
The next day, due to holidays, breakdowns and other disasters, Michael drove the guysto slash the last bit of road we had travelled the previous day, this meant driving LA, the notoriously,unreliable, completely knackered old dog of a Toyota Land cruiser
See SPECIAL TOP GEAR REPORT to follow
After dragging it along the tracks by tractor, to get it started, he was warned that it stalled a bit, which actually meant every time you took your foot off the throttle. After several stops and very difficult bump starts on the tracks, they tied the accelerator down with a rubber band. Slashing the tracks, involved Michael driving with one guy jumping out every seventy-five meters or so, after the twelfth guy had jumped out, he drove back to the first guy, picked him up and so on up the line and repeated the process, for about three hours. They had lunch by a river, having made an extra long trip somewhere in front so the designated cook, Ellias could concoct their beloved Nsima. -see FOOD SUPPLEMENT! Coming soon
After a short half hour lunch(normally 2 hours) the guy’s slashed the last very tough leg of the track, thinking they had made good progress and were heading home and THEN…..car stopped, permanently this time, bonnet inspection revealed battery fallen off mounts, which consisted of bits of tied up inner tubes and string. Said battery, lodged itself against the fuel pipe and sawed a long elongated slash in the pipe, hence they had used a lot more fuel than they should have and goes some way to explaining why it doesn’t start that well. Called for help to HQ 30 k away,this revealed no fuel,so they robbed the local maize millers of 10 litres, with the promise to pay it back the next day/ how exactly, being yet another problem, being 60 k away. The 10 litres turned up after a couple of hours, the problem was 10 litres was only theoretically enough to get home, so rang me, who was only just starting to become a bit concerned. I got hold of Sam(manager of Wilderness safari’s) who loaned us some fuel and Lamech the mechanic and off we went in our Landy to find them, spotting animals and admiring the stunning sunset as we went…..so not all bad , except in my haste I forgot the camera.
Meanwhile they had got the car started and with a lot of cheering in the back they headed for home and THEN…..it was discovered that someone had adjusted the rubber band on the accelerator, Michael reported this made for an interesting driving experience! He basically had to keep going and was unable to stop, without stalling again when we finally met up,so we just followed them home with the extra fuel to hand should they run out. At last we all arrived back,exhausted and ready for bed!
This, is in fact, not unusual and there’s always some drama or other to keep us busy. If anyone has a nice spare Toyota pick-up in perfect working order, for free, we’d be most interested !!!
Before Patsy&Geoff left, several large boxes of children’s T-shirts arrived, from New Zealand, unfortunately, they didn’t have time to sort them out for each and every family, so this has become another little job for me,The Trust has approximately 40 families, each averaging 4 children, some with a few more and then there’s all the parks people that live up here and so it goes on.
We thought up a cunning plan for distributing them, if they want a free T-shirt,they have to collect up any litter they find, bringing it to us for disposal ,then they will get a shirt, as we seem to have hundreds of these multicoloured, Merino wool, T-shirts, I’ll distribute some to The Orphanage as well. These were kindly donated by “Icebreaker” so we shall send some photo’s their way.
We’ve spent a couple of lovely evenings with The Pendereds, Malawian Trustees who have been here on holiday, as they’ve done for many years, filling us in on the history of Nyika. They are going to help us get some much needed parts from the big city of Lilongwe, which is quite near to where they farm. We will always have fond memories of their “special” coffee as the sun went down!