Chilinda life is at best surreal, often it goes beyond this, the extraordinary events and the pace at which they take place, would enable you to write a book never mind a blog. However we are enjoying it immensely and will try to give you more snippets of our every day life. What you need to try and imagine is that all the little bits we describe happen simultaneously and continuously.
And so to the news……
Malawi has a multitude of languages, here in the North, their at their most prolific,in one small region further North and there are 28 different languages, so we are told. Most people speak Timbuka which is apparently the largest ethnic group, although the official language is Chechewe (which of course we are fluent in) and spoken by a large group mainly in the South . Our guys mostly speak Timbuka but with lots of different dialects (which we’ve also had to master) as well as the local Malawian version of English.
This seems to involve a random change between an R and an L in any word, which at times sounds like Pantomime Chinese- Grue is Glue, Exactery is exactly etc etc. Though this is totally inconsistent from word to word and person to person, but can be highly amusing at times!
Malawian written English is delightful, a mix of archaic, biblical language and phrasing, which what with the R’s and L’s makes even the most mundane note a joy, invariably polite beyond belief and like something from another age, I might add we get several hand delivered notes daily !!
Michael was talking to (the gardener) this morning about the hostel where all the guys stay, a complete failure of communication occurred when the gardener said “You are my boss, I beg you to stay with my wife” Michael panicked (not much) thinking is he really asking me to sleep with his wife, we don’t do that sort of thing etc, etc, but on the second round of talks it became clear he forgot to refer to himself and he thought it would be a good idea to turn a disused dining area into a room for visiting wives…. he was still sniggering when he got back!
A woman from Chelinda- namely yours truly, reported, she had received numerous silent phone calls from a mysterious stranger, totally deluding herself, it was Gladstone aged 65, the security guard from Mzuzu Coffee Den, the woman said her husband was strangely not concerned about this matter. Later having met said stalker in town and bollocked him for pestering her, he hasn’t bothered her since (sadly!)
Freezing, at night, white ground frost in the morning, gone by 7:30 am then generally a pleasant English summers day, until about 4:00 when it becomes seriously cold once again. Having been surprised at Africans wearing coats at 75 degrees plus, we are now doing exactly the same !
BLACK MONDAY- SYSTEM MELTDOWN
The day started without even a fizzle, as we discovered the solar powered battery was dead. The panel had fallen over the previous day and pulled the wires off/no proper connections. But it was fairly useless anyway as we hadn’t had our usual meagre mains three hour supply for several days, which it needs to stand a chance of running even the laptop/so no computer as the battery was flat.
Michael went to the workshop to visit the dog of a landcruiser LA, which had been on blocks for three days while we tried to scrounge a welder and generator to weld for the fourth time the totally fractured front leaf springs. The main camp generator does not have enough power to do this without causing a major dimming of any lights that are on. The days plan was soon altered as NS the “good” pickup wouldn’t run properly and was clearly going nowhere. They knew the cause of the problem, dirt in the fuel system and having put the problem off for several days through necessity, there was no option other than to clean the fuel tanks, the guys went off with the tractor and trailer to drop off the team from Phoka, this is in the far east of the park, where you have to drive over the hills until it gets to steep to go any further. The Phoka guys then walk for two hours down the escarpment to their village, right at the extreme drop off point, with the trailer running on completely bald tyres had a puncture. The guys couldn’t remove the wheel because the studs were turning and they couldn’t remove the nuts with the one spanner alone. So Michael mounted a rescue mission in our Landy, knowing that we still had no diff lock or low range gear box, they fixed the trailer with our tools and got back to the main road. The Landy performed admirably up hills in normal first gear, the guys seemed quite impressed with this and commented how “strong” The Landy was compared to Toyota’s. (Michael, rather sadly liked that) and then…… the clutch started playing up. They limped back home- that’s four vehicles, with only the tractor surviving and even that has several issues!
Michael got back home, only to find out the pump had broken and we had no water which remained this way for the next three days.
At this point we decided to have a drink and relax, safe in the knowledge there was nothing else left to go wrong/ oh what a perfect day!
I finally got around to handing out the remaining 100 T-shirts(donated by Icebreaker in New Zealand) to the children who live here in the park. Of course it was always going to be chaotic with kids smothering you (almost tempted to do a bit of Madonnaring) but seeing several behaving badly, I quickly came to my senses. Although I had put stickers on each and every T- shirt thinking I was being organised, nothing ever goes quite according to plan. They all seemed more than happy though …….. only have another 50 to go which I can drop off at the orphanage next time we visit.
LAZY SUNDAY AFTERNOON
Having had a couple of manic weeks, we decided to do absolutely nothing, other than spend a Sunday reading in the sunshine. All was going well,with undies washed,chewy beef simmering in the pot with a couple of bottles of Carlsberg thrown in to help the tenderising process (believe me it’s the only way) and then….there was a major water leak, meaning Michael had to walk up and down the hill several times, whilst on the walkie talkie to me. While he fiddled with the valve, I manned the other end of the communication system,(which actually worked for a change) so checking the taps for repairs and leaks we settled for a slow dribble and went back to our books.
Decided to venture out in the Landy, in seach of beasts, but a few hundred yards up the road we heard a bubbling sound (not unlike the stew)… surely not another cylinder head- Michael’s justifiable nightmare, having had four already……….
LO and behold and thankfully having managed a tepid shower on our return and gettting ready to eat,we heard a knock at the door, Alwin and Blessings our two most senior guys,standing on the doorstep, said that they had been contacted to ask if we could help evacuate an Ndaula forestry worker, who had been crushed by a tractor, I rang Yobe our driver, who seemed happy enough to volunteer and transport the poor guy 4 hours to hospital, he then met Michael at the workshop, where they got the not- altogether healthy loaded up with the few basic tools that we have. We did not envy the patient who had to be transported in the back of the pick-up, travel 120 kms over some of the worst roads, with possiblybroken limbs.
Finally tucked into the chewy stew, despite the fact it had been on the cooker for eight hours and relaxed for the remainder of the evening, not that lazy…..and can’t help but wonder what Monday morning will bring!
We had a visit from a couple, Orvind and Sheelagh, travellers and perspective managers,with a view to taking over from us when we leave. I think the remoteness and the lack of tarmac up to Nyika, confirmed the doubts they already had.
A couple of day’s later along came a South African family, Jean & Marie Du Toit and their teenage daughters Frankie & Rosie. We had met them in Ithala game reserve in Natal just before Christmas.
Lovely to see them again, they spent one night camping, experiencing the full rigours of Nyika at night,complete with good ground frost and welcomed the chance to stay in our cosy log cabin the following night!
OUTING TO MZUZU
Slightly ahead of schedule , bought on by yet another head gasket failure, we had to make a hasty plan to go to Mzuzu to try and find appropriate parts and re-supply, four hundred litres of fuel, rations, plus, plus. The plan was to leave at 7 am, shortly after agreeing the plan, we received a call from Apollo at the safari camp/ the internet is very slow compared to the bush telegraph asking if he could take a dozen empty beer and coke crates and to return them full, plus84 kg gas cylinder for refuelling. Next morning, fully laden with a couple of extra’s off we set, problem was dear old NS(the pick-up) was not happy, lot’s of white smoke billowing out from behind and misfiring, all happening intermittently.We’d drained and cleaned the fuel system only a few day’s previously, but with really no choice other than to travel the 200 kms on the much loathed road to Mzuzu.
On arrival, we headed straight for the immigration office, as we are still illegal aliens. It reminded me, somewhat of being in the dole queue many moons ago, but shabbier,smellier and busier, by far Finally we were acknowledged and shown a seat, with many others, in office number four, but our letter, the second variant on a new system in as many months, resulted in much tutting, shaking of heads and bustling about, after an hour it was very politely explained that until they had had a confirmation from head office, to whom infact the letter was actually addressed, confirming the confirmation, there was nothing they could do and to come back tomorrow.which we did,twice having been deferred each time, we agreed to re-visit next week……..to be con’t
Don’t know if anyone saw this but local newspaper reported football fixing in Nigeria 79-0 in one game(67 of which were scored in the second half)plus another game at 57-0. Local consensus was, even by African standards,it was a few goals too far !
THE RETURN JOURNEY
Started badly, in a puff of white smoke, which lasted several minutes, we puttered into town, to meet Joseph and start shopping, a hectic three hours, involving the usual strange collection of items. Trying to leave at 1:30 pm to get home before dark, the bodies on board suddenly dispersed in every direction, having suddenly remembered to go to the bank, buy the eggs, fruit, veg and a hundred other little tasks, we finally hit the road about 3:00 !
Picked up another couple of hangers on in Rumphi, Joseph did a major deal for Yobe’s new steel roof and off we went again (misfiring slightly) with a big climb ahead to the plateau. Arrived at Thazima, when another drama unfolded, Yobe appeared from the bushes as we drove past, trotting towards us for a lift having been to hospital (bush telegraph again) we got out to meet various guys from Chelinda, one of whom looking slightly worse for alcohol, raised his hand in greeting to me whereupon is trousers fell to his ankles! Not unduly perturbed by this he then hopped around the other side and asked Michael for a lift, by which time his trousers were at mid thigh, againgst our better judgement, but taking into account the circumstances(a funeral) we gave him a lift, worried, which was the worst risk him or the eggs, or some combination of the two! He had the sense at least to jump of the back of the truck before we got home and turned up promptly for work this morning.
New piccies on Photos page