NYIKA TIMES ISSUE SEVEN -FINAL ISSUE
Having dropped everyone of at the airport and feeling slightly bereft and certainly spacious in The Landy, we headed to Blantyre to get the Low range diff lock problem resolved, as it had never worked since they supposedly replaced it six months ago. Stayed at Chez Macky’s once again, got the best room in the house for a knock down rate. Had a lovely dinner with Chris and Sally Walker and their friends in their lovely home….oh the joy’s of civilization! Apart from the absolutely giant spider, I found under my chair, not wishing to cause alarm(Michael says Tarantula’s don’t live here and anyway this one was so MUCH bigger) it was huge, about the size of my fist with thick hairy legs….. chunky, just does not describe it. Chris threw a tea-towel on it and took it over to some bushes, but it’s great fat legs got attached and it wouldn’t let go.later when I told Michael about my close encounter, he was cross because I hadn’t mentioned it to him at the time, presumably because he didn’t get the chance to fondle it lovingly(we think it might be a” Baboon spider”)…..I googled bloody huge spider in Africa and that’s what it threw at me !!)
With car apparently fixed,we drove back North to Makusi, too many miles travelled in one day and got stopped for speeding once again ,we had a major domestic in front of the policewoman, who kept telling us to stop fighting and show her the driving license, but that was the very problem, we, no sorry I had mislaid it (too many hours in the Landy together)
Arrived at Makusi for a short stop-over, to find the owners Richard and Lauren had, had the baby they were expecting,six weeks early.
Back through Mzuzu, picked up money, supplies, Chawinga (mechanic) and headed on up to Nyika. Unfortunately the road has deteriorated somewhat recently(if this is possible) and the wind had blown all the dust and sand away, leaving sharp stones, holes, cracks, you name it and what with the generally disfigured contours, corrugations and wash-outs, making it even worse than usual, luckily, the survival rations,some Liquorice Alsorts ( my fave) bought out from the UK with my children, saw us through……….Thanks girls and also for:
The Chicken Noodle soup
Ambrosia Long-Life custard
So good to keep standards up!!
Safely back, confronting the usual, equipment problems and mechanical failures, there was some good news too, Knox had had a baby, which came as a complete surprise to us, although thinking back we had given his wife a lift to Rumphi on two occasions as she had gone “sick in the stomach” which we now know to mean, up the duff. Finally got to meet baby Andres for a cuddle, very sweet, but as you can see from the blankets, African babies are kept quite warm,it was about 25c in the shade….
Our friend Lloyd came to visit with a couple of stories, apparently there’s a very large Elephant, with very large tusks ,whose taken up residence on the main road out of the park and he doesn’t seem to like cars or indeed anything else much. Lloyd had a problem, as he had agreed to escort two tourist vehicles, which were then behind him, so he couldn’t even reverse, luckily Mr Grumpy finally moved on, not without a bit of a fuss though.
Unfortunately eight Elephants have been killed in Vwaza over the last few weeks.
Lloyd, who is trying to co-ordinate the scouts etc., needed to borrow a driver from us (strangely these are required by law for government officials /don’t even ask) his particular driver had become “drunk and unruly” was how Lloyd described him, the reason being, he has set his sights on becoming a tractor driver on the one and only project we have left on the other side of the park, for some reason, maybe to get sacked ,who knows.
Sam Banda came up to go through Trust matter’s as heir apparent, Nellie cooked us a lovely, typical Malawian meal, which consisted of Nsima, Pumpkin leaves (relish) and a Tomatoey eggy dish, which both Sam and I thought was Chicken, but on further investigation turned out it that it was, only in Egg format!
Nellie’s latest venture is bread making and it has to said, she is a fine Baker,she makes the dough late morning and leaves it by our nice warm wood-burning stove to rise, while she goes off for Lunch. The tacit agreement is that I will keep an eye on it and punch it fiercely if it gets too lively(we are talking a small dustbinful here) the problem is it simply erupts every now and then, with a mind of it’s own, today, despite several punchings, it managed to escape onto the kitchen floor, like a Lava flow, Nellie finally arrived back from lunch,she simply scooped it back up into the washing bucket, complete with ants and carried on as normal, Nellie giggling hysterically!!
Made our last shopping trip to Mzuzu, bricks of Kwacha in hand, not a lot to show for it, plenty of Chinese shops selling the same old, badly made rubbish, but sadly, all that’s on offer. Managed to find the rest of the uniforms, boots and blankets for all the staff. Joseph and Chawingwa stayed on to watch The Carlsberg Cup Final, the first football match they had ever seen(we lost)
Strangely that morning we met a guy in town who was parachuting into the stadium with his wife as part of the opening ceremony, we found out afterwards that she broke her leg on the practise jump about half an hour after we’d said our good-byes at breakfast.
Left for Makusi Beach, to say goodbye. It seemed we had the whole camp-site to ourselves, with a fantastic view of the lake. Went for a quick swim, only to find on our return, a young South African couple had parked RIGHT beside us, they could have gone left, right, in fact anywhere but there.They then erected their enormous tent RIGHT in front of us and proceeded to build a Villa, including outdoor kitchen,they then annexed the nearby Boma/sun-shelter and rolled out “the lawn” on the already very lush, well watered grass and proceeded to unload more boxes than we could count, plus some fairly serious camp beds mattresses, duvets etc. etc. ,it’s a process that takes some considerable time. Having seen this activity many times now, we just cannot help but look on in total amazement, this seems to be a weird South African phenomenon and we are not the only ones to have noticed it. You could be the only ones on a huge empty camp site, tucked away in a little corner and they will come and camp right next to you, although always extremely friendly and polite, Michael’s theory is that because of their inbuilt “settler”tendencies,they tend to club together whenever they can with other’s to start a dorp (Afrikaans for small country town) The evidence suggests this is the case. Brits tend to keep their distance at least, but still can’t help coming along for a good old nose!
Lovely and relaxing as ever at the lake,then back up the long and winding road for the last time. Our tyres are half-way buggered already, after only 7,000 miles. Arrived back after a couple of incidences through the park, breakdowns, meetings, greetings and organising a rescue team to sort out one of the breakdowns.
We are preparing to hit the road next week, due to bureaucratic stupidity, having to leave before we’d expected, as we would have had to leave Malawi to get another visa,so will be cutting short our Northern Malawi trip and leave a few day’s earlier from here, into Tanzania.
We’ve had such wonderful time here, on Nyika and although extremely hard work it has to be said, we’ve worked with and met so many lovely people and will miss them all hugely.
Nellie, working on African time, has only just worked out we are leaving next week and for a Malawian, whose behaviour generally is similar to the British stiff upper lip approach to such matters has got rather emotional of late, she seems to have adapted to our strange ways (and Michael’s awful jokes) and we’ll certainly miss her, she’s looked after us extremely well.
Rashid, the gardener,has also done a fantastic job in the last few months, the veg patch has become enormous and is supplying us and the guys with plenty of veggie’s, saving money all round.
The drivers and mechanic in the workshop have finally been able to do a few things as we’ve been able to buy some parts for the garage and all our vehicles are on the move again.
Alwin had a baby boy, last week to add to the growing Nyika numbers,which came shortly after Knox’s new arrival in August.
Blessings,goes from strength to strength, keeping his stores well stocked, which means everyone’s happy and now he has his new balance scale, we’ve been teasing him his shop is complete.
Knox has settled into his new office,with shiny new computer…..all he needs now is power!!
The Organic farming guy’s, Patrick and Aaron, that Michael had previously organised (and whom our guy’s refer to as manure farming)came. The day’s training was a great success,with theory in the morning, followed by practical stuff in our garden in the afternoon everyone loved it and many questions were asked, some from the most unlikely candidates,we think there’s no doubt they will implement some of it on their own farms and spread the word, especially as the country needs some big changes in this department.
Two of the Trustees, Chris and Yoryos came for the Hand-over to Sam. We had a final general meeting with the staff,to whom we wish all the best. After this we kept busy getting ourselves ready for the off, before we knew it the day for our leaving party had arrived.never have we seen such effiency in Malawi!
The goat was slaughtered and butchered in the garden, several fires were lit,to cook it on, Nellie had been drying maize in the sun for Nsima for the last week,although I think the Bushbuck had their fair share of it too! Between us we made some huge vats of Chicken stew, relish and rice…..and lets not forget the serious sized Chocolate and Ginger cakes!
The poor old goat bubbled on the fire all day long and was finally loaded onto the pick-up, along with the stew, several cases of beer and coke, cakes etc.- it’s a good job cutlery and glasses aren’t required and off it all went to The hostel, the chosen party venue.
It kicked off at Six……ish,with a serious feast, as we’ve said before, for small people, they can certainly put it away. This was followed by speeches, always part of African culture, many people spoke and in a most flattering and heartfelt way, we also did our bit I have to say it was extremely touching and emotional.
Then the decks were cleared and the mayhem began,they certainly know how to party when they want to (makes Penny Rowden parties look quite tame) crazy music,selected by Knox and dancing by all. As the evening progressed various gatecrashers seemed to appear, but no-one seemed to mind as everyone knows everyone up here, although I noted the food and drink was heavily guarded. Somehow I was singled out by two charmers (see photo’s) We retired and left them all to it.
Up very early the next morning, with car loaded up once again,rather surprisingly all the guy’s came to say ,what was a sad farewell. The only good news was that Nellie had finally got her children back, but not without yet more drama, from her most unpleasant husband……..not our favourite person.
Off we went for the final time,sad to leave the guy’s and Nellie behind, some of them have become good friends. We stopped on the way down to Vwaza to say good-bye to Gurnett, who was absent from the party as his wife was sick.He gave me a couple of little woven baskets made by his father,which was very sweet of him and we met his wife and scrumptious little baby Rebecca.
Onwards to Vwaza for one last night, there was an on-going operation tackling the poachers and had been a big gun battle the previous evening and a poacher had been killed.(or as Godwin put it in his inimitable way “slaughtered”/another classic. He followed this up with his description of how Aaron’s father had been killed by an elephant while riding his bike, describing the elephant as he was “naughty”having apparently made a mess of both. We will miss him and his team.
A little later whilst relaxing and watching the animals, out out of the bush came Charles, with a team of scouts from Chelinda carrying a poachers flip-flop and an Impala’s head from another encounter,they were pleased to find we had plenty of good Nyika water with us, as the stuff at Vwaza is salty and disgusting.
Had a lovely final night,under a very starry sky, said goodbye to George and all at head-office and went on our way to Mzuzu to wind up there. Plenty more farewells at Mzoozoo,our camping ground when in town.
We headed north into new territory once past the Rumphi turn off and all very nice
turned left for Lukwe Lodge up on the escarpment, near Livingstonia one of the most spectacular (read dodgy) roads in Africa climb up 1500ft 20 official hairpins but definition of these seems variable. We knew it was going to be an issue as basic clutch plate fitted a few weeks back 9 ll we could get) was already showing signs of packing up not surprising given the weight of the beast. All went well until near the top faced with a need to shunt we discovered handbrake was not up to job on steep slope clutch was stinking Emma trying to shove rocks under back wheels while I tried to toe and heel etc. all a bit hairy as its a long way down and not far off vertical. Got going just, but Lukwe camp at the top was worth it – fantastic views down the escarpment with Nyika mountains behind and 100 ft waterfall nearby. Stayed a night ( we know the owners) so chilled with them, lovely food from their organic garden then back down only two shunt turns which given turning circle of the beast is actually bigger than local buses in Totnes was something of a surprise.
Then only a short trip up the road where we dropped in on Yoryos ( new trustee) an ex-city lawyer with Malawian connections who is running a medical research facility. Lovely house a few minutes from the lake so after a good lunch we decided to stay the night. Wandered down to the lake for a swim – he even had a washing machine all a bit odd compared to what we are used to.in fact haven’t seen one for eight months!
Said goodbye and left for the Tanzanian border early the next day.