On the road back to Blantyre, going up extremely steep hill/mountain, a horrible noise from gear box( later found to be transfer box) ensued, we slowly ascended at 10 mph in first gear and occasionally second,anything else resulted in hideous noises and as per usual phones refused to connect so we had no choice really other than continue this way for 20 k.
Made it thankfully and found a new home for The Beast,in a fairly major garage. The guys here needed to remove the gear box and give it a thorough once over, which would take a day or so, given their findings, so we stuffed a few belongings into a rucksack and went in search of a bed for the night.
Found an excellent little Lodge in the centre of Blantyre,run by “Macky”a very helpful guy, who originated from Cameroon. Although car-less once more, we had a nice little room,good food and plenty of interesting people coming and going. We also had heaps of e-mails etc to respond to,so with excellent internet connection there, we had arrived at a good place. This became our home for a week,whilst The Landy was in for a bit more TLC, nothing too major,other than a few general repairs,relating to having done 55,000 miles in the last year on some of the worst roads on the planet, not unexpected really. In actual fact it’s exactly a year today since we left Plymouth on that cold,rainy night. How quickly time has flown !
Travelled North heading for Nyika, stopping off in Senga Bay and Makuzi Beach, where we’ve, stayed before , peaceful and relaxing,as ever and good to meet up with the ever helpful owners, Richard and Lauren. The weather was lovely and hot, after several days of rain previously. Lake Malawi (Nyasa) is great for swimming,with many little fish, nibbling your toes,not surprising,our toes must be a real tasty treat!
At night,under starry skies, the Fruit bats were swooping and the Tree Frogs and Cicadas, croaking and chirping, culminating in a fantastically loud noise,it really was quite impressive. We saw a young bright green Boomslang(snake) which quickly slithered into the bushes,when Michael went for a closer inspection. He was hoping to see more in Africa, but I’m cool with things the way they are!
Fish Eagles here were flying overhead , always impressive, Michael saw one swoop down and hit the water, though it didn’t catch anything.
Travelled on up to Mzuzu, collecting a Maize Mill engine in town, for The Chelinda Women’s Co-operative, which is a long awaited replacement for the ladies up on Nyika. We arrived at the haulage company,re-arranging the Land-rover to accommodate the rather large and extremely heavy piece of equipment. It took six strong guy’s to hump it into the back of the Landy.
Having put more air into the tyres(we were seriously weighed down) and had a bite to eat at the Matunkha Orphanage,we set off on the long slow slog up to Nyika Plateau. The roads were bad in parts and we went at a snail’s pace, due to the machine on board. We had been warned about wash-out’s etc,so it came as no surprise to still be on the bumpy, slippery road four hours later.(though it’s only 120k)
With darkness falling and only 20k left to go we found the road blocked by a logging lorry, who had jack-knifed into the ditch. A couple of guy’s who recognised us from Wilderness Safari’s, were also blocked and wanting to borrow shovels,thankfully we were able to oblige and half an hour later we were on our way again. It never ceases to amaze us, no matter how many times they get stuck, they just get on with the job in hand, without complaint,even, if it means spending the night there.
Arrived at 7:00 pm, to be greeted by Patsy&Geoff, a log fire and chicken stew, just what was needed. Caught up on the local goings on and fell into bed- yes a proper bed, complete with hot water bottle……..nice
As you may have gathered,it’s a lot colder up on Nyika and we’ve exchanged our shorts and T-shirts for fleeces and jeans again and although sunny by day, it gets quite nippy at night, at least we don’t have to worry about mosquitoes up here, as we are 2,000 -3,000 m above sea-level.
The Ladies were delighted with the long awaited maize mill, which took several more strong men to lift out of the car, all that was needed now was some assembling.
The boy’s mounted the engine the following day and summoned Michael to help out with the none too clear instructions, but before too long it was up and running ,the ladies celebrated with much merriment, dancing,cheering and singing, with all the little kids joining in too. So nice to see their smiling faces, for what is really a basic requirement, being so cut off here. We got far too much credit for this,when in fact all we did was deliver it. The real hard work was actually down to Chris Walker,Patsy and Geoff.
After all this,there is a serious maize shortage and the price has trebled since last Autumn, everyone knew this was coming ,but the government failed to get it’s act together with distribution and as a result everybody is suffering,but it’s hopeful there will be another harvest shortly.