Wev’e been up on Nyika for four months now and the drama’s continue on a daily basis,no matter how big or small,there’s never a dull moment,our stay has simply flown by and with plenty still to achieve,time is running out.
Katie, Meely and Dan are visiting next week,which is very exciting,hopefully we will see plenty of beasts in South Luangwa National Park, Zambia, at the same time as catching up on all the news from home. Hoping to visit Nyika and Vwaza briefly so they can see where we hang out! It’s going to be action packed with only two weeks to play with.

On to the news in general….

Took another trip to Mzuzu,the main reason being to get our long awaited work permits from immigration, this time we had success,not without a few drama’s though, including the main man behind the desk doing a bit of shopping,whilst trying to deal with us. He seemed to buy an entire wardrobe, including everything from socks,belts,to cosmetics whilst we shuffled papers with him, still at least he finally gave us the much needed stamp in our passport…..sadly they got the date wrong and it expires the day we finish work, which means exiting Malawi,popping into zambia briefly before returning and being allowed into Tanzania, oh joy! Things could have been worse, the lady, in the same office had been waiting four years for her work permit and still hadn’t got it when we left.

Stopped off at Vwaza on the return journey for the night, hoping to spot some Ellie’s and although we did see some, the Lake and surroundings were full of tourists(which I know is a good thing, but we rather selfishly have got use to having it all to ourselves) so we made a hasty retreat back to the old campsite, it was fairly chaotic with no water or flushing loo’s and some angry Brits on a school trip….it dosen’t worry us much anymore,being self- sufficent and at least they got to see some Elephants at close quarters, which compensated slightly for the run-down Lodge. The Ellie’s then proceeded to inspect our sand-bag bund(a dam built across the river)and thankfully they left it alone this time.(In previous years it’s been trashed) This has been built to keep up the Lake levels for the Hippo’s, which is necessary as the river has been diverted further up North and therefore doesn’t have enough water in the Lake during the dry season.
This year the guy’s have done a good job and the water is rising, which is excellent news.

We travelled Northwards through the park, retracing our road opening expedition of last year. The first half that we(NVT) had regraded,is best descibed as an absolute joy, though there’s still a couple of bridges missing, but as it’s so dry created no real problems, especially for Michael but can’t say I was too excited at crossing some of the dodgy wash-outs in the Northern section, which at least has been cleared of fallen trees etc
It’s a beautiful park and although we didn’t see many big animals there’s always plenty to keep you interested.
Continued back up to Nyika, on the way we saw plenty of Reed-buck,several Roan and the odd Zebra. The Eland are scarce at this time of year as they go down to lower ground for the warmth. We also admired many tiny Alpine plants starting to re-emerge after “The Burn”

Back at Chelinda, it was suspiciously quiet for an hour or two. We had acquired a couple of supposedly egg- laying chickens to accompany our Cockerel,all of whom seemed to be settling in well, although no eggs as yet,………and then back to reality,with impending births,a big local funeral involving the sister of one of our workers, many of whom, together, with several others left the plateau to attend the traditional three day funeral in their village, Gamba on the western side of the plateau. Unfortunately, this is a weekly occurrence…..the biggest problem being AIDS.

Whilst down at Vwaza, we re-visited The Orphanage,giving the children some T-Shirts.They welcomed us warmly once again with some singing,a bit of speechifying which included Michael muttering a few words, I rather cowardly declined, prefering to take photo’s instead. Everyone was clearly very excited about the money Katie’s school had raised.We hope to take the girls there if time allows when they visit in a couple of weeks.
Called in on our friend Pattison,who is still sick and were told he was visiting ”The Witch Doctor” when we stopped at his house.(thoughts of him getting worse sadly spring to mind)

Rashid has our garden looking fab, with vegetables coming on well. What we thought was large cat poo in the garden, turns out, according to Paston, to be The Leopards Toilet……how cool is that though(gardeners world, eat your heart out, imagine having Leopard compost in amongst your veg) although I think the time has come to put away the water pistol!!

Recently, we appear to have become the local bureau de change/Bank of Malawi.
The guys that work for Wilderness Safari’s get their tips in US Dollars and come to us to exchange for Kwacha. This suits us at the moment,as we need Dollars for when we go to Zambia next week with the girls. It has ,however become a bit manic of late, finding the exchange rate,etc, so everyone gets a good deal!

We heard this morning, the sad news that Pattison, our friend and night watch-man at Vwaza had died. He was a good age(75) by Malawian standards and was a lovely old boy, we will remember him fondly, after all those evenings he spent attempting to teach us Timbuka,the local language.

The last few day’s have been a joy! Bacon finally hit The People’s supermarket in Mzuzu. We grabbed what little there was (three packets) at great expense and although probably not the finest,seemed to us delicious and has been going down a treat, especially since our last bacon was found in South Africa.
Sadly, Rice, Beans and Greens,is still the staple diet for us!

I attended an HIV and AIDS meeting yesterday. Having been told it started at 1:30 pm, I rather foolishly arrived promptly. At 3:00pm everyone else were just arriving(clearly Africa time)It kicked off with what can best be described as a disco,with all the ladies doing their thing,grooving to the beat, babies on backs, another half hour passed and a handful of guy’s showed up. Finally the speaker,HIV positive himself, got started, after the formal introductions. He seemed to keep his 50 or so people interested and well informed, luckily, the school teacher on my left translated for me, so I was able to understand all that was going on.After another couple of hours had passed by I was feeling well informed. Depressing statistics for Malawi,but good news that such events take place occasionally, educating the villagers here at Chelinda, especially being so far from civilisation.I finally departed, leaving everyone to it,the drumming started up,followed by music blaring from several speakers.

As I sat down to write this, there was an extremely loud Leopard coughing, just outside our bedroom window, Michael went to investigate and it coughed again as he reached the back door/it’s a strange deep, primeval sound, not easy to describe, surprising as there was plenty of human noise close by. Michael reckoned it was only 10 metres away, just a shame you can’t see them, even in daylight it’s tricky !

Knock at the door mid morning, always met with some trepidation, Charles Chiana from The parks department, with a guy from the timber contractors in tow, explained that there had been a horrible accident and that a guy had fallen backwards onto an unguarded Band saw of a wood miser machine, used to saw the pine trees into timber. We, as usual had the only vehicle available, so we had no option and agreed immmediately to go and fetch the guy. Joseph, one of our drivers shot off to collect him about 2 km away.They brought him back as requested, while Michael and I rushed around getting our limited medical kit together. Michael proceeded to tend his wounds, which were not pleasant, strangely there were’nt many spectators! The poor guy now has three buttocks and is lucky not to be a Siamese twin, he was then whisked away, face down in the pick-up, on the three hour bumpy road to Rumphi. Michael went into ‘elf & safety mode and wrote stroppy letter’s to all and sundry, as this the third such incident this month…..all avoidable. Unfortunately it will probably have absolutely no effect.

Finally we managed to get Sam Banda,the deputy manager here, whose been trying to sort out all the problems, with the TFCA project. Having not been paid for some time and with no funds for six weeks, he had been marooned in Mzuzu. So after several months and one or two visits he finally got here,we had a nice dinner with him and Apollo who works for the lodge and the next day filled him in on current affairs. The much awaited meeting started at 3:00pm, with all our guys(30plus) and Nellie sitting on the grass outside our cabin, we went through the new contracts first, followed by many other matter’s, it was question time Malawi style, but because of Sam’s translation skill’s, it was agreed we had had a successful meeting all round. Meetings and greetings are quite ritualised here
and extremely polite and long drawn out, it was almost dark when we headed for the G&T!

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