Arrived at Vwaza Marsh wildlife reserve, having stocked up on supplies in Mzuzu. A lovely scenic spot ,one of Malawi’s best- kept, game viewing secrets apparently, over-looking Lake Kuzuni. Many Elephants already there to greet us,plus a few grunting Hippo’s in the lake. Set up camp,made an enormous curry, to keep us going in the coming day’s,finally sat down to relax,when lo and behold , 4 extremely noisy and irritating,fellow campers,decided to park up and camp virtually on top of us where they proceeded to make a terrible din,such a shame in what is such a peaceful scenic place, finally, Mr Angry had to tell them politely(not) to keep the noise down,which didn’t seem unreasonable,given,it was 11:00 pm and the average camper/tourist is asleep by 8:30 pm !
Next morning we made a visit to The Chigwere Orphanage,to deliver all the lovely toys, clothes,school items,that many of you have donated and have been sitting in our roof-box for the last six months.
To say they were delighted,would be an understatement,they particularly loved all the farm animals, puzzles, books and foot-balls.
Sophie,the nurse from Liverpool,who raised the funds to build the school,which is part of the Orphanage,should feel very proud as they are clearly benefiting,from all her hard work,however,the building is still incomplete and they need another 200000 kwacha
(£400),to finish it,including laying a floor,plastering the walls,etc,etc.
The children ,themselves seemed so happy and smiley,despite having nothing, most having lost both parents to Aids ,Malaria or other illness.
We were treated to some wonderful singing and at the end chanting Father Mikey, Father Mikey,which made me smile(and I’m sure will amuse our girls!)
The committee spoke out,in particular about Sophie and how grateful they are and to urge her not to forget them,but to please keep on trying to help and indeed if anyone else feels like donating,fund-raising,don’t hesitate to ask for details.
Finally, many photo’s were taken,including,some on “The Polaroid” (pressie from our girls) which enabled us to give them some snaps,which they loved, you just wish you could do more for them.
Left Chigwere,drove 100kms on a rough,very dusty road to Nyika. Arriving at Chelinda and warmly greeted by Geoff and Patsy Wooles from New Zealand the current Trustee managers of the park, a lovely couple,who have clearly been doing an excellent job here and have put in enormous amount of time and effort.
Two of their five(yes five) daughters are visiting at the moment,who also made us feel very welcome. Cups of tea and freshly made bread with honey(made by Nelly,the home help) and the loan of the shower,were much appreciated.
Having rather lost touch of time,we awoke yesterday morning, realizing it was September 4th and that we have been married for 30 years. We celebrated by having baked beans and eggs on the camp fire ……who would have thought we’d be living in a Land-rover, all those years ago ! If nothing else it certainly puts your marriage to the test.
We’ve been on some amazing drives on the plateau,the landscape is stunning here,with huge variations,millions of tiny flowers,like a carpet covering the mountains,it is as spectacular , as we always thought it would be. And its not even the best time of year .
Got invited by a local church group to their choral presentation, very good it was too, you wanted to clap but as it was religious, not really appropriate. We were treated as honoured guests which was a bit different and made to sit in the front with the chief evangelist – did not get converted though!!
Nyika is not noted for its animals especially the plateau but there were plenty of Roan antelope around, it has one of the best populations in Africa. We had seen photos of them “swimming” in the dams but on watching them, it became clear they have learned to eat the floating algae,walking along skimming the surface before chewing up a mouthful – Michael says he not heard of this behaviour before.
Plenty of Reed buck in evidence also very tame bush buck around the camp which are very pretty, but the males have a reputation for being dangerous – serious spiky horns – so the local kids run away when they turn up. Also saw zebra – a subspecies known as Crawshays zebra which only live here and in neighbouring Luangwa valley in Zambia.
Today,we piled some guys into the Land rover did some serious off-roading,finally arriving at the bridge,which was is a serious state of disrepair,the guys then set to work…and they certainly know how to work,Michael helped too,which made him feel useful. I was photographer and nurse. The maintenance of these roads and bridges is never-ending, but crucial to the future of the park, no roads and bridges,means no tourists and in turn no money for the local people, that said the roads immediately surrounding Chelinda are good, but the main road, which is the governments responsibility, needs some serious work.
Our Malawian visa’s needed extending and we had run out of food after a few day’s on Nyika, so we headed back to Mzuzu,to the immigration office,this took up much of the day…..oh what joy,we then came back to Vwaza Marsh wildlife reserve,as this is where we shall be staying for a while, getting various projects under way, like staff housing,repairs to roads and bridges and to generally try and get this beautiful place back on the map.
We have set up camp,using both our roof and ground tents and storing all our belongings in a rather run-down chalet. This is actually great,as we’ve been able to unpack a bit,even the toothbrushes have a real home now…..even if there is no water or flushing loo, oh well, you can’t win em all,we do however have the most wonderful view you could wish for, with Elephants passing many times a day,and Hippo’s snoozing in the lake right in front of us,also plenty of Monkeys,Baboons, Impala,Kudu and Warthogs, not to mention a vast array of bird life. It is like sitting in your own National Park,and without any-one else around. (perfect)
Had our first meeting as such with George Banda who manages the Vwaza Park, the office, being in an amazing setting hippos ,elephants etc a few yards away first project is doing up local staff housing then I think the airstrip, hangers etc and roads. Made a trip by ourselves logging defects along a stretch on the GPS, that not been used for a while skirting around fallen trees in the bush with Emma shouting” you will get us stuck” every few minutes – no faith!!, saw a large heard of Buffalo at close distance plus a heard of Roan which is good news. George has some good sounding plans and now we have some funds , maybe we can put something in action. The potential here is huge I think it could become the best park in the country if funding is available. We saw more wildlife on that one drive than we did in Liwonde the supposed premier park.
Finally got some water – (Michael has a theory about the problem but the trouble is there’s no diesel to run the generator to test the theory). Godwin’s (who works in the camp)wife walked about half a mile with a huge bucket, probably 40 litres on her head to bring us some –a strong woman and she’s only small, as are most of the people here. The locals are all Tumbuka, originally hunter gatherers who were kicked out of the parks by the government in the 1970s .
Had a tour of staff buildings with George, clearly there’s lots to be done,from the provision of toilets to,more importantly the pumped water supply and the drainage system. Came up with a simple design ,to improve the extension of kitchens, which can hopefully be afforded, many houses suffer from smoky fires due to poor chimney design. Emma held the tape measure,as newly appointed surveyors assistant,although not always at the right end( ie the one with the numbers on )
Returned to camp,where we watched a procession of over a hundred Elephant’s from the” office window”,followed an hour or two later by a very big herd of Buffalo.
A few hours later, we heard a series of loud bangs a mile or two away,as the park rangers scared the Elephants off neighbouring farmers land, back into the park, Twenty minutes after that the Elephants came charging past us , dust flying, a very scary and awe inspiring sight, you would not want to be in the way of that lot !
A rather different first day at work !