Thought we would add a few comments on our time so far in Malawi,in no particular order.
Firstly, the people here are genuinely very,very friendly. Even the street vendors aren’t that pushy and you soon find yourselves having full on conversations,the main local language here in the North is Tumbuka,our attempts are clearly hopeless,but met with a lot of laughter and our night watch-man Pattison,is trying to teach us a word each day (some hope) it’s also made confusing by the strong local accent,which leads to misunderstandings all round!
They really haven’t got a lot to laugh about, as the local daily wage is the price of less than a litre of petrol (500 Kwacha=£1).Fuel itself is once again in increasingly short supply,leading to queues around the block,but apparently this is still much improved upon what is was a few months ago, when people queued for five days. The currency has recently been devalued by 30%, which means everything(as it’s all imported) has shot up in price. To top it all the maize harvest this year was poor in many areas,so massive food shortages are predicted in the next few months,which will drive prices higher still,so things not looking too rosy.
On a lighter note, a unique feature here is bicycle taxi,s, these are strong, old fashioned bikes,fitted with sturdy, elongated carriers,with padded seats, foot-rests and a handle for the passenger to hang onto and a variety of attachments for carrying anything and everything, you name it .The more enterprising decorate their bikes in typical African fashion,complete with personalised number plates !
Food here can be very good, nsima(maize porridge) being the staple diet,which they eat with everything. Your average Malawian seems as fit as a fiddle and strong as an Ox generally and although very small, look incredibly youthful, although I’m sure this certainly isn’t always the case. “Young George” as we call him looks about ten, but is in fact thirty-five !
It’s also fair to say ,many live in extreme poverty and survive on virtually nothing,they seem to help each other out though and would still give us their last penny if they could. It certainly makes you realise want you don’t need in life.
Us Mazungu’s (white people) are still a source of interest to young and old alike, small children,sometimes burst into tears having looked at us, as some babies might cry in the UK at people who wear glasses, we are clearly very strange! The other day when giving some locals a lift to the village,we stopped briefly,two teenagers came running up behind us,as they got near the car we offered them a lift too,at which point they looked terrified,young George explained that many local people teach their children that white people are bogey men-or as he put it”The Mafia” and will take them away. This stems from the slave trade,(which believe it or not only stopped here in 1895,following a British battle with a powerful local Arab slave trader, known as Mlozi and his army. Long memories unsurprisingly.)
The markets naturally, are a great source of fruit&veg,although a bit limited to Onions,Tomatoes and Potatoes at the moment and every stall sells the same so we try to spread the Kwacha around by buying onions from one and tomatoes from another,delicious Bananas are always available and Mango’s and pineapples are starting to appear on the scene,not to mention the Paw-paws,which are enormous and delicious.
Huge heaps of tiny dried fish(usipa) is sold virtually anywhere and everywhere.
Beer here is extremely cheap. A bottle of Carlsberg, known as” A Green” is about 35p a bottle and you can eat in a restaurant for as little as £3 quid (for Chambo (fish) and chips,or steak)
Speed traps, well now, these are proving to be a problem for us,Michael, having only had one fine in the UK after thirty years of driving, has subsequently received three in five weeks in Malawi. They are very sneaky,and are expensive for the locals(£10) regardless of speed,who usually bribe their way out of it for a lesser amount. A local taxi driver told us that when out of their own district,they simply put their foot down as the police have no chase car and the system is so chaotic,there is no chance of being chased! Like it !!
Unless extremely poor,everyone here seems impeccably turned out,always smart,putting us to shame and as much as I kid myself it’s because we live in a Land-rover,most of them live in very dusty,basic, mud-huts,but still manage to look clean and colourful!
Our daily life is fairly varied with never a dull moment it seems. For instance yesterday,Friday when there’s a large market in our nearest village Kazuni,we gave a lift to Stevaria,who lives nearby to sell her home-made beer. This involved loading up the Landy with her,her mother,a large dustbin full of beer ,a 20 litre jerry can of beer, a sack full of bottles,all of which she normally carries by hand and on her head 3-4 kms to the market,we also took a huge basket full of maize,in addition to this normal load. (The women here certainly work, making me feel very lazy in comparison!) On reaching the market,there were plenty of willing (male) hands to help her unload- no surprises there then ! This same lady also bakes us some fantastic bread rolls,when we take her the ingredients, an improvement on Michael’s, but he’s getting better all the time-(I had to say that or I’m dead meat.)
The people who work at Vwaza, in particular Godwin,Pattison and Isaiah,look after us really well,fetching water when there is none,looking after our stuff if we visit town for a couple of day’s,warning us when Elephants are looming.
The weather is getting hotter now with each passing day,so we tend to get all our work/jobs done in the early morning,rising at about 5:30-6:00 am,as it gets too hot in our tent otherwise,but we are usually tucked up by 8:30 pm,so it’s not a problem,always dark at 6:pm so by the time we’ve eaten we’re ready to hit the sack! (today it reached 38 degrees) I could really do with some English chill factor right now!
Obviously we are always banging on about the wonderful Elephants,of which there are plenty,butbesides the larger beasts, we are discovering more and more of the smaller type of beasts ie-bugs me, I’m not so keen on the creepy crawlies but Michael- he just loves them (you may have noticed them in his grubby hands in photo’s.)
At present we have two Tree frogs living in the Loo,well not literally,but they cause us great amusement as they constantly change colour,I found the first one living in my nest of sauce-pans and nearly jumped out of my skin! Bat poo is a problem in the bathroom but we never see them.
Mice eat everything from the Tooth-paste to the Cocoa butter body lotion,chewing their way through the packaging,food we keep in plastic boxes,so fairly safe there ,although the monkey’s would have anything they find,but we’re on their case now.(with Michael’s home-made catapult,we can take on anything!)
Many lizards and skinks of varying sizes,scuttle about and (far too large) flying insects,hit you on the back with a fair old thwack in the evenings.
Giant hairy caterpillars,corn crickets and luckily for me smallish spider’s have all been observed,quite sufficient I feel !(Toby would be in his element!)
Shortly, we shall be leaving our little homestead and heading for the civilisation of Cape Town. I have to say I’m very excited by the prospect of this. Everybody says how wonderful it is,especially at this time of year and we need to replenish and restock on many things,which we can’t otherwise find,but shall be returning to Malawi at a later date.