10 Reasons Why Not To Visit MALAWI

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A trip to Africa can seem daunting to most travellers before it even begins, thanks in no small part to the unlimited sources of information available today, plus friends and family chiming in with their worst case shrunken heads/cannibalism scenarios. Forget what you have or haven’t heard for a bit and read on for some first hand lowdown and alternative reasons for why you probably shouldn’t pack your ass away to Malawi.

 

Just stepping to grab some veggies is all.
Just stepping out to grab some veggies is all. Bvumbwe market.

[01] Strap your blast suit on lest you get blown away by the incredible scenery of the plantation country in the southern region. About an hour away from Blantyre, the commercial capital, rolling hills and an array of trees (I’m talking eucalyptus, pines, cedars, the good shit) escort you through the towns of Thyolo and Mulanje, visually fascinating you to the point of making you want to pick up a book and step your dendrology game up. Warning. Several individuals including myself can confirm that long periods of ambling around these parts can trigger the urge to go streaking.

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Tea plantation. Mulanje

 

Craving for pizza activated.
Craving for pizza activated.

[02] In the midst of all this beauty, you will find in Mulanje, tucked away by the road, a pizzeria serving authentic, wood-fired pizza that will complete your circle of happiness and leave you feeling as smug as a bug in a rug. If that isn’t enough, you can help yourself to some juicy lychees from a huge lychee tree around the back. Stumbling into this space in the hometown of the impressive Mount Mulanje is serendipity defined. At this point you might be compelled to slap yourself just to establish if this is actually happening to you.

 

 

 

[03] The experience of the Lake Malawi could cause you to reconsider specie reassignment. I mean just being here could make you want to change habitat and consequently shapeshift/transform into a mermaid/man and slap your flippers (or hands) together while making squeaky sounds like a joyful seal. Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa, making up about a third of Malawi itself. Dotted with beautiful beaches, resorts and little fishing villages along the shore, there’s something for everyone’s liking. In my opinion, it pretty much makes up for the lack of a coastline. Approximately 8400 cubic kilometers of awesomeness can cause a system overload.

Sunset at Cape Maclear

 

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And that’s how it’s done son.

[04] Located on a cove at the lake in the town of Chintheche is the Makuzi Beach Lodge. Crystal clear, calm waters and soft white sand beaches combine with the reclusive nature of this place to hold your senses hostage while you are in the vicinity. Time stands still, relaxation comes as naturally as breathing and serenity encompasses you. Oh and did I mention it’s also a great location for some snorkeling. This is where you begin to wonder if you want to go back to living in the city or just say ‘tionana’ to modern society and grab another sundowner.

 

 

 

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On the edge.

[05] Zomba plateau is nothing short of a geological marvel. This trekkers dream is located in the southern region, about an hour north-east of Blantyre. The plateau is mostly covered in forest and can be explored by vehicle or foot. However, the pleasant weather and abundant plant life, interspersed with streams, little waterfalls and lakes makes hoofing it that much more attractive. And that isn’t the half of it. Zomba plateau has been said to have ‘the best views in the British Empire’ and fittingly, there is the ‘Queens View’ spot (named after the Queen Mother) to support the case. So you could carry a flask and sip away like royalty while admiring the breath-taking vistas or maybe head to the ‘Emperors View’ (named after Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia) and roll a fat one (like the Emperor presumably did), sending your senses into overdrive. The right dose of this place will very likely convert you into a trail-addict.

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The mysterious Chingwe’s hole.

 

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Friendly neighbourhood snake guy.

[06] The Malawian people are a whole other pack of cards (I may have just made that phrase up). Their cheery, laidback vibe is infectious and will effectively expand your comfort zone around their company. Anyone who has travelled here will most likely speak of the friendliness of the people, which from my experience seems to infect the travellers and immigrants as well. Malawi isn’t called ‘the Warm Heart of Africa’ for nothing.

It seems almost too obvious that the simpler the nature of your life, the simpler your attitude and nature of your personality. Truly experiencing this dimension of Malawi is going to give you some serious insight and twist your mind around for the better. Warning, your priorities are about to take one on the gonads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[07] Live music that’ll give you the happy feet and well, happy ears too I guess. The dancehall/afro/reggae vibrations are of course most effective when combined with the amazing food and company, not forgetting to mention the seemingly endless flow of green (Carlsberg) and gold (keep reading). Good times are guaranteed, making it to your morning appointment on time is not. Side note: There aren’t many other places in the world where you’d find alcohol being sold in 10ml sachets. It just seems like they hit the jackpot on the ‘utterly convenient way to get shit-faced’ lottery.

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Boogie nights.

 

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Hippos getting a midday soak. Majete.

[08] Wildlife and national parks that’ll make you want to get your Tarzan on. Ok, maybe not quite, but Malawi is the gateway drug equivalent, if you will, of wildlife safaris. Not as overwhelming as say, the Kruger or the Masai Maara but just as enjoyable and a surely a great introduction to the African wilderness. Enthusiasts will truly appreciate the smorgasbord of mammal, bird and reptile species found in all regions.

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Hilltop lookout in Majete park.

 

All hands on deck. Braai station. Limbe.
All hands on deck. Braai station. Limbe.

[09] Hide the bathroom scales, because it’s chow time. The food here is varied and very interesting. Braai (Afrikaans term for bbq) stations are as tasty as they are ubiquitous, paradise for the carnivores. You cannot talk Malawian food without talking ‘chambo’, the local tilapia fish from the lake. These species of cichlids are endemic to Malawi and when done right, you might even wish they were endemic to your tummy. A typical local meal consists of nsima, which is a maize-flour based dish, eaten usually with some greens, brown beans, and tomato relish or other kind of gravy. An example of interesting local food is the ‘kambuzi’ chili. First of all ‘kambuzi’ literally translates to goat, which is hilarious. PS. You may hear people being called this in animated conversation. They are not calling each other ‘chili’. The kambuzi chili is an almost round shaped, orange colored, miniature-tomato looking thing with a distinctively tangy flavor in addition to the medium spiciness. Long story short, goodbye diet.

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[L-R] Chambo & rice. Fried crickets (crunchy). African bird’s eye chili a.k.a piri-piri. The baobab superfruit.

 

[10] Have no fear, Malawi Gold is here. Malawi Gold is (drum roll) the local marijuana, yes, that. Not legal, even if your doctor advised you and it helps with your glaucoma. So THIS warning is pretty legit. Disclaimer aside, the infamous brand of herb, locally known as ‘chamba’ is reputed for being one of the finest in the world, and is not out of reach for anyone who dares. Seek and ye shall find. True story, I once exchanged my pants for a cob of the good herb in Zomba. The Rastafarian guy who was pushing the stuff took a liking to my camo-print cargos and asked for it right off my ass as a trade-off. I evaluated, and concluded that doing the remainder of my shopping that day clad in a towel was totally worth the killer bargain. While opportunities for barter do pop up in and around the markets, I can’t guarantee a deal as ridiculous as this.

Regardless of how you acquire it, Malawi Gold will get you there. Where? I guess you need to take the trip to find out.

 

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Two for the price of one.

[AND…THIS] BONUS!!

Quirky and WTF can quickly become your ‘normal’ when you come across stuff like this while doing the routine grocery rounds. The neighbourhood baker apparently ran out of ideas to increase the appeal of his wares to the bun-weary citizens of Limbe town. He is also clearly running low on ‘fucks-left-to-give’. Which is why I can enjoy some Bin Laden & Obama with my tea this evening, for only $0.10

Maybe just this one reason is enough and it could also very well be an accurate, summarized reflection of the Malawian experience. Do not go to Malawi if you don’t want your reality to take a bit of a battering.

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