33 – Hello Malawi!

33 – Hello Malawi!

Mbeya 📍

Mbeya is a big town in southwestern Tanzania, nestled amongst pretty mountains. We spent the night there at a splendid hotel called “Peace of Mind”. The name was quite fitting as, for a reasonable price, they offered us a comfortable room (which was nicely decorated with local curios), as well as a swimming pool and restaurant. Though we could quite happily have stayed there several days, we left the next morning by bus. We were ready to explore a new country.

Hotel Peace of Mind

The bus journeys to Ipinda went smoothly. We passed dozens of banana plantations and shared a bus with a box of chicks. Once in Ipinda, we ‘spent a penny’ at the village’s long drop, then walked for a mile under the blazing sun to a bridge on the Songwe river. On the other side of the bridge was Malawi.

Crossing over to Malawi

We whizzed through border control. Not surprisingly, obtaining a visa is made easy when you cough up 75USD each! Once we had crossed into Malawi, we kept our eyes peeled for transport, though there was not a bus in sight. Despite walking as if we knew where we were going, two guys led us towards a car which was parked at the side of the road. As our destination was two hours away, we were reluctant to take a taxi; it would surely cost an arm and a leg. The guys insisted. Clearly no buses were going to be passing through here anytime soon so taking a taxi was our only option. We shared the five-seater car with four others, several bags and sacs of food, then paid the price recommended by the border police (we always try and get an idea of price before hunting down transport).

Our driver took us as far as the first big town, Karonga. There, we took a bigger, seven-seated taxi. We realised at this point that taxis are the main form of transport in Malawi. We clambered onto the two seats at the back and assisted with filling the car. Well, more like stuffing really. The three seats in the middle were used as four and the two seats at the front were used as three! We will let you imagine where the gear stick ended up. Haha. The driver could have squished another person or two onto our seats, but he was kind or maybe he did not dare?

We were dropped in Chilumba town centre. From there we organised our last shared taxi to Chilumba coast. We walked the remaining few miles along the beach to our hotel. We passed several farms, each with its own patch of maize, sorghum, chickens and sometimes a cow or goat too. It was not obvious where the path was, and where the farms began. The residents looked a little shocked to see us but gladly pointed us in the right direction. We received lots of waves and smiles, especially from children who ran behind us, shouting with glee.

We arrived at the hotel as the sun was setting over Lake Malawi. The lake seemed different to Lake Victoria; it felt more like a beach. The shore was sandy, and there were even waves! Only the mountains on the other side of the lake indicated we were not at the seaside. We paused for a while, watching the sky turn shades of purple and a blush pink, whilst we listened to the soothing lapping of the water. It felt good to have arrived in Malawi, the same place where Heather’s parents were for their honeymoon twenty-nine years ago.

We stayed a few nights at Viphya Lodge (we had made a reservation here so that we had an address for our visas). It was a modest hotel with welcoming staff, a beautiful beach and delicious grilled fish for dinner. Fish is a big part of the Malawian diet, alongside Nsima (Ugali), beans and Shum (tomato & onion salad).

Chilumba had its own fish market. We would catch two moto-taxis from the hotel to Chilumba centre. Ladies sat on stools with buckets of fish, tomatoes, onions or cabbages at their feet. Sometimes the fish was sold fresh, sometimes dried. We had already seen the long handmade tables that were used along the beaches to dry the fish in the sun.

Another staple in Malawi is Mangoes. It was clearly mango season when we were there. Orange mangoes were strewn across the ground, sometimes even in large heaps on the sand. There were so many that Malawians struggled to eat or sell them all – you could buy them for next to nothing. The smell of putrefying mangoes wafted wherever we went.

One evening, we went for a stroll down the beach by Viphya Lodge. We were the only ones on the beach. Then, as we stood admiring the mountains in the distance, a group of boys came running towards us, taking their clothing off as they ran. One little one trailed behind, struggling to lift his t-shirt off over his head. His friends had not waited for him, they were already jumping up and down in the waves. Once the little one joined them, we started playing a game with them. We picked up some of the rotten mangoes on the beach and threw them, one at a time, towards the boys. Splash, a mango landed in front of one of the boys. Squeals of laughter resonated. Splash, another mango landed. The boys jumped up and down with excitement. One of them bent down, picked up one of the mangoes we had thrown, then threw it back at us in hysterics. This went on for a while! As you can imagine, we tired of the game before they did! Hehe.

Splash!!

Click play to see a short clip below...

We jaunted back to our hotel to enjoy the evening atmosphere. Locals came to dance, drink beer and eat grilled fish.

Mmmmmmm! 😋

Thanks to our bus journeys, we tend to know all the music hits in each country we pass through. The songs playing at the hotel’s bar were unfamiliar to us: a sign that we were no longer in East Africa and had entered a new region.

Click the play button below to hear one of our favourite tunes we heard in Malawi (which is actually from South Africa!).

4 Replies to “33 – Hello Malawi!”

  1. Wow! Listening to that music sent me straight back to my trip to Tanzania in 2013! Love it!! Malawi looks gorgeous xxx

  2. We had been married for three years when we went to Malawi, but yes, we were still on honeymoon. Still are now! 😅
    I think Arnaud’s long hair and beard really suit him 🙂
    I have been looking forward to experiencing your Malawi adventures, really enjoyed them – thank you. Fabulous pictures and descriptions and even music! Great fun 🙂 xxx

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