35 – A Rude Awakening

35 – A Rude Awakening

After a night at Mushroom Farm and a hair-raising motorbike ride down the hill, we were back in Chitimba. As we only had ten days in Malawi, our ‘To See List’ was short but the distances we needed to cover, long. Next on our list was Nkhata Bay, about one hundred and ten miles away. We were expecting to have to change taxis several times before arriving, but we were lucky: we found a taxi driver who was going direct to Nkahta bay to see his brother! As we paid a minimal price, he was entitled to remain a shared taxi and pick people up along the way. On a few occasions the taxi was full to the brim. Though taking more passengers than there are seats may be the norm, it is still against the law. When our driver spotted a police checkpoint in the distance, he pulled over, signalled to three of our squished passengers to get out, then waved as he drove past the policemen. A few hundred metres down the road we pulled over again, waited two minutes, then our three thrown-out passengers appeared on motorbikes. They clambered back into our car and off we went. Sorted!

Mushroom Farm, Livingstonia > Nkhata Bay

It was the beginning of the rainy season in Malawi. A dramatic thunderstorm engulfed us on the road. Raindrops clattered ferociously against the car, turning the road before us into a mere smudge. Roadside sellers ran for cover and potential passengers disappeared.

As we approached Nkahta bay, the sun emerged, as did craft markets selling beautiful wooden masks, jewellery, chessboards, nativity sets, chairs, decorative bowls, globes, animal statues and of course, Bao boards!

A lady selling MASSIVE mushrooms

After listening to the road-tripping couple in their fifties rave about Mayoka Village, we decided we would stay there too. The owners, Kathryn (English) and Gary (South African), welcomed us with two fresh mango juices and homemade brownies. We were told they bought the land for a few thousand pounds twenty odd years ago. It has since been turned into a little haven: little pathways link picturesque chalets dotted on a hillside, overlooking flamboyant trees and the crystal waters of Lake Malawi. There were Kayaks available for free, free tea every day at 4pm and a free boat trip on Tuesdays. Today was Monday – perfect!

Can you see all the mangoes?

As the private chalets were expensive, we opted for an eight-bedded dorm with bamboo walls. All the beds were already made up, despite there not being any guests. In fact, it looked like it had been empty a while; dead bugs lay to rest on the ‘clean’ sheets. The mosquito nets were very holey, but we were hopeful they would be enough to keep the mozzies out! The roof was the monkeys’ playground and toilet, but hey ho, we were there now – so we sucked it up and reminded ourselves of the free boat trip the next day.

At four in the morning we both awoke, swatting our arms and legs, it felt like bugs were crawling on us. Weird. The swatting intensified so Arnaud got up to go get his phone’s torch so we could see what was happening. His phone-screen lit up and horror struck us. Millions of flying ants were on the phone. He shone the torch towards our bed: they were all over and inside our mosquito net. “Aaaahhhhhh!” (Ahhhh with our mouths closed!) We ran out the dorm (in our underwear) and hurried to get the night guard. He helped us take all our things out of the room and brush off any remaining bugs.

We asked the night guard if we could have another room or if we could speak Gary or Kathryn. Unfortunately, they would not be arriving for another four hours or so. Seeing as we were now awake (very much so!), we decided to go kayaking and enjoy the sunrise over the lake.

A horrid moment turned into a really peaceful, beautiful one. It was so lovely being just the two of us, on the lake’s still waters, with a background of pink sky and *smoke on the other side of the lake as villages began their day. We saw a few fishermen and a gentleman dressed in his best who paddled his way to the market.

Now that we were up, we decided not to hang around for the boat trip. Instead, we would advance towards our next destination. After all, we had the whole day ahead of us, the sun had only just risen!

We filled our bellies whilst waiting for the owners to turn up. A guy at the bar said he was going in the same direction, so we could share the price of a taxi.  The hotel manager ended up calling a taxi for us for a cheaper price. Sometimes it is exhausting to have to always check and negotiate prices.

We did not have to barter the price of our bug-riddled dorm, as Kathryn said she would not charge us. She explained that flying ants choose a place at random to regroup and that we were just unlucky. Sure. We thought to ourselves that if the dorm had been cleaner, they probably would have chosen somewhere else! Then again, if the bugs had not come, we would not have had our beautiful moment kayaking on the lake…

Click the play button below to hear our next tune from Malawi (with footage of us Kayaking).

*We have since learnt that this “smoke” in the distance, was in fact clouds of millions of midges mating over Lake Malawi. You cannot escape the bugs! See David Attenborough’s clip below:

3 Replies to “35 – A Rude Awakening”

  1. A pity about the insects, but I’m sure the beauty of the lake and sunrise made up for it. Now it’s one of your awesome stories!

  2. Wow! What an amazing spectacle, what a bizarre existence – to emerge from the lake, mate, lay eggs and die – why? Mind boggling! Who’d be a midge I Malawi? There again, there are worse places to have a brief existence I guess!
    I wish I had not read this particular blog in bed (swat. Swat!)
    So proud of you for making the best of the flying ant situation and enjoying a sun rise paddle. What a reward for a rude awakening. Bravo – well done! Xxx

  3. Nice to have David Attenborough’s information verified!!! Canoeing is such a great pastime, close to nature!! G Ma xxxxx

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