I'm sitting in the Sunrise Restaurant in Zanzibar town. We came back here this morning from the east coast where we have been for two nights - it was lovely. We thought we would spend one more night here and go back on the ferry tomorrow. But after booking into a hotel and leaving our bags we went to the port and discovered that the ferries, which only run at night (the cheap ones that is), also only run every other day. It seems that when you get to Zanzibar it's difficult to leave!! Because we want to get to Malawi by Friday to change money, we have to leave tonight. So we ended up losing some money at the hotel, but they looked after our bags for us.
We have walked around town after booking our tickets to Dar Es Salaam, we had lunch at an Indian restaurant looking over the port then went on walkabout. We are having a beer and a meal before collecting our bags and going for the boat. The trip takes 4 hours but we have to stay on the boat until 6 in the morning, so I hope we can sleep. Because then we want to catch the bus to Mbeya which is on the border with Malawi and takes 9 hours so it will be a long day.
I'm now sitting on the boat. We have bagged a seat and grabbed a mattress and spread out. They are loading lots of boxes of TV's, stereos and microwave ovens on to the boat. They must have had a shipment into Zanzibar and they seem to use the ferries as cargo boats as well. When we came over there were loads of baskets of tomatoes. There is a TV which has a Muslim religious broadcast droning on all the time - will I ever sleep?
No is the answer to that - it's now 3 o'clock in the morning and we have
just stopped. It was a really rough journey. There are about 60 people on
this deck, it's only a small boat, 2 decks and people are stretched out everywhere.
It makes that ferry ride in Greece seem easy. Rod is on the floor on a mattress
between two seats. We have swapped once - I don't know which was harder,
the floor or the seat. We have to stay on the boat until 6 o'clock which
will feel like forever.
Well it's now 10 past 7 and I'm sitting on a bus in Dar Es Salaam. We are heading straight to Mbeya which should take 9hrs but we know what the buses are like and it's more likely to take 12hrs. I've had a rushed breakfast of madazi (like doughnuts without the sugar), rice cakes and sweet black tea - they don't understand no sugar. There are loads of people here trying to sell everything - bread, watches, clothes, carrier bags, sweets, jewelry, fags, sunglasses. There's no need to forget anything on these journeys - even knickers!
It's now one o'clock and we have stopped in the mountains - the scenery is fantastic. We are really quite high up. We stopped at a place with loads of stalls cooking fast food for the people on the buses - we had a chip omelet, it was lovely. The journey here has been great so far - I'm really tired and boiling hot - but it's been worth it. We went through a small game park and saw loads of zebras, a few giraffes, and a small herd of ELEPHANTS !!!!! WOW. I also saw a warthog run across the road - some deer/ antelope and buffalo and we've seen loads of baboons up here in the mountains. The bus driver is crazy!! He's chatting to his friends, and looking at them - reading the paper - all at breakneck speed - scary potatoes!! But I think he's done it before.
It's now 3.30, still on the bus. We've stopped again - this time it's an engine problem - the driver has been searching in the rubbish by the road for a bit of wire to fix it. The scenery has changed again, we seem to be on a big plateau as we haven't gone down again but it's very flat. The houses have changed a bit too - still basically mud huts - more bricks here. They seem to paint them with some patterns here which we haven't seen before.
Got to Mbeya at about 5.30 and got a room by the bus station. Went for a
shower - no water! I worked out that you have to fill a bucket from a tub
in the yard and go and use that in the shower room. By the time we'd discovered
that it was getting cooler and we didn't want cold showers. So we are really
grubby after all that travelling. Went back to the bus station to find out
about buses to the border. We were told we could get one all the way to the
border and the chap said he'd wake us in the morning as we'd have to be on
it at 6.30. so we went back for a quick beer and another chip omelet (obviously
a regional speciality) and then early to bed.
Up early and on the bus - no breakfast or drink. The scenery to the border was fantastic. A chap got on the bus selling rice cakes so we had one each for breakfast and a coke when it stopped at a small town. Saw loads of tea and coffee and bananas and some tomatoes growing - a much greener area. Got to the turn off for Kyela and they then told us that they don't go to the border and we have to get on bikes. They gave us some of our money back as they had written border on our tickets.
Then we got surrounded by bike boys for our custom and for money changing - the black market is very open. We changed $20 for 15 Kwachas a dollar. We don't know yet what the proper rate is but we had no choice as we needed money straight after the border for the bus. The road to the border was really good - we can't understand why the buses don't go. The Tanzania border post was like a hut, then we walked over the river into Malawi - their customs was much grander.
Got a bus to Karonga. No-one pestered us when we got off the bus - so we just went looking for a room. The first two places we looked at were no good so we started walking. The place is very spread out and we couldn't work out where the centre of town was. Eventually a chap took us back to the bus station and told us it was the centre. There is an old town but it's a bit of a walk with the bags in this heat. Found another room a bit better than the last. It's very hot and sweaty. Had a meal of rice and beans and then went for a shower - guess what - no water!! The plumbing in Africa is awful. There shouldn't be a water shortage in Malawi as the whole country is on the edge of a huge lake. They weren't bothered when Rod went out to tell them so we went and got a big bowl of water - they then helped us. Had a sort of shower which after nearly 3 days of travelling was welcome.
We are going to find the old town and see if we can get a better room tomorrow - one with water at least. Then we will decide where we are going. We walked around the town which is very spread out and involves a lot of walking. It's incredibly hot in this area and I'm sweating buckets. It seems that Malawi will be very cheap - there is not much to buy here - they are very poor. All the kids say 'hello' and ask for kwachas or dollars. We found the bank and walked down to the lake. Looked at few places to stay and decided to move to the Safari Lodge.
We had a beer, it seems that it's Carlsberg here - not very exciting. Went back to the town centre and went looking for a bottle of water - no luck. Had another beer in a grocery store which actually sells clothes - Rod said he had to have a beer in a clothes shop. They have some funny names for bars and shops - we saw the Hangover Clinic and Peace and Love Auto Spares! Had a chat with an eleven year old boy called Joseph who was wearing a Denis the Menace T-shirt - gave him a pencil and paper. Had egg and chips at the café next to the bar/clothes shop with the hottest chili sauce ever!! I'll have to get some for Jane. Back to the guesthouse and sleep - water was on again.
Good sleep but very hot. Had a quick shower on account of all the mossies and spiders in there - but there was water and it cooled me down. Had a cup of tea which they thought was hilarious when I said no sugar. They cope with no milk but no sugar they don't understand. Had a bread roll, and took a photo of the 'kitchen' and the tree with long green willies on it - she told me what it was but I don't remember and couldn't spell it if I did. The language here has changed, it's English and Chichewa which seems more complicated than Swahili.
Walked with bags to the Safari - still early morning but very hot. Left the bags and went to the bank - another long walk. Loads of mango trees here, dripping with fruit but not ready yet unfortunately. Got to the bank and they wanted to see my receipt for the travellers cheques so had to walk back to get it which was annoying. Back to bank and changed money.
Now we are back at the Safari planning our journey. We want to go to a place called Livingstonia which is up in the hills and sounds lovely. It says in the book that the best views in Africa are from here - it also says that you have to walk from the next village and it takes 4 hours in this heat up hill. We asked here and they said there is a bus - so I hope that's true.
Went for a drink by the lake and then to the Hangover Clinic which was also the stationary shop. They sold the local beer which comes in cartons and is called Chibuku Shake-Shake. It's supposed to be very potent stuff - you have to shake it first - there are a few people suffering from drinking it. We didn't try it - had a good sleep.
Breakfast a bit dull - bread and tea. Walked to the bus station, caught the bus at 10.30 after 1½ hours wait. The journey was awful, it took 3½hrs, the roads are terrible, the bus was packed and we were sweating buckets.
Had a drink at Chitimba and went and sat under a mango tree to wait for a lift - there is no bus. Mike from the Florence Bay Resthouse came to talk to us, and showed us the visitors book with all the comments from people walking up there. I'm not sure I could walk it in this heat although it seems you can leave bags down here.
We are now sitting at the resthouse, only one vehicle has come past and that was full. It's now 3.30 and we are just sitting and waiting and if nothing comes we will stay here the night. It's all a bit basic in Malawi and I'm beginning to miss my home comforts. Hopefully it will improve. It seems water is a problem even though we are right on the edge of a lake that looks just like the sea.
Shortly after writing that we got a lift on the back of a pick-up truck. There are 20 hairpin bends on a dirt track up to Livingstonia. It took about 45 minutes and we walked the last bit up to the village, which, like the town is very spread out. Found a resthouse which has a magnificent view - you can just make out the lake in the haze. It's much cooler up here so more comfortable.
Had a meal of beans, rice and veg which was huge - we were both really hungry but couldn't manage it all. We ate by hurricane lamp as there is no electricity here - but there is water. It's a lovely old house with a balcony and bits of old furniture and a lovely old range in the kitchen. No one else is here. Got talking to a 15 year old boy called Cuthbert who is going to take us to the waterfall tomorrow.
Cold shower!! It seems colder as it's cooler up here. Went and sat on the balcony. It's now 8 o'clock in the morning and like a hot English summers day - the view is a bit hazy so I shall wait and see if it clears to get a photo. There are lots of houses scattered all over the hills here. The people are so patient, they think nothing of walking up and down here with great loads on their heads and it's really steep and it takes about 4 hours. Cuthbert goes to school in the next town, he boards for a month and then comes home. He walks with his bag to catch the bus at the bottom and back up again when he comes home. At the moment he's on holiday from Sept - Jan. He says he helps his mother do the garden when he's at home - what a nice boy!!!!!
Cuthbert took us to see the waterfall. It was quite a long walk through the cassava growing. We sat at the Lovers Nest Restaurant overlooking the falls, but he had nothing to drink, only food. We had a coke at a small shop and then Cuthbert took us to the cave behind the waterfall and to the pool. It was lovely, cool, lots of lovely butterflies and dragonflies and grasshoppers with beautiful coloured wings. The walk back was a serious slog up the hill and it was hot again - not as hot as down by the lake but still hot.
We decided to give Cuthbert a Walkman and he was so pleased, he says he'll be the first one at school to have one. When news got around we had a collection of kids all wanting to talk to us. Rod went to the shop to buy water as the water here has a lot of black bits floating in it even though it must come from a spring in the mountains. It's probably got more to do with the dreadful plumbing. We are now relaxing in the shade before we go to explore. I have Cuthberts address and will send him some photos.
In the afternoon we went to find the Stone House which is the other guesthouse and also the museum. We had a look around - it was really funny - no organisation at all. Lots of photos of the missionaries though, it was interesting. The bit that really made me laugh was the 3 drawers marked "Birds and Animals". 2 drawers were butterflies, one of them was OK but the others were all breaking up into dust. The last drawer was hilarious - it had three dead birds in it - and one birds leg. I reckoned our cats could have done better - it really made me laugh. I think one bird was a Bee Eater which is probably quite rare but it just looked like a dead sparrow to me. We had the same meal again - loads of rice, and another early night.
Everyone here wakes up with the sun at about 5 o'clock and it's hot by about 8 o'clock. We went for a walk to look at the church and then the secondary school which is quite impressive. Met a Dutch couple and had a drink and some lunch with them - more rice and veg. I think they are quite glad we are veggie here as there's not much food at all. On the market there were just a few tomatoes, some bananas, dried fish, peanuts and cassava root. There are about 3 shops here and they don't have much stock, quite a lot of soap - people here only buy what they need. I saw a woman just buying four aspirins today.
Came back for a rest, we were surrounded by little girls when we got back and had to take a photo of them. We keep inquiring about a lift down but it's all a bit hit and miss. We will probably go and sit and wait for a car going down but it could take a long time.
This afternoon we could hear drumming in the distance. They where rehearsing some dancing for the local MP. It's the first time we've heard it apart from the tourist show we saw in Zanzibar. We are sitting by the hurricane lamp waiting for our evening meal and then we will go to bed early again. There are lots of fires burning in the mountains. They are clearing it ready for the rains which come at the end of November so the new grass will grow for the goats.
It's nearly 8 o'clock and we are sitting on our bags in the shade hoping that someone with a vehicle will come by. Some people arrived at the guesthouse really late last night and came crashing into our room and woke us up. Unfortunately they are not going back down today otherwise we might have got a lift off them.
Little things I keep forgetting to tell you about - some of the English, especially in Kenya and Tanzania was really funny. One menu in Zanzibar had 'pain cakes' and 'creeps' - sounds yummy.
On Sunday on the way back from the museum we saw monkeys on the road and up in the trees - babies as well - they were lovely. I took a photo but they move quite quickly so it might not turn out very well. The kids everywhere seem to play with tyres or hoops and sticks, balls made out of fabric and or plastic bags all bound up and little trucks made out of wire, bottle tops for wheels with a long stick and steering wheel to steer them. We saw one in Lamu that was made out of old tin cans that was much more sophisticated. There are very few toy shops and the few toys we have seen have been cheap plastic stuff.
There is a woman walking past with a huge plank on her head and people going off to work in the fields with all sorts of tools and babies on their backs. I had some stuff stolen from my bag when we left them in Zanzibar - unfortunately it was the necklaces I'd bought in Kenya. They didn't cost much, but I don't think I shall get to see them again anywhere - not too serious but annoying. It was my own fault, I'd left them in one of the outside pockets - the main part of my bag has a padlock on it.
It's now 4 hours since we started sitting and waiting for a lift and so far nothing has come by. We have watched a big fire on the hillside and played I-Spy and I'm getting fed up now!!
Well we decided to go back and eat and then book in at the Stone House and find a lift for tomorrow. We met the Dutch couple again having lunch. After lunch we were walking back and a lad asked us if we still wanted a lift - there was a Land Rover at the police station heading back down and he showed us where to go. We just got there in time and got a lift to Rumphi. It seems travel in this country, bus or otherwise is an endurance test - my bum was black and blue when we got here and we were totally covered in dust!! It took 2½ hours and we got here at 5.30 and booked in at the Lunyina Motel which only had a single room, but it's self contained and has hot and cold water and electricity - quite posh really. Had a lovely shower and a meal in the restaurant next door - omelette and chips, a change from rice, beans and veg!! There is a noisy bar/nightclub nearby which was playing very loud music until 2 o'clock in the morning - but we managed to sleep.
Breakfast in the restaurant took ages as there was only one burner working and they had to send my egg somewhere else to be fried! We are having a rest day here while we decide which way to go. Went to the bank to change more money, then for a drink and a walk around the market - more stuff here than in Livingstonia - but not much more - bundles of second hand clothes and shoes everywhere - we've seen that all over Africa. Lots of fabric but none I'd really like to buy so far.
I've decided to finish this letter here as there is a post office and I'm not sure if there will be another for a while. We might decide to go to one of the game parks near here as they say they are much cheaper than in Kenya and Tanzania, but, as in the rest of Malawi, transport is a problem - we shall see what we can find out later today.