Beside the lakeside

Chembe Travel Blog

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Time to leave Lilongwe. Anyone who's ever used public transport in the third world knows it can be a bit of a toil; it's quite big, the third world, and though Malawi is only a small part of it I wasn't looking forward to making my acquaintance with the country's buses.

Kept my hand firmly on my wallet as I made my way through the bus station; I'd stopped at a bank on the way and had a wad of Malawi kwacha an inch thick. You don't have to change too much hard currency to have a wad of kwacha an inch thick, but still. Found the bus for Monkey Bay; a guy in a uniform told me that it was full but people were still getting on so I followed suit. No seats left, but I can stand in an aisle for an hour; then I folded myself into a seat built for shortarses for the next three hours to Monkey Bay. I'm 5'11"; I can't imagine how people much taller than me go backpacking and retain the use of their legs.

(Mind you, it turns out short people can have ropey bus journeys too.)

The guide made it sound like the final leg of my journey, from Monkey Bay to Cape Maclear, would be a right pain in the arse. In the event, it was no problem; eleven miles perched, with dozens of other people, on the back of a pick-up bouncing along a dirt track. I'm sad enough to like that sort of thing; makes me feel authentic.

I got dropped off at a lodge called Fat Monkeys, and stayed there by default. Stayed in a dorm but I had it to myself; the only other people staying there were a couple in the process of taking over the place, and two guys camping who I never spoke to. I was disappointed by the quiet, but somehow I still spent the whole day sitting in the bar, reading. There was sand underfoot and the lake was ten yards away, little waves lapping at the shore. If the place was in south-east Asia it would be crawling with backpackers at any time of year, but this is east Africa in the last weeks of the dry season; that first night I thought it was just Fat Monkeys that was devoid of tourist traffic, but the whole town was this empty.

Just before midnight the sound of thunder dragged me out of bed; stood and watched flashes of lighting behind an island to the north, big rumbles of thunder rolling slowly across the water. One of the lodge's two dogs hung around just behind me, obviously unhappy, growling at the weather. The weather growled back. When I went back to bed the dog - Eph - tried to follow me into my room, before curling up outside my door like he'd known me for years.
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122 km (76 miles) traveled
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