Thursday, December 25, 2014

Lilongwe, Malawi

Mbuya camp in the centre of Lilongwe, Malawi 
I arrived in Lilongwe Malawi, it was nice to be back in the area although it was a shock to the system from the relative cold and wet in Kenya to the sweltering heat in Malawi. On arrival I think it was about 35 degrees with some pretty high humidity to so a major change to the recent cold and wet of the Kenyan highlands. 
As far as African capitals go Lilongwe is smaller than most but seems to have grown since I was last here a few years ago. Malawi has two major towns the commercial centre in Blantyre and the administrative capital Lilongwe. I headed into Lilongwe and aimed for the Mbuya camp which sits in a nice leafy part of the city. A great camp and lodge on a nice green plot with rooms, dorms and a nice campsite with a swimming pool to cool off in. One thing which struck me was the amount of tourists that where about. The lodges seemed full up and the streets had plenty of ‘mzungus’ walking about compared to Kenya highlighting the fact that people are wary about Kenya at the moment.
Malawi has a much more relaxed feel to it than other African nations, the pace seems a little slower. The streets are clean although a much higher level of poverty is visible on the streets. Beggars are much more common and seem to mainly have either crippling physical or mental issues and no way of surviving other than to sit on the roundabouts or junctions hoping for something to come their way. I normally don’t hand out money at all when in the developing world but when you see someone that you know stands no chance at all in the future I feel a little different about it. A man with only one leg in Malawi will go nowhere no matter how people feel a  disability shouldn't effect what your outcome is and there is no infrastructure in place to deal with the problem. 
Lilongwe has a few good eating out options including a very good curry house. The prices are much higher than I remember when I first came here. This is usually as a result of a growing expat community which tends to push the prices up in the area. Nanyuki in Kenya is a good example of this. People move in with NGO’s etc and the company based in the west seems to be happy to pay the western equivalent in rent etc which in turn puts the area out of sink. 

The Lingadzi river just outside the city 
I had a look around the capital checking out what our groups could see and do. One option is the Lilongwe Wildlife Sanctuary which acts as rescue home for animals rescued and confiscated from other countries. They had most things there, Lions, Crocodiles, Snakes and also a Cerval a type of cat which looks a little like a leopard but smaller and pointier ears. 
Also a fair bit of time was spent sourcing bus prices and those who can provide some of the tents and outdoor gear we might need to use during the trips. 
Next up its off to the lake for the fun stuff and locate a good group crag, kayaking and some bike trails. From memory Cape Maclear which sits on the southern shores of the lake has huge potential for these things. 

The rains have also arrived they must have tracked me down from Kenya, the area needs it though and the farmers and locals seem very happy to see it arrive.