Thursday, December 25, 2014

Cape Maclear, Malawi

The Southern shores of Lake Malawi at Cape Maclear 
I had a chance meeting with a Dutch couple but DRC (Congo) based Chris and Josie who arrived in Lilongwe who where looking to head round the same part of Malawi as me and where also feeling a bit over the epic bus journeys which Africa can bring to the table. We decided to hire a car instead and quickly teamed up with a South African Travis who had just arrived and who opted in and so the team was set. We where delivered a dazzling white low slung Toyota which seemed perfect for African roads in the wet season and off we went. 

Buildings on the way through to Monkey Bay 
As its turned out so far it has suited the African roads. Malawi has an excellent road network connecting the main areas up. Smooth tarmac wound its way south through to Dedza and over some very mountainous terrain with huge granite towers rising up before plunging down various hairpins to the Lake. Cape Maclear which sits towards the southern end of the lake. Named after Thomas Maclear a missionary friend of Livingstone’s although actually called Chembe, for some reason the explorers seemed to rename places despite them having a name in the first place. A stunning venue and a real highlight for anyone coming to Malawi. Crystal clear waters away from the main village area and lined with woodland and an endless amount of rock surrounding it. 
I had some meetings with various people about project work that our groups could be involved with and also checked out the kayak expeditions and what we could use in our programmes. There are some great trips to the islands that lie further off shore. I had a good look at the kit and the emergency procedures they had in place. They are well set up there and we shall certainly be able to have some trips on the lake in kayaks. I have had one before with a group out to Domwe Island a few years ago. 
I remembered from the last time that rock climbing would be possible here as there is a huge amount of granite crags around the bay. For this exploration I headed out with the Anglo, South African Dutch team to Otter point. This sits in the Lake Malawi National Park. It would be fair to say we where all blown away by the beauty of this spot, $10 dollars gets you in. Nice jumps into the water, snorkling with tropical fish around the granite reefs and islands is pretty special. Giant Fish Eagles swooping overhead, yellow baboons and monitor lizards surround you. 

Otter Point, Cape Maclear 

Looking for crags not crocs on the southern shores of the lake 
I headed along the shore a little to find the perfect group crag with views out to Mozambique and up the giant lake. It really is the perfect spot without the need for any transport you can either kayak round or take a nice walk through the village and out to the point. Once the day is done you can relax back on the beech with a fish barbecue freshly caught from the lake that day. 
There is Bilharzia in the waters which is serious if left but you can pop to the Dr’s here and get the pills which go according to your weight as to how many you take and then wait three months and take them and it clears them out the system. They are a type of worm which you have to wait until they lay the eggs before you take the pills to nuke them. 
A very pleasant few days getting things done and ticked off. We have headed south again this time to Chorlo and the tea plantations. We headed out dropping one person Art of at Mangochi to catch a bus North. A young Dutch youth who we met at Chembe and is keeping the young backpacker ethos up and running heading North from the Cape SA making his way up to Kenya and round Lake Vic. We saw him off in the bus only to see him return on the bus as there where not enough passengers to justify leaving yet and probably spent a large part of the day driving round trying to get more passengers.
One good example of how relaxed and keen the Malawians are was on entering Zomba I caught in the corner of my eye a policeman flagging me down but being in traffic it was all last minute and I kept on driving. In the rear view mirror I clocked a traffic camera and realised I was probably speeding a bit at the time. I fretted about this as we did the food shop and on leaving town we where flagged down. The policeman knew exactly who we where the one on the other side of town will have called ahead my deep distrust of Kenyan police has made me very nervous of them. He checked documents and explained that if being waved at you should stop, but returned the documents and had a laugh and joke and wished us a good journey asking for no ‘donations’. In Kenya this would not have happened and to me is another example of how they are really making an effort across the board to capture and keep tourism in Malawi. The police here are stopping the trucks and Matola’s but leave others alone, very refreshing unless your a truck driver of course. 

Kids in Chembe village, Cape Maclear 
We arrived to the Tioni Motel in Chola which as the book described don’t judge it on its appearance is quite right. Its a bit rough around the edges but a great place. $2 for a single room and the owner Geoff a Malawian provided us with all we needed for cooking our dinner in the garden and had the car washed. A hospitality which we noted there was no trying to squeeze every last penny out of you just happy to make your stay as comfortable as possible. The guard/receptionist who is here should anything go wrong in the night has evidently had a little to much Chibuku and as I head to bed has passed out on the floor in reception thankfully holding my room key which I was able to take from his hand on passing by to the room. 
We are in the tea plantation area on our way to Mulanje where I can check out the prices and various trekking trips we could have on offer here. I have trekked across this range before and its a spectacular spot so looking forward to being there again.