The last few weeks have been a crazy blur of action-packed adventures. My sister and (as good as) brother in law came to visit me and we went on a whistle-stop tour of Malawi and Zambia.
The first big event was climbing Mount Mulanje. We didn’t even climb any of the peaks, we just hiked up to and over a couple of plateaux, but I think we seriously underestimated the amount of physical strength and effort it requires just to do that. We arrived at the first hut in the dark, soaked in sweat and then spent hours cooking dinner over the fireplace. The hike to the second hut left Mary, Peter, Catriona and I freezing and soaked from the rain/mist. The descent was less strenuous but included a lot of slipping and falling (or as I like to call it, sitting down with style). Despite all the pain, fatigue and discomfort, it was a brilliant experience and we passed through some really beautiful and interesting landscapes.
Once off the mountain our guide and porters kind of abandoned us in a village, saying a bus would come along soon enough. We were a bit worried about all the attention we were getting from the kids but I was pleased that I managed to communicate to them in Chichewa that we didn’t have anything to give to them but instead played clapping games and wrote in the sand with them. Eventually we gave up on waiting for a bus and took bicycle-taxis back to Mulanje town, which is now my favourite method of transport! I wish they had them in Blantyre!
Next stop was Lake Malawi. We had a bit of excitement on the journey there; waiting to catch a minibus on the highway in Blantyre, we were told to step back from the road because there was a student protest making its way toward us. We stepped back from the road a little, not realising that we were being told to get ourselves out of the reach and sight of the, shall we say ‘rambunctious’, demonstrators, until people starting shouted at us to run from the approaching crowd, many of whom were also running and starting to chant “azungu!”. Don’t worry, Mum, we were never in any real danger. We made it to the lake and spent a night at Cape Maclear before getting a boat out to Domwe Island, where we spent the day swimming and kayaking in the lake before hiking through the woods a bit to climb up a rock where we watched the sun set, then stumbling back down in the dark to our tents pitched on platforms hidden amongst the trees, and sat out in the hammock, watching the stars before going to sleep.
The following day was a bit stressful and included a lot of waiting around for transport which was more expensive and even less comfortable than expected, but we eventually made it to Lilongwe, where I was amazed by how big and fancy and capital-city-like everything was. The next morning Mary, Peter and I left for Zambia, thankful that all the transport from then on was already organised by the safari company. We spent three nights at the safari camp which was right by the South Luangwa River, meaning I was often woken up during the night by the sound of nearby hippos roaring. The game drives were brilliant, we saw all sorts of exotic and interesting animals, including antelope, giraffes, zebras, elephants, hippos and leopards.
Then we made the long journey to Victoria Falls, stopping at Lusaka along the way. I knew that Zambia’s economy is stronger than Malawi’s but it wasn’t until we went to a high-end shopping mall in Lusaka that it fully hit me just how much stronger it is. The whole city in general was just so much more developed than Lilongwe and Blanytre put together, but the shopping mall was too much for my brain to take in and I just kind of spaced out, dazzled by how big, shiny and colourful the whole place was. Victoria Falls, too, was certainly big and dazzling, although there was so much spray that it was pretty hard to see the falls themselves from Zambia. We crossed over to the Zimbabwean side and got a much better view, complete with little 360° rainbows in front of our eyes when the light spray of water was blown in front of our eyes. The next day we floated along the Zambezi river in a raft float (unfortunately during this season the water level is too high for the adrenaline-pumping white-water rafting so we went with the more peaceful version) before going on a walking safari and ticking another one of the big five off our list by getting really close to a herd of rhinos.
It was really lovely to spend time with Mary and Peter, we had plenty of giggles and having them around made home seem a lot closer. It also made it feel like no time since I’d left home, and no time until I go back. It was great to finally see more of Malawi, and see the difference in Zambia and that tiny part of Zimbabwe. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed staying in a tent and living out of my backpack. I’m happy to be home for the moment but I have a feeling that the travel bug may be lying dormant within me, waiting to spring out and whisk me off on more exciting adventures the next time my bank account can handle it.