|Monkey BayandMt Mulanje|
Thu 24 Jul
The following morning at 7:30am a chap called Benson arrived at our guesthouse with the car. We checked the vehicle and signed the delivery note. Benson disappeared into the bush. We drove first down to Cape Mclear, just to see what the attraction was but I am hesitant to say I could not really see what all the fuss is about. A string of backpacker sleep-on-the-beach bars interspersed with fishermen’s cottages. Then on as fast as the gravel road permitted to Mangochi where, contrary to the guidebook prediction, we changed US travellers cheques at the bank in ten minutes.
Throughout the afternoon we headed south, before long we picked up the main road. This was tarred and in good condition. It was busy too. Occasionally alongside the road, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, we would come across some make shift stalls selling an extensive range of carvings, cane chairs, crockery, or fresh fruit and vegetables. We were impressed with the scenery seeing at first, in the distance the high ground of the Zomba plateau and later, the even higher ground of the Mulanje massif. We passed through Limbe in the late afternoon and headed out towards the highlands. Climbing all the time the land on either side was given over to colonial tea-estates. The evening sunshine was catching the edges of the green plantations and making the red soil glow. Soon it was dark and we still had some way to go. We were on the main road to Mozambique and the traffic was heavy. There was no street lighting and we were keen not to miss a turning. When we stopped to check directions a Malawian man (coming out of an off-licence) very helpfully invited us to follow his Range Rover and led us there.
The guesthouse was more of a locals’ den. The kind of place where everyone goes quiet when you walk in. We were not too comfortable with our room either but felt we did not have too many options. So we settled for a simple meal and early night.
Fri 25 Jul
The next day we realised what we had missed in the dark. The guesthouse actually had a pretty garden and a superb view of the Mulanje massif. A little sad there was not time to actually do some trekking I settled for a drive, taking in views from three sides. We got as far as town called Phalombe. Although we had followed a dirt track for many miles to get there this was the local metropolis, with a petrol station, two supermarkets, a police station, speed humps and rather sadly a memorial for those from three outlying villages who had lost their lives in a flash flood on 10 March 1991. In such a poor society it was touching to see that time and effort and resources had been found to do this.
On the way back we drove past tea plantations with water sprinklers. I remembered in the early eighties working for Liptons Tea in London and telexing "our man" in Limbe, he would have been buying from "gardens" such as these. Near the gate to the national park we watched some local lads playing a game called "bawo" (Malawi mancala), and I ended up buying the board as a souvenir.
|Monkey BayandMt Mulanje|