We stayed overnight at the optimistically named Hippo View lodge, paying a few dollars more for a chalet boasting air-conditioning, satellite TV and "superior" facilities. Well, it was our last night. Actually, I think what we really hoped for was a good feast, endless courses of "haute cuisine", but sadly the catering was nothing special, only slightly smarter serving staff.
Sun 27 Jul
On the last morning Barry got up extra early and went off to the nearby Liwonde Game Reserve. I admired his determination to squeeze the last few drops of tourism out of our visit, for getting up so early on a Sunday and for being undaunted about driving in remote parts amongst wild animals on the same day as intending to catch an international flight 250km away. I was content to see the sun rise, to watch the night fishermen returning home along the Shire river and to have a spare hour to indulge in packing for the flight home; sadly the pot I had bought at Matema was in pieces, a tragic moment. We had a leisurely breakfast on the terrace, still hoping to see a Hippo, and then loaded up and got on our way.
Approximately 50km from the Lilongwe we saw signs for a pottery. Feeling like a rest and perhaps a last chance for souvenirs we decided to take a look. The signs led us through a small village and out the other side, the roads getting rougher and dustier all the time. "Are we sure it’s down here?" "Do we really want to find it?" When we pulled in to the yard we were suddenly in a middle-class Malawi. It was an incredible difference. There was a big car park and signs everywhere. This way to the workshop, factory shop, gift shop, the restaurant, toilets, or children’s playground. The place was full of visitors; I assumed townies, enjoying the excuse for a Sunday outing. The shop was popular; there was a big selection, kitchenware as well as ornamental pieces. Most of it was quite attractive and reasonably priced in a western sort of way. I pondered a moment and compared it with the pottery market at Matema. Different worlds. There would be no bowls here for US˘40.
We arrived at the airport in good time to return the car and settle our bill. We tried to persuade British Airways to give us leg-room seats but had no joy. Then we went up to the BA lounge, made ourselves comfortable, and eased ourselves into the treat of English newspapers and a complimentary drinks.