The road south of Mbeya had been recently rebuilt and was in very good condition. We covered 100km very quickly and comfortably. All around us were tea plantations and other agriculture.
Our road was repeatedly running along the top of a ridge and then down a step as we headed south descending all the time towards the lake.
Shortly after the junction to the Malawi border we took the dirt road to Matema. This was very bad in parts. At one stage we took a detour from the "main" road and passed a lorry that had sunk into the now hardened mud. A gang of passing school children posed as if to be righting it.
After several hours we completed 45km and reached the village. Here several Christian denominations have guesthouses. The Evangelistic was more expensive than the Lutheran so we assumed it would be better and headed there.
Matema is beautifully situated at the top of the lake with the mountains that form the eastern side providing a dramatic backdrop. When we arrived it was late in the day and the sunlight was softening, it was also just after full moon and there were waves a metre high; more than I expected to see on an inland lake. We stayed in a lovely chalet for US$15. Later I borrowed a bicycle and rode back along the lane behind the shoreline. Locals called out so I stopped and talked for a while. Under a big baobab tree was a stall selling cold beers, the sun was going down and it was about time. Funnily enough our driver was there. He had bumped into an old friend and decided to delay his return journey until the morning.
Fri 18 Jul
A lazy start, tea and chapattis at 9am then a ride in a dugout canoe to the east side of the lake to swim among the cichlids, freshwater tropical fish, quite pretty but none bigger than 15cm.
The lake was busy with people from neighbouring villages paddling their way to or from Matema's weekly pottery market. As we arrived the beach was deluged with dugout canoes and piled with pots. It was fascinating to see so many pots, mostly being sold in lots, dismissed with the slightest of chalk marks and then moved usually several at a time on someone's head. I bought a red coloured bowl for a staggering TS400 (about USą40).