We made it to Blantyre so here is yesterday’s blog with loads of pics!!!
John writing: one of my favorite scenes in the kids movie The Incredibles is when the whole family squeeze into this tiny toy car and go on their way. Well today when we left Lilongwe it was like a scene from The Incredibles as we all squeezed into this little car for our expected 4 hour drive to Liwonde. I assumed my usual position next to the driver and the rest squeezed into the back debating who will sit in the middle. I kinda feel bad about sitting in the front but being the biggest in the group wherever I sit will just cause discomfort to my fellow travelers. I might be sitting on the roof soon if the cars get any smaller.
Once Covi and I had our ritual morning run, Georgia her walk and Sara her extra sleep we made our way to Liwonde. Being a Sunday the roads were pretty quiet but the towns and markets we passed through were bustling with activity. There was a mixture of people selling all sorts of goods but engrained in my memory are beautifully stacked tomatoes in every single town we passed that did look delicious. The scenery was beautiful, hilly, rocky, dusty roads and some very basic villages. We saw some communities where the homes were made of brick but plenty I would describe as mud huts with straw roofs. We saw a group of women at the water well filling their canisters with water. Some of the communities had no obvious source of electricity while others the power lines were clear and obvious. Every town we went through we saw people on bicycles or walking – some in their Sunday best for their respective church services. The amount of walking people do is staggering – you see over loaded mini-caravan taxis crammed with people but it is clear a lot of people ride bicycles or walk. It is not unusual for kids to walk 5 to 10 km to and from school or someone walking 20km to see a doctor at a local hospital.
After a brief rest stop to get some water and chocolate we arrived at Liwonde after only 3 hours. We checked into our hotel (Covi will cover this later) and total horror – NO WORKING WIFI!!! This blog is being posted a day late for this reason but we have effectively been out of touch with our world for over 24 hours – will we survive??? We will let you know soon.
Sara writing: We met Development Concept for a pre-visit meeting at our hotel. Chipiliro (Executive Director), Alan (programmes officer) and Linda (programmes assistant) have all worked with Development Concept since it started and will be integral to their newly awarded Social Enterprise grant. We heard a lot about how with their first MTV Staying Alive grant they implemented HIV awareness sessions in their local community, gave out free condoms and encouraged testing. They were so impressive and flexible in their approach – when they found young people they were targeting weren’t coming to their resource center because it was too far from where they lived, they took the project to them by setting up micro resource centers in rural villages around Liwonde ensuing that young people could still get the eduction and support they needed to protect themselves from HIV. As of June, Development Concept is one of 6 new Social Enterprise grantees. They’re setting up a tech-hub where young people can access computers and the Internet for a small monthly subscription but, before being able to log on, they need to answer a short questionnaire on HIV. We all loved this project when we read the proposal but love them even more now. Chipiliro, Alan and Linda are all so enthusiastic and serious about making this social enterprise a success. I’m sure it will be.
Covi writing: On the trip down to Liwonde we spent a lot of time discussing what horrors awaited us at the Hippo View Hotel, having seen trip advisor reviews including ‘there were maggots in the bins.’ But on arrival we were pleasantly surprised, with beautiful gardens, lovely views and some impressive rooms. At the end of the day our opinions had changed once more, with the hotel being vaguely reminiscent to the once grand and eerily unoccupied atmosphere of the Grand Budapest Hotel. There were about 6-7 waiters serving the two (out of about 50) tables being used, watching eagerly while we ate. The food actually wasn’t bad, but I couldn’t hide my disappointment that despite the fact that both parts of my staple diet were on the menu (burger and pizza) neither were in the kitchen…the same went for about half the menu. The experience was topped off when on returning to her room my mum discovered that the toilet was not just a toilet, but doubled up as the home of a small frog.
While the hotel wasn’t the best, our spirits were lifted when we went on a boat tour down the nearby River Shire. Almost immediately we were treated to some of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen. We set out just before sunset, with the sun orange and low in the sky, illuminating the water and marshlands that surrounded it.
When I imagine an African Safari, the river is exactly what I would have in mind, and in the space of an hour we saw a minimum of 40 Hippo’s, some only meters away. We saw so much that I’ll have to summarize some of the best moments, which included seeing an adult hippo leap out of the water right next to us, a 2 meter crocodile go from lying in the open on land to crawling into the water and becoming submerged, an entire herd of elephants coming out of the reeds, a hovering kingfisher, the sun glowing red as it set over the river and not another tourist in sight the entire time.
The ride was stunning and it’s hard to believe that such an incredibly poor country can have so much natural beauty. Malawi has never really advertised itself as a major safari destination, but we found wildlife in excess to the traditional sights of South Africa and Kenya. It makes Malawi one of the only places I’ve seen untainted by tourism and made the experience one of the most memorable of the trip for me.
One day to go and we will start to plot our way home.
There is still more to come – keep following.
Georgia, Sara, Covi and John
Liwonde, Malawi – 24th July 2016 (posted a day late)