Day 196 - 197 Malawi : Mbeya - Livingstonia

Day 196 Malawi

Trip Distance 291km (181m) Total Distance 21747 km (13516 m)
Road Condition 95% tar 5%  
Time to travel 4hrs 30mins  
Cost of diesel MK199.30 (£0.90)    
Lukwe Camp S10 35.136 E34 07.676 MK2000 (US$14) - Fabulous eco camp, open air composting loos & hot showers.  Staff suffering from lack of management and food standard poor.

Border crossing day again.  We always seem to get tense on border crossing days and end up bickering over silly, inconsequential things no matter how hard we try not to.  We think it has something to do with the vagaries of border officials and stories of how things have gone badly wrong for other people. 

So, after a quick couple of hours drive we crossed over into country no. 17 - Malawi - and experienced as we have in the previous 17 crossings, exactly nothing untoward.  Border officials were friendly and courteous, black market currency touts were unusually not pushy and everyone we met was smiling and happy.  So much for getting stressed and pissy with each other!

We set our heading for Chitimba Beach to have a look at the campsite there first but it was filled with overland trucks and busy with people so we decided against staying there.  And as we left, who should be bump into but Thomas who we had met at Mikadi Beach in Dar-es-Salaam and who was supposed to be at The Crazy Crocodile managing it!  Once he had arrived there and seen the state of the camp site and spent a few frustrating days watching nothing happen, he had left.  Luckily we had skipped the visit there. 

We made our way up the very steep and winding road a_SG107433  a_SG107438 towards Lukwe Camp and The Mushroom Farm with an agreement with Thomas that if we weren't back in an hour, we were staying and he was welcome to join us.  We finally arrived at the top of the hill and went to have a look at Lukwe Camp.  It had spaces for vehicles with roof tents, open air loos and showers and was really enchanting.  But we left to go and have a look at The Mushroom Farm as we had heard so very many great reports about it.  In addition, we wanted to go and say hello to Ben and Kate.  We arrived at The Mushroom Farm to find that they couldn't really accommodate a vehicle with a roof tent  unless we stayed in the car park.  We didn't want to do that, so decided to go back to Lukwe Camp but not before we had a cup of tea with Ben and Kate.  Indeed, for a normal floor tent, The Mushroom Farm is completely fabulous.  It perches on the edge of the mountain we had driven up with incredible views of the valley almost directly below and Lake Malawi just beyond that.  Ben and Kate had pitched their tent on the very edge of the cliff face - an amazing site but very clearly not for me (I get vertigo standing on a thick carpet!!!!).  We met Dulcie and Nat who are managing the place for the next 6 months.  They hail from Leeds (our part of the world back home in UK) and what a lovely couple.  We made arrangements to meet up with Ben and Kate and them the next night for supper at The Mushroom Farm and went off to Lukwe.

We set up camp on one of the designated site a_SG107430 joined a little while later by Thomas.  The camp is really a delightful place to stay with properly maintained composting, open air loos a_SG107429 and hot, open air showers a_SG107426 and bathroom a_SG107427.  The staff are really friendly and helpful and each campsite is designated a staff member to ensure that you have firewood, a fire (when you want one), water and everything to ensure that you are comfortable and relaxed.

Cain (our ever helpful aide) collected water and firewood for us whilst I prepared dough for bread and supper for that night - a "comfort food" night of pork sausages (that Thomas supplied), mash, onion gravy and roast butternut cooked over the fire.  Not to forget the loaf of bread and a dozen rolls baked in the oven pot on the left-over embers. 

We rose early the next day with a plan to take a walk into Livingstonia with Thomas to visit the Old Stone House museum and check out the village for any internet access as Dulcie from The Mushroom Farm had said there was someone there with reasonable access.  We set off thinking that Livingstonia was a 45 min walk away.  2.5hrs later we reached the village.  I moaned a lot on the way up (1) because Trevor had checked the GPS and it had said 2.5hrs away and he had dismissed this as a "bit of fiction" - he thought it a good idea to impart this information 1.5hrs into the walk up, (2) we had come out unprepared for a 2.5hr walk with no suntan lotion, hats and only 500ml water (3) the road up to Livingstonia is really, really steep and being overweight and unfit we kept on having to stop for a breather.  Finally we reached the top and Livingstonia was in our sights.  At last! 

We caught our breath and managed to cool down a little with a gentle wander around the Old Stone House museum and with my colour returning to a slightly more normal deep pink instead of bright red, we made our way to the restaurant behind.  Ben and Kate were already ensconced in the deep chairs using the internet access but had been there for 2.5hrs already so were ready to leave.  I took over the internet access (this is a dongle that is shared around) whilst we placed our order for lunch.  We asked to see the menu and were told actually that there was only beef and rice available - 3 of those please then!  Could we wait 45min whilst they prepared it?  No worries, we were starving!

After drinking several sodas, updating the website and banking and eating the most delicious beef stew with rice and vegetables we set off back to camp.  This time we decided that the best way (and probably shortest way) back to camp was straight down the hills.  Turns out that it may be the shortest but because of the really steep downhills, it took 2 hrs and 45mins to get back to camp.  A little better prepared this time, it was a much more pleasant walk.  As we made our way down the hills, we were using the paths that the locals use to get to each others' houses, so on the way we were greeted, hands shook and heads shaken in disbelief that the mad mzungus were using local paths!  It was great fun and a wonderful opportunity to meet the local farmers.  About half way through our downhill slog (this is what it looked like when we turned back!) a_DSC00043 , we came across a well and dowsed ourselves in icy cold water - a real treat in the blazing sun.

We finally made it back to camp, a little foot-sore and tired but the really nice, achey foot-sore and tired feeling!  After a cold shower (my colour even a lighter shade of pink now!) we climbed into Thomas' landie and made our way down to The Mushroom Farm for an ice cold beer (or 2) and the famous camp veggie curry - it was delicious and lived up to it's reputation.  We sat chatting with Ben and Kate and Dulcie and Nat but at 9pm, the walk finally caught up to us and with promises to pop in the next day on our way out so that Dulcie and Nat could see Sully, Thomas drove us back to Lukwe Camp.  We collapsed into bed and a delightful sleep followed.