Lake Malawi

[ 0 ] February 14, 2012 |

Lake Malawi- it’s frequently referred to as the “Lake of Stars.” Whether that’s due to the billion shards of refracted light that twinkle and dance on its horizon on a cloudless day, or because at night it reflects whole galaxies on its velvety surface, doesn’t matter. The name is perfect in that it sums up a place that has more than its fair share of magic. Lake Malawi, the deep blue warm heart of the Great African Rift Valley, runs almost the entire eastern stretch of a country famed both for its natural beauty and the profound friendliness of its people.

looking for Lake Malawi

Travelling in Malawi can be a little rough and ready at times. One grocery store we stopped at to buy groceries for the week had a total of about 14 different items available, 8 of which were unrefrigerated tub margarine- an African favorite. Supply is a major issue throughout the country. We ended up buying fruits and vegetables from roadside stands and made our meals from those.

best bridge ever, Malawi (wooden partially completed bridge in a semi truck)

Malawi landscape

crops planted by hand

typical roadside view- Malawi

children on water duty

city of Chitimba

After making our way slowly- slowly to our first campsite on the beach we began to realize the true beauty of this country. We stopped in Chitimba for two nights and enjoyed an incredibly serene camp. I spent an afternoon walking on the beach and watched children with their mothers come to the waters edge, take their clothes off, wash the clothes in the lake, lay them to dry on the sand, and fish in the water for supper while they waited. Later, they put those same clothes back on and headed home- a different kind of chores. The people here live on, and love, this great body of water.

Chitimba Camp

Lake Malawi- Chitimba beaches

Malawians are known for their elaborately carved wood. With natives eager to share their skills for a few bucks, Pat enjoyed an afternoon one-on-one carving class with a local. Before going to the class he (in true Pat fashion) sketched out a design he wanted to carve on graph paper. He took his scrap of paper and once completed, the Malawian asked if he could keep it to use as a guide to make his own. He said he had never seen anything carved this shape. (No offense Pat, but it wasn’t really that unique of a shape.) As we’ve travelled we’ve realized that creativity isn’t something that is nurtured in Africa. The same crafts are being made in Uganda and in Kenya and in Tanzania and in Malawi, etc. The same pictures are painted, the same dolls are sewn.  Artists just create copies instead of developing new ideas.  Just another example of how greater exposure can influence perspective and therefore ability.

Pat making a wooden ornament

hand carved

finished product

wood carving - Chitimba, Malawi

As we made our way south we stopped at another little pocket of paradise: Kande Beach.

roll on

Kande Beach

White sandy beaches and mango trees heavy with ripe fruit welcomed us along with the high-voltage smiles of the locals. Pat gathered enough mangos to feed a village and we stuffed ourselves with the fresh free fruit. Here we enjoyed some more lazy days on the beach, reading, walking, and swimming. This campsite was my favorite on the entire overlanding tour.

Kande Beach, Lake Malawi

Kande Beach Cabins

Pat hangin in the hammock

Kande Beach Camp

The timing of our visit was precise to experience a crazy natural phenomenon that happens on Lake Malawi- Lake Flies!  Thousands and thousands of flies all hatch at once in the middle of the huge open expanse of freshwater. They rise up from the lake in huge plumes, like smoke in the distance. The plumes attract birds and fish, who glut themselves on the insects as they are blown across the lake toward the shores. Each plume is made up of millions of flies; they create dense clouds that can be seen far on the horizon.

Lake Flies, Lake Malawi

As the clouds were slowly getting closer and closer, Pat decided to take spin in small catamaran in the lake. I joined him for a while, but had no interest in intersecting with a cloud of flies.

taking out the sailboat

At first we had no idea what these black “smoke clouds” were – but locals knew what to expect and waited. Within a few hours of the first sighting they made landfall. While we headed inside to avoid getting an accidental mouthful, the locals waved buckets violently in the air to catch them to then fry and eat!

The water in the lake is so clear that you can easily see 15 meters down in many places. With such clear water we opted to skip the scuba diving and just look down to experience many brightly colored fish.  With a small island nearby, Pat challenged himself to swim all the way there.  I rented a canoe and told him I’d follow nearby just incase he needed a rescue- that, and there was no way I was going to swim that far. He made it safe and sound- but I did give him a ride back!

Pat on the island- Lake Malawi

rescue canoe

Malawi is a soulful country with abundant opportunities for adventure.

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Category: Alison's Blog, Blog, Destinations, Featured Posts, Malawi

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