Cape Maclear, Malawi to Livingstone, Zambia
19.06.2010 - 25.06.2010 0 °C
Cape Maclear, Malawi
Despite the all-day power outage, had a very nice day here in Cape Maclear - although, up at pre-dawn thanks to the matola pickup truck horn honking from the road behind the dorm, unnecessarily alerting potential passengers that it was heading to Monkey Bay. Then, the local kids screaming while bathing/doing laundry in the lake in front of the dorm - noise all around! Got up for breakfast, then Liza and I headed over to wander the "village", which consists houses and shops lining few dirt roads connected together.
We visited Lake Malawi National Park - very nice hiking in the mountains surrounding the lake, with spectacular views of the lake.
We also visited the far less spectacular museum and aquarium (that was inoperable), then took the path down to Otter's Point, beautiful collection of rocks in the bay (but no otters!) we climbed around.
I'm here in the decidedly uninspiring Malawian capital, Lilongwe, at the St. Peter's guesthouse and waiting for dinner -- Netta, girl from Israel also staying here, volunteered to cook pasta and vegetables. This morning back in Cape Maclear, got up early (of course), bid farewell to Liza and hopped on the matola pickup truck heading back to Monkey Bay. Unlike on the trip out here, heading back wasn't so lucky with a quick departure - annoying driver went back and forth on the road 1.5 hours honking for passengers... so ridiculous. Finally arrived in Monkey Bay barely in time to catch the 07:30 big bus here to Lilongwe, which was surprisingly direct. Got checked into the hostel then Netta, who was on the bus also, and I headed to the market for vegetables. Only, there weren't really a lot of vegetables we saw for sale... just crap like cheap children's dolls and Barack Obama bubble gum.
One guy we asked where to locate the vegetables, took us across the Lilongwe river on some rickety wooden plank bridge.
When we reached the other side, we were greeted by a couple lowlifes sitting on a bench looking to collect a toll for using the "private" bridge! "No way", I said. The toll collector was insisting I pay 10 Kwacha (around US $0.07), but out of principle, I was insisting I won't pay. "Show me a sign somewhere that says it is private and costs money to cross." But of course he couldn't produce that, so just kept telling us that we need to pay. So, I just walked away, skipping the vegetables from that market and instead picked up some across town - just as cheap and fresh, and we were able to reach them without some bogus toll to deal with.
Very uneventful day here in Lilongwe, started out at 05:45 thanks to the locals who checked into the 4-bed dorm last night at 22:00, then woke up early this morning talking to each other, polishing shoes, talking on the cell phone, etc... no consideration for myself and a Korean guy still trying to sleep. So after announcing at 06:15 that they were leaving (gee, thanks for letting me know), I got up and headed to Korea Gardens Lodge for buffet breakfast - at 1200 Kwacha (about US $8) not the cheapest meal I've had, but I certainly ate my money's worth. Spent the rest of the day wandering around the town, but the lack of parks, monuments or museums made it rather dull.
I spent a ridiculous 13.5 hours on the bus today from Lilongwe to Lusaka. Was only supposed to take 10 hours, but the extra hour waiting around at the Malawi/Zambia border (after everyone already cleared customs/immigration) and 1.5 hours sitting in the Chipata, Zambia border town bus station for more passengers - now, I would have come to expect this from a minibus, but a big bus?? So annoying! Luckily, I had picked up in Cape Maclear a new book at the hostel exchange to read. Now Netta, who also traveled here from Lilongwe, and I are buying an overpriced dinner at our hostel here in Lusaka.
Just finished watching an awesome USA game 3 World Cup victory over Algeria at a local bar full of pro-Algerians (or, anti-Americans). My day started out pleasantly with actually sleeping in until 06:45 - it felt like I overslept considering the past week or so worth of pre-06:00 wake-ups. Went to an excruciatingly slow internet cafe in the morning, over to the really unimpressive national museum - now, I've seen my fair share of museums, but this one ranks somewhere near the bottom for sure! Next, after grabbing lunch at Mama's (the chicken feet didn't look so appetizing so stuck with beans & nshima, a sticky porridge made of maize),
headed to the south roundabout and grabbed a minibus to Munda Wanga environmental park - place where they rehabilitate animals for reentry into the wild. I was hoping to see some of the animals or facilities that work on this rehabilitation, but all I saw was just a zoo for those animals who would remain in captivity. Actually, as non-western standards go, this place was not that bad of a zoo. - warthogs,
impala, zeebra, mongoose, ostriches,
all in semi-decent conditions. The lions you could get up frighteningly close, along with the African wild dogs and cheetah - the latter 2 of those groups eyeing me like I was the next meal. The cheetah sort of puffed and hissed at me, its hair raised up, pacing back and forth. The wild dogs were growling and following me along their 100m or so fenced-in area... yikes.
Whoa... I just completed one awful day of travel. This morning, after being woken up at 05:45 by the local guy staying in the dorm room (swearing on his cell phone, polishing his shoes - basically completely unconcerned with anyone but himself), I went and grabbed a bite to eat for breakfast at the local market on Cha-Cha-Cha road. Fried egg sandwich for around US $0.40!
Then, headed to the minibus station across the road from the big bus station. Enter the dilemma: the minibus only leaves when full, but is cheaper than the big bus, which never leaves "on time", and neither will be without their annoyingly frequent stops. The big bus is "scheduled" to leave at 10:30, the conductor of the minibus claimed the average departure time for his was around 11:00. Well, I stupidly believed the conductor and at 13:00 we finally take off, frequently stopping right on queue. Only one stop, in a small town, we were told to change minibuses as the first one was hired for use later that day. The second minibus, also predictably stopping along the way, after a while comes to a stop at a station, and tells the remaining passengers to change to the big bus. And spend 20,000 kwacha (US $4) for a new ticket. "No f-ing way", I say, and threaten to go to the police unless we're given a refund of the original ticket, taken all the way to Livingstone, or given a free transfer. That seemed to work, as we were driven a bit further, then made to switch - for free - to a third minibus which drove painfully slow the remainder of the trip, getting us here to Livingstone finally at 22:30. Yeesh.
Yes, while I agree the Victoria Falls are one of the world's most incredible sights, I must say the views from the platform here on the Zambian side are not so spectacular compared to, say, Iguazu falls I saw many years ago. This morning, a fellow Detroit native Pioter, and I took a shuttle from the Livingstone hostel the 10 km or so down to the falls. Approaching even about 1 km away from the road, you could see the mist rising above the trees like a giant cloud of smoke. Entering the park, first walked around the edge of the Falls where the Zambezi River rapids were flowing mightily.
Heading back past the entry, the path wound around the other side of the gorge for a head-on view of the falls - millions of gallons of water pouring over the lip, and a lot of mist started to fall on us.
Further along the path was an iron bridge leading over the Zambezi - crossing it, with the amount of mist pouring down, was now equivalent to standing in a shower.
I had my small plastic baggie I always keep my camera in... in fact, since being unprepared trudging through the Brownsberg rain forest in Suriname well over a year ago. But, as the mist was getting heavier and heavier from the falls, was a bit concerned about the amount of protection. So Piotr volunteered for me to store the camera in his backpack, waterproof he said. Well, it may have been waterproof under normal conditions, but when we opened the pack found a large puddle on the bottom - with my camera sitting in it. And needless to say, that was all for the camera - wouldn't turn on. Obviously a bit discouraged, I was just hoping to recover the pics from the memory card... but the views from hiking down to the Boiling Pot, and from the second bridge spanning over the Zambezi to Zimbabwe, I'll have to rely on memory. We grabbed a taxi back into town, had some lunch and let my camera dry out -- miraculously, by evening it was working again, albeit with some permanent damage to the battery and LCD screen - but getting to retrieve the pics I'm thankful enough!