Bobby Orange Lives Strong in Malawi

Trip Start May 03, 2011
Trip End May 10, 2012

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Flag of Malawi  ,
Saturday, April 21, 2012

Nkhata Bay or just Nkhata is the capital of the Nkhata Bay District in Malawi. It is on the shore of Lake Malawi (formerly Lake Nyasa), east of Mzuzu, and is one of the main ports on Lake Malawi. The population of Nkhata Bay is estimated to be 14,722 as of 2008. Nkhata Bay is 413 kilometres (257 mi) from Lilongwe, Malawi's capital city, and 576 kilometres (358 mi) from Blantyre, Malawi’s largest city. Nkhata Bay is the second "busiest resort" on Lake Malawi

The ancestors of Nkhata Bay residents were the Tonga (Lakeside Tonga). In 19th century the area suffered frequent attacks from the Ngoni people, who fled north to escape the rule of the Zulu king Shaka, in South Africa.

We left South Luangwa and Marula Lodge with sad hearts as we had such an awesome time there. Luckily the three other guys that we met there wanted to leave on the same day as us and go back to Chipata. We hired a 4X4 between the five of us which was a lot quicker and made for a much more comfortable journey than the beat up taxi that we had taken to get to South Luangwa. We did get a puncture on the road back which was no surprise to Paul, Fabrizio and Niko as they had already had punctures on most of the journeys they had taken in Zambia so far. We just counted ourselves lucky that it was our first puncture in Africa. Paul left us in Chipata but the rest of us went onto the border and found out that the exchange rate for dollars on the black market in  Malawi was double what we expected it to be. This doesnīt fully make sense but was good news for us as they want dollars so are willing to pay a lot more for them on the black market than the official exchange rate. We then had to find the black market for currency exchange which was easy at the border and in the capital Lilongwe, but we struggled in the remoter part of Nkhata Bay.

Itīs good to see corruption is still alive and well in Africa as Fabrizio, who is Argentinian, was stopped at the border as he should have gotten a visa. After negotiating a bribe in the back office we were on our way only to be stopped by another Malawi customs official. He could not get his head round why the four of us were travelling together when we were all from different countries. He really struggled to grasp why on earth we would want to travel round the world and seemed more interested in asking if we had ever been to military school and were we journalists. We managed to talk our way across the border without having to grease any more customs officials’ palms. A couple of dodgy cabs and a packed mini bus later we arrived in the capitol, Lilongwe. Now Lilongwe is not a particularly pretty or exciting stop and the only reason we stopped here is because we were knackered and we needed a nightīs rest. We found one of the only backpackers in the place which unfortunately offered cold showers and blocked toilets. This was so not what we needed after being on the road for most of the past 14 hours but luxurious accommodation is in short supply in Lilongwe. You know a place is rough when as you enter the premises a Scandinavian tourist is giving a lapdance to one of the locals on a chair in reception and practically eating this guys face off.

After a short stay in Lilongwe we bid farewell to Nico and Fabrizio and we headed to Nkhata Bay, which is one of Malawiīs hotspots on Lake Malawi. The only real way of getting there was on a bus and so we add yet another bus to our ever growing list of frickin nightmare bus trips. We were advised to get there really early as it turns into a bit of a bun fight for seats on this bus. The bus was leaving at 7.30am and so we got there at 6.30am. We managed to get a seat and watched as the promised bun fight unfolded before our very eyes. Those that couldnīt get a seat in the struggle had to stand, whilst they and their possessions were squashed into every available nook and cranny on that bus. No inch of that bus was left uncovered as every traveler seemed to have at least 47 pieces of luggage. The bus didnīt leave till 9.00 am and it was a hot, sticky, uncomfortable bus ride. Now I am not being rude here but I donīt think anti perspirant has yet found its way to parts of the African continent. As it was a hot day and the bus had no air conditioning the body odour stench (the word smell just doesnīt do it justice) got riper and riper and stronger and stronger. Most of these guys had body odour that could have stripped paint at the start of the journey so by the end we were fighting for oxygen.

We arrived in Nhkata Bay late and walked up the Hill to Big Blue Star, our hostel. It is right on the shores of Lake Malawi and the setting is really beautiful. We had a cabin on the lake so went to sleep to the sound of the water lapping the shore right under our cabin. We needed to get cash the next day and so we walked up and down the main street trying to look as shady as possible and expecting the black marketeers to come and find us as they had done in Lilongwe, but to no avail. We asked a couple of guys where we could change dollars but they looked at us blankly. We eventually found the one guy in Nhkata Bay who changes dollars on the black market but didnīt get a great rate as he was the only one offering this type of exchange.

Nkhata Bay was a lovely stop just to relax and chill out but after a day of that we were both feeling a wee bit bored. However, there wasnīt really much else to do other than swimming in the lake. We went for a few walks but as Malawi is one of the poorest countries we have been to there wasnīt much to see in the village either. I think we have gotten so used to doing something each day that Malawi was just a teeny weenie bit dull in comparison to the other parts of Southern Africa that we have visited and for this reason it gets a dull 6/10.
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