Two minibuses later and two sore ass cheeks and I was in Nkhotakota. I opted to stay at a place in the lonely planet 2km outside of town and near the lake, which was a bad idea! The place is now defunct, but it was too late now. This is what happens when you have a book published 3 years ago! It was not the first time the old lonely planet had led me astray! I was certainly the only one staying there, and was shown to little cement jailcell that had just a bed, thin mattress, and a desk. And a working light bulb that hung down from the middle of the ceiling. There was a stain on the floor. Someone was probably murdered here.
Well, at least it was cheap! 1,000 kwacha, or $1.50. After the sun went down I set off to find some sort of restaurant, but there was nothing to be had. Damn! The place was totally dead. Looks like cookies and chips for dinner. When I returned the guy working there was blasting the radio from his room, which is fine and all, but when it got to 11pm I finally had to get up and ask him to turn it down. Turns out the light in his room was off and the door was locked. Noooo. I knocked, but no avail. It was not a good nights sleep! I woke up bright and early the next morning, hailed a bike taxi, and took the next minibus towards Cape Maclear, where there was some sort of music festival that would be going on that night.
Three hours later I was in Salima, waiting a the bus station with a German girl who was also heading to Cape Maclear (just not tonight as everywhere was booked up for the festival) We thought there would be a minibus, but nope. We’d have to wait another few hours until a bus came from the capital, Lilongwe. Sigh. And of course it was 2 hours late. But there were a few drunk guys at the bus station to keep us company, yay! Finally the coach bus pulled up and we grabbed some of the last remaining seats. Then they hauled in a wooden desk and secured it with some rope to the bars on the ceiling….right over my head! I don’t know about this! But it was fine, the bus plugged along, stopping god knows how many times, before letting me off on the side of the road where the motorbike guys awaited. From there I strapped my bag to some guys bike and we headed off on the bumpy, dusty road, 12 miles to Cape Maclear.
As expected, everywhere was full, but that’s why I’ve got my tent! I set it up in the sand at one of the lodges and I was good to go. After a really nice sunset I joined some people pregaming for this festival and we headed there in the forest together. The cost was $15, not bad, but prohibitive for almost all the Africans, except the drug dealers of course. There was a UK DJ, Rudimental (apparently quite popular) headlining. He’s got a charity in Malawi, hence the idea to have festival here. So all the muzungus in Malawi: peace corps, NGO workers, students, volunteers had all made it to Cape Maclear for this event. I was once again the oddball who was just traveling!
It wasn’t a huge event so eventually I was able to find Camilla and two other Brits who were volunteering at Nhkata Bay and borrowed a car to get down here. So it was a decent festival, kinda chill local music until about midnight, and then the DJ sets came on, getting the crowd moving a bit. The DJ stuff was getting kinda repetitive around 2am, sothat’s when I headed out. Overall it wasn’t anything amazing by western standards, but for a small country in Africa, I guess it was pretty solid!
The next day everyone at the lodge packed up and left. It went from being totally jammed to a ghost town! Fortunately the German girl I met at the bus station, Andrea, showed up that day, so I’d have someone to hang out with the next couple of days. Cape Maclear turned out to be favorite spot of all the places on the lake. The tourist lodges are set right in the middle of the fishing village, so you’re really immersed in the local culture. Women and children washing dishes, dugout canoes everywhere, men going out fishing for the night and coming back in with the catch the next morning. Not the best place for sleeping in, but I liked getting up early and going for walks on the beach with all the activity going on. A lot of times when you’re walking the little kids will grab your hands and walk with you wherever you’re going. Kinda cute, kinda annoying if you want to take a photo!
So overall it was a lot of lounging around with Andrea and going for walks around town. I had a kid named Henry, who find me whenever I went out so we could chat. He was definitely spying on me. He was a bright kid though and spoke English well, and wanted to become and engineer and get out the village. So I’m rooting for him; it can be quite difficult getting out the village! He didn’t have email and didn’t have a phone, so I have him my parents home phone number. So Mom and Dad if you ever get a weird phone call from a boy named Henry, that’s why!
I did a day of scuba diving, which was certainly better than before, but still not overly exciting, and then it was time to head on. I wanted to do some hiking in Zomba and get to the big city of Blantyre to apply for my Mozambique visa. So I said goodbye to Andrea and took a terrifying motorbike ride back down to the main road. The guy must have been drunk. He had to have been! But I was still alive and unscathed. And as all these posts start or end with, another uncomfortable minibus ride…