Malawi Plan B

Lee leaves for Scotland on the same plane that Poppy arrives on, which means they don’t quite meet, even though they are both in the airport at the same time. Poppy arrives, but in a rookie mistake, she has checked in her bag at London, and bag does not arrive, next plane is in two days time. We decide after much replanning that we can go on two Safaris while waiting and come back to get the bag if we are prepared to do some hard days to make up the lost time. Time is tight as Poppy has a flight from Rwanda to get to make a Taylor Swift concert, which apparently is important….
Safari goes well and Poppy gets to see Elephants, Giraffe, Hippos and Lions up close. I did not get a photo of the latter as Poppy squealed so loud when the big male lion appeared on the track in front of us, that he dived off into the bush. We headed back to the airport unusually in the mist and the rain for a morning, a baptism of fire for her driving mountain switchbacks in the fog and the wet.
Things do not get any easier over the next two days as there has been a great deal of rain in Malawi in the past months and a lot of the roads are badly potholed or even washed away. We have missed the worst of it, so the roads are again open, temporary bridges or bulldozed earth roads have been created to bypass the broken roads, but we have to make some pretty hairy diversions, specially to our current campsite were a bridge was washed away and the diversion was downhill through a forest on a narrow rutted track.
However we made it, the bag was recovered, a new plan is made, and we are listening to the sound of the waves of Lake Malawi breaking on the beach 10m from Nelson. A good end to a stressful few days….
I was sad to see Lee go, we had a really nice time on this trip as pretty much everything worked out according to plan, with just the right amount of adventure and challenge to make it all interesting. Lee has done a lot of countries in Nelson including Russia, Chile, Mongolia, India and Nepal so now a lot of Africa is added to the list.
Poppy on board we head out of the city without her bag while working on getting it, then we realise the next flight is two days later
Poppy starts to eye up her options in the roadside stalls for a new wardrobe for the rest of the trip, thankfully all her really critical stuff she has in her carry on bag.
Our Safari trips in South Liwonge and Majete Parks are really nice, given the new plan we will have to move fast to get Poppy to Rwanda so it is good she gets two solid days of Safari while we are waiting
Mum is being quite protective of this cute little Elephant
Giraffe are also seen close up, we did also see a male lion right in front of the car, but Poppy was so surprised and alarmed she squealed “Lion” and he was more alarmed than her and jumped into the bush, we got a good look at him but no good pictures
This Kurdu decided he was cool and was posing for photos right by the road
The mist and the rain was a surprise on the last day of our Safari, first rain we have seen in the trip so far
Poppy concentrating as we negoiate steep hairpins in the wet trying to use engine braking to avoid burning out the brakes, “remember its not a car, its a three ton agricultural vehicle designed in the 50s”
The mist creates a nice atmosphere as we head back to the airport to seek the missing bag
Success, after much blagging to get into the arrivals area, security was tight as the president had just landed in his military plane just ahead of Poppys bag !
Sometimes in a busy village the best plan is to follow a big truck who scatters the folks out of the way, this truck must have been originally from the UK and still sports the UK firms advertising
Our positive impression of Malawi as the “warm heart of Africa” continues, although very poor the villages seem industrious, the fields well tended and the people cheerful and polite, even the police ask how we are and how we are enjoying our visit
In many places the road north along the lake has been badly damaged by the floods of a month ago, but work is underway to repair the damage and bulldozers have created bypass roads out of earth
In some places narrow temporary bridges are in place, thankfully not much traffic as much of the road is down to one ribbon of tarmac about a truck wide, we often end up in the ditch while a truck passes
Potholes like this are commonplace we just get up a little speed and then have to brake sharply and weave in and out of the quite deep holes
Tired after a long day of pothole dodging and driving the last 2km down a steep forest track Poppy is happy to be on the beach relaxing
Nelson tucked into a grove of trees for the night the sound of the waves of Lake Malawi in our ears, the lake is so big it seems like the sea and no hint of the far coast is visible
Just after dark a lovely moon rises over the lake, a calm end to a stressful few days

About Gerry Mulligan

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