A Travellerspoint blog

S/he who laughs last...

26th October 2010

I am awoken by loud music at 2.30am in the morning. Two women, one in a skimpy red negligee, are flirting and partying with two guys and find everything hysterically funny.

Well, I don't.

I have all kinds of ideas of how I could add to their „fun“ (things like throwing shoes and see how well I can aim in the dark, making music by banging their heads together or following them to their tent and locking them in, preferably just when they realise how urgently they need the bathroom.)

They never know how lucky they are when AH goes out instead of me to have a word. It takes about half an hour and two attempts to finally shut them up...

Unfortunately, one of the dogs in the camp starts howling instead, so when the sun dawns I feel hungover from lack of rest.

I notice that the two guys who caused the racket last night are sleeping in a tent on top of their camper van, which means they need the ladder to get up and down. What if I removed the ladder, just as the people in the village remove the tree ladder when they want to stop their chickens from coming down... That way the trouble-makers would stay out of trouble for a while...

I am too health and safety conscious to act on this thought of course, and again two people continue to sleep peacefully, blissfully unaware how narrowly they escaped disaster...

Only they don't...

At the next campsite I find out that two fellow travellers locked the guys in their tent with a cable tie, driving home the message that if you don't shut up, you will be shut up... May this story travel around all the campsites as a warning!

Just a shame that the girls had a lucky escape. They were even worse than the men. (I think the French are right when they say that we should look for the woman when a crime gets committed.)

Posted by TTraveller 01:07 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

Kayaking for two

25th October 2010

One of the best features of Kande beach are the hammocks that are hanging in the shade and so make the heat much more bearable.

Just lying in one, gently swaying back and forth and reading a book that is not too taxing helps my mind and muscles to unknot – but not for long.

AH is determined to get me on the lake. He has hired a double kanu for the bargain price of 1,000 Malawian Kwacha (less than US$ 6) for half a day, and now he wants to take me out.

He has not yet given up the idea that one day I might like to be on the water or even in the water rather than simply by the water.

Well, today is not the day for such a miracle.

As usual, I hate feeling out of control and out of my depth. Our tour guide's fantasy that we would paddle to the island , get off and make passionate love while whispering sweet nothings, remains just that: A fantasy.

All I care about is getting solid ground under my feet, as our conversation (ok, my monologue) reflects:
„Right... left... right... No, that's not fair! Don't change the rhythm mid-stroke... I can't keep up... Right... left... right... O, I give up! I shall not do anything now... O no, that's even more scary! I DON'T want to end up in the water. Who knows who has pooed into it, so get me back to shore... I DON'T want to explore the island. The boat sways too much when we get out and in... And look at those rocks... So let's turn back. Right... left... right...“

Posted by TTraveller 01:06 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

Kande village

25th October 2010

At 7am, AH and I go on a village walk with „Never“ who sometimes also calls homself „Neval“. And then of course he has an English name and a traditional African name that is linked to him coming from a small family. (I meet several locals who claim to come from small families. Wonder whether there is a link with HIV. „Never“ claims that 8% of the 4,000 villagers are currently infected.)

It takes about 45 mins to walk along a dirt track to the heart of the village.

The village seems relatively prosperous.

Each family has a plot of land to grow casava. Casava grows all year around here. The whole plant is used. The leaves are cooked like spinach, the stalk is replanted to grow the next plant and the root is soaked for 3 days, ground in huge mortars and then turned into a kind of porridge.

Chicken are truly free-range throughout the day, but at night they live in a wickerbasket on stilts. They get inside by walking up a tree trunk, which is afterwards removed. This harkens back to the time when hyenas would come for the chickens.

Fish is abundant too, so people have another source of protein.

Many of the houses are built of bricks, and there are a lot more building projects planned, judging by the amount of bricks that are piled up everywhere.

The villagers do their washing in the lake, but have waterpumps for clean drinking and cooking water, making the women's job that bit easier.

The women seem to be busy from dawn to dusk, whereas the men appear to have adopted a more relaxed lifestyle. They may just go out for a spot of fishing or tending the field early in the morning, later brew some banana beer or play the bao game.

There is an air of „Hakuna Matata“ („No worries.“), despite the obvious issues in the village.

The primary school caters for 1,500 pupils. They only have 10 teachers, so a class of 120 is considered small.

The younger children all sit on the floor in their neat white and blue uniforms. The classroom is packed.

The whole system can only work with discipline and respect for authority. (I thought some boys outside school had been bunking off, but am informed that they have been sent home because they were late for class. Now they are scared of punishment and want to hang around until their classmates finish school.)

There is 1 doctor in the local clinic and already around 100 people waiting to be seen, mainly women with their young children.

The only special provision in the maternity ward seem to be mosquito nets. Most villagers could probably not afford the US$7 to buy one.

A young mum, beamingly shows us her newborn son. Many women and babies still die in childbirth, so her joy may partly reflect the relief that they both survived.

Outside the clinic, another bunch of women waits for the children to be weighed. The scale hangs from the branch of a tree and the children (some are already about 2 or 3) are wrapped in a cloth and then hung on the scale.

We make our way back along the same dirt track. I am already exhausted, and it's just after 9.

Yet the women make it look so easy and natural to carry water canisters, food, washing or bricks on their heads in this flimmering heat. It's as if the loads are no more of a burden to them than the fancy oversized hats the ladies wear at Ascot.

Posted by TTraveller 01:05 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

Meeting with Destiny

25th October 2010

I wake up at first dawn. To me there is nothing more inspiring and peaceful than watching a red sun gently rising above a large expanse of water.

The security guard who is meant to guard our compound is fast asleep. He doesn't even stir when I take a photo of him, even though the flash goes off.

I look up and down the beach. In the distance, there are a few people getting ready to go out in a boat, but otherwise the beach is empty. So I should be able to enjoy a hassle-free walk for a little while.

I don't remember how I suddenly found myself in an in-depth conversation with 19 year old „Destiny“. He says he wants to be a doctor and is just missing one year of high school to fulfil his dream to go to uni.

He persuades me to order a picture of our trip from him for US$ 10 and one of my orange hats. What I really want is a T-shirt, so if he can't make it as a doctor, he can always work as a salesman.

We arrange to meet again at 3pm, and I ask to see evidence for his story. I like the idea of sponsoring someone who will then have a positive impact on his community, but I am under no illusion that the locals know what stories sell...

There is fierce competition for tourist money and tourist clothes. One guy wants to barter the black pyjama bottoms I am wearing: „My mum would like them.“

The local lads tend to wear three-quarter length trousers and „cool“ T-shirts which they probably got from tourists. I too leave 2 items behind: A torn Indian cotton blouse and an orange cap we were given in Gallillee. All the guys like the hat with the two fish and Hebrew writing and after several failed negotiations it ends up with „Never Cosmic“ as a part-exchange for local gin.

Overall, the guys make excellent business out of us. AH and I come away from Kande beach with the booze, a picture and a T-shirt with an almost identical picure of Africa and its people (the T-shirt is made in China, as usual, but at least the painting is local. I wonder how many washes, if any, it will survive...), a wooden key ring with my name and an animal that looks like a mixture of lion and zebra and a game board to play the local bao game.

We most likely bought everything at inflated prices, but it's harder here to bargain hard because the lads have a more subtle approach than in India. They always stop short of harrassment.

I can also understand that people like „Cheese on Toast“, „Mel Gibson“ and „Donald Duck“ are desperate to improve their lives.

AH has suggested that we need to stop using our names and need to come up with crazy nicknames. Maybe „Marmite“ and „Peanut butter“ or „Grizzly“ and „Tiger Lily“.

In fact, it is amost strange to meet a local who simply wanted to be „Sean.“

I guess it's good for business to be remembered, but what I remember are the names rather than the faces – and how to play the Bao game, a counting game that was traditionally played by men under a Baobab tree. Villages comepted with each other for beer. Nowadays women also play the game.

AH commissioned a gameboard, paying US$20, a way of tipping our guide who gets US$10 for a 2 hour guided tour.

Overall, I think the lads do ok for themselves. They are cheeky entreprenours, anticipating potential needs and o offering a solution: „I can make you pots to keep stones for Bao game.“ „I can make you nice frame for picture. Even with animals carved into it.“ „I can organise you sarong at good price.“

When I meet up again with „Destiny“, I am pretty ticked off. I feel I have offered way too much for his picture and that he has told some porkies about his school fees.

He doesn't check that the money I hand him is the right amount and never asks for the hat:“This is only partly about business. It's also about my education.“

He shows me his school report, but it's hard to tell how good it is. He is 18th out of 56 and is 1st in 3 subjects. Is this enough to study at uni and become a doctor? I have no way of knowing, so ask him to send me the contact details for the headmaster at his school so that I can verify his story.

He says he would not lie to me. That he became a Christian when a group of Americans showed the film „The passion of the Christ.“

I have been praying about being able to support local Christians, and only time will tell whether the prayer has been answered.

Posted by TTraveller 01:03 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

Night hunt

22nd October 2010

We end our afternoon drive with a sundowner. A full moon rises as the red sun quickly drops behind the horizon.

We are briefed on our night drive. The focus is on finding night-active animals. Animals that are active during the day would be blinded by the searchlight, and we are not here to engineer a kill.
Philemon informs us that our chances of seeing a leopard are about 50:50. Sometimes as many as 5 leopards have been spotted in 1 night, at other times safaris have come back without a sighting 5 nights in a row.

And it looks like we will join the unlucky photo hunters. All signs of life seem to have disappeared as soon as the sun went down.

The searchlight goes from left to right, left to right, and hits only empty spaces. Where is everybody?

Looks like the highlight will be the group of impalas that are illuminated in passing.

I am tired of staring into space when someone says that there is a leopard ahead. We are by now near the river edge. I thought leopards live on trees?

But no, in the distance a leopard is moving in slow motion and completely silently across the horizon. It does not even seem to register us.

Soon it is gone. Other vehicles join in the search, but the place where the leopard had likely gone to drink in inaccessible to vehicles.

And so we wait... And wait.

We are about to turn back as we still have a long drive ahead, when the leopard reappears with a young buku calf in his mouth. No wonder he paid no attention to us earlier. He was getting his dinner ready!

The leopard dashes across the sandy plain and into some undergrowth, followed by the searchlight of at least four searchlights.

Philemon points out that the calf is still alive. The leopard is hoping to catch its mother, but there is no sign of her. The calf struggles on valiantly.

I do not see what happens next, but when we have driven around the bend, we see the final act of tonight's drama. An older leopard sits in the tree with the buku. It looks like he has stolen it from his younger rival.

I wonder what would have happened if we hadn't turned up. I don't think we engineered the kill, but I wonder whether the young leopard would have kept his dinner if he had not been distracted by all the vehicles.

Yes, I feel sorry for the buku, especially as it was not killed instantly, but also for the leopard who worked so hard, but was left with nothing...

The other night animals we see are white-tailed mongoose and a lonely hyena. Apparently they hunt alone in this national park, an example of animal behaviour being determined by the particlar environment...

In our absence, the monkeys got into the truck again and smashed some eggs, so I guess it's 1:0 for them today.

Generally, the wildlife camp has now lost its terror. I now expect animal encounters. The latest animal I have met in the bathroom is a big frog.

Posted by TTraveller 06:17 Archived in Zambia Comments (0)

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