Sorry to leave you hanging the last couple of weeks! The last 2 months have been so adventure packed from our chimp tracking and safari adventure here in Uganda, followed by my birthday trip to Swaziland, South Africa and Rwanda and ending this past week with our 6 day trip to beautiful Malawi. Five countries in two months…. What am I possibly going to find to write about now?? Patrick is planning a trip next month to South Africa with “the guys” and I am sulking a little bit but I think there might be a possible girls trip in the making for February to Istanbul!
So Malawi… Originally we were planning to go through a tour company to help us plan but that ended up in a lot of dead ends and we had a very different understanding of the word “budget” So I took it upon myself to plan our trip and I was a little worried about how everything was going to pan out… You might have heard me use the phrase T.I.A. before, meaning “This is Africa” used basically at any time something really “African” happens. There are 3 different situations I would use this phrase in and here they are…
- Positively – When you see something really cool for instance on safari, or a hike or anything you would see here you wouldn’t see in other parts of the world.
- To comment on something really funny – for instance when you see a guy on a back of a motor bike wearing 4 tires in order to transport them or just recently Patrick saw a taxi van that was rented out to transport chickens… and not too long ago we witnessed someone walking a camel down the road… for no apparent reason. There is a funny Facebook page I like called “Africa, this is why I live here” with funny pictures and store signs.
- When everything that could go wrong goes wrong! – You always factor a little T.I.A into your adventures and most of the time you just make the best of it but every once in awhile you get in these T.I.A. stage 3 moments that are beyond laughing off.
Our vacation to Malawi included all 3 T.I.A. moments… shall we begin??
I sometimes find it extremely difficult to plan trips to places I have never been before, I am not sure how people ever even used to do it before the internet and the comfort of trip advisor and review sites. So given this was my first trip to a new place I planned completely on my own, I was a little worried. I’m going to get our biggest stage 3 fail out of the way now just so we can get to the fun stuff! If anyone is planning on traveling to Malawi and renting a car DO NOT RENT FROM COUNTRYWIDE CAR HIRE! Long story short, they didn’t have the car we reserved at the airport so instead of giving us an upgrade they drove us 25km out of the way to give us a crappier car… with no discount offered. Car was given to us with an empty tank, the air conditioner and radio caused the car battery to die twice and even though we were promised our refund back in cash at the airport, we almost missed our flight because they were completely unprepared and unprofessional. This was absolutely, hands down the worst experience I’ve had with an African business! ok, got that off my chest lets move on or else I’ll be here all day!
The first portion of our trip was at Lidwone Safari Camp in Lidwone National Park, home to lots of elephants, hippos, various types of antelope, warthogs and wait for it…. one lion, just one. Don’t let Lonely Planet deceive you… there is not a pride of lions here… just one lonely guy living the Hakuna Matata Dream! Lidwone Safari Camp was one of the best places I’ve stayed in Africa. The food was reasonably priced and tasteful, and the atmosphere was very non touristy and welcoming if the combination of those 2 makes any sense to you at all.
Watching the Sunset from the Observation Deck at Lidwone Safari Camp.
Considering the camp was located within the gates of the park it is not uncommon to see wildlife just a few meters away from your tent. So the first night we got there we saw some warthogs… This is just outside our tent!
Then on Thursday morning (4:30AM to be exact and my readers know, unless it is something absolutely amazing I can’t be bothered to wake up) Patrick started hearing some noises similar to tree branches breaking… so he gets up and goes outside to check things out… then about 5 minutes later he comes to get me and says there are a bunch of elephants outside. Elephants in my opinion are worth waking up for so I quickly ran outside and watched the maybe 8-10 elephants grazing around. When one of the guards saw me watching he pointed out another elephant in the distance. about 45 seconds later the first group of elephants starting taking off and the second group (of about 20) came running through…. and then a few minutes later another group of 25 or so and then ANOTHER! I have never seen anything like this in my life…. maybe a total of 80-100 elephants running past me… who needs an alarm clock when you have that to wake you up???
So that definitely ranks high on the T.I.A. Stage 1 scale! That same morning we also went through a game drive in the park. We saw a lot of antelope, wart hogs. some pretty birds and elephants but they were in the distance (Thank goodness for our early morning wake up call!) Oh yea and one really big tree… its old or something… 🙂
Later that afternoon Patrick and I took a boat ride on the river where we got to see hippos, crocodiles and even ran into a few elephants. One of my favorite movies as a child was The Adventures of Milo and Otis, if you don’t know it, it is a tale of a dog and a cat and the reason I tell everyone I liked it so much was because of the the unique and unlikely friendship between them. I’m a nerd sorry, but it does make you feel warm and fuzzy inside doesn’t it?? Well, I retreat back to Milo and Otis warm fuzzies every time I see these combinations…
Now I get the real life explanation about the egrets picking the bugs off the elephants and hippos but in my mind I still like to think in real life they really are best friends forever because that version of the story makes me happier!
Now, I have started a new fitness program (I have a support group and everything) It sounds silly but it is actually pretty cool! and I knew I wasn’t going to eat very well but I still told Patrick we had to stick to getting at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. So in-between the safari drive and boat ride we took a nice walk through the village and instead of doing another drive on our last morning in Liwonde we did a safari walk instead where we ran into some more hippos!
After our walk we said farewell to Lidwonde and headed on to our next leg of the journey in Cape Maclear on the shores of Lake Malawi. Now, before I traveled with Patrick all of my traveling has always been on a very tight budget. The place I picked to stay was only $6/pp in a beach hut. On paper it sounded really nice… but unfortunately we got what we paid for… maybe even less than what we paid for. I’m pretty sure there was mold in the showers, and I saw 3 very scary big spiders in the toilet while taking a wee… we did stick it out through the night but that hut was more like a sauna than anything else. The mosquito net was one of those ones that basically just lays on top of you and wouldn’t do you any favors if the mosquitos came anyway and when I say sauna I mean dripping sweat. It also didn’t help our little hut was right next to the bar and there is a bouncing local pub near by as well. Ugh… I have developed quite low expectations and high tolerances of accommodations in Africa but this was even too much for me. I wouldn’t rate this as a 3 on the TIA scale because not everything went wrong and the staff at this place was actually extremely nice so lets go ahead and give it a 2.5 🙂 I admitted defeat and we looked for a new place to stay, which we found! Thumbi View Lodge was amazing! rooms were average but it came with a functional mosquito net, our own shower (with amazing water pressure!), toilet and wait for it… a fan! Oh thank you sweet Jesus for that fan! It is run by a South African family who was very kind and accommodating and for only $40 a night you got all of that plus a free full hot breakfast! Pure heaven after our other experience!
So we made some “friends” upon arrival that took us out on a boat trip to see the sunset. Also included in this adventure was a lesson on catching a tropical fish with my bare hands… it took me awhile but I finally got one!
The views from the boat of lake Malawi were amazing!
Our second day at Lake Malawi I had signed Patrick and I up for a Discover Scuba Diving Class. It was for us to learn scuba diving and see if it was something we wanted to do again in the future. One of us had a little bit more fun than the other one and I decided to finish the full course the next day to become certified.
So I finished eating my full English Breakfast and we headed back to the dive center to begin the rest of the course. I guess I missed the part where they said you had to pass a swim test… now I’m not going to lie, when it comes to swimming I can doggy paddle and swim like a frog underneath the surface but when it comes to actual technical swimming I do not fare so well. Both of my sisters were enrolled in swim class at an early age but I guess once you get to the third child your brain slips a bit and suddenly remember that your 13 year old daughter never took swim lessons and she would probably really enjoy being in class with a bunch of 5 year olds….right (sarcasm was intended there if you couldn’t figure it out!) Being a typical teenage girl I purposely failed the class… and cried and pouted every time they made me go. As a result of not learning how to swim I almost drowned in my early 20s at the ocean. So with that information known… back to the swim test! He says “Swim from this boat to that boat without stopping” and then “tread water for 5 minutes without touching the bottom…. ” “It’s easy” he says, “you can swim right?? yea ok sure… I can do that…. So thankfully Stembridge (The one responsible for supervising to make sure I completed my tasks) wasn’t the most observant… I will leave it at that because all that matters is that I passed!
After that and some boring book work It was time to go do the fun stuff!
Patrick was such a good sport all day hanging out on the boat and cheering me on! Once we returned I took my exam and passed the test! I am officially a certified scuba diver now! woohoo!
Our one last hoorah was spent with our boat friends again who took us to all 3 of the main islands in Cape Maclear and cooked us a nice fish dinner on one of the islands. Now this next picture perfectly describes Stage 2 on the TIA scale.
We were able to see some fish eagles and lizards and yet another beautiful sunset!
So although we did reach Stage 3 on the T.I.A Scale at certain points we had a good time as always and now have more memorable moments to add to our marriage. Tune in next week to read about my friend Elizabeth and I and the talented art of painting a chicken coop!