Day 58 – Senga Bay, Cool Runnings – Wednesday 25th July
We were planning to leave, but the place was so pleasant and relaxing that we decided to stay for a 4th night. We spent the day reading and lounging around the various chairs, sun loungers and sofas, with a bit of “Murder in Paradise” thrown in on TV for a change!
Day 59 – Cape Maclear, Funky Cichlids (south shore of lake Malawi) – Thursday 26th July – 176kms
We finally managed to extract ourselves, reluctantly, from Cool Runnings, and rode to the south shore of the lake. The weather was slowly getting warmer and less cloudy. On the day we left, it was clear sky but not too hot. Perfect weather to ride. We rode through the sandy streets of the village, back to the main road. We planned to spend 3 nights in the south shore and get to Blantyre, the second biggest town in Malawi, on Sunday only. The plan was to get to the Mozambique consulate early Monday morning for our visas.
The backpacker place we selected had great reviews, but they only had room for two nights. It is now the high season with plenty of backpackers from Europe. Cape Maclear is easier to reach by public transports than Senga Bay, I guess.
There were lots of backpackers and long time travellers, most of them in their early 20s. The place was funky with music, nice bar area and cheap drinks. A G&T for a pound will attract the backpackers!
We settled in a room . The shared bathrooms were functional with hot water from solar panels. The water was from the lake. We explored the village which was much more touristic than in Senga Bay, with lots of shops selling craft and coloured clothes and bags.
Day 60 – Cape Maclear, Funky Cichlid – Friday 27th July
We booked a room in another lodge for Saturday night. And then decided to go kayaking in the lake. Had to be done. It was nice to go kayaking again, we used to do this often at weekends, when we lived in Rio.
As we came back, soaked, we decided to go for a swim too. The weather was splendid and the water warm at last!
It’s only later that Alistair mentioned some disease from snails. He went digging his emails and found the document the nurse at the surgery sent him. There is significant risk of Bilharzia in all bodies of fresh water, including in lake Malawi. Oh well, considering the showers and all taps were with water from the lake, swimming or not in the lake would make no difference. We talked with the funky Cichlid’s manager whether there was any risk. She said they recommended everyone to take XYZ treatment as prevention. Well, lucky we asked, as they may tell everyone, but not one of their staff told us. And there was certainly no notice, board or any sign of this!
Bilharzia can be fairly dangerous and fatal if untreated. Although the risk of catching it is very small, it is best just to take the treatment as prevention, especially as it is a single tablet to take 6 to 8 weeks later and cost about 2 pounds. So we will buy that in a pharmacy in Blantyre.
Easier than asking for it to our GP, back in London, who would refuse to prescribe it. The tests are apparently rather costly, so all the people living by the shore of the lake ( Including and especially all those Europeans and Americans volunteers or workers) take a tablet every 2 months.
We did not do much after all that. WiFi in Malawi is rarely free. You need to buy vouchers and it goes fast. So we read some books again. This week is a bit of a holiday for us, before we tackle Mozambique.
My research online showed various addresses for the consulate in Blantyre. Alistair tried to phone the embassy in Lilongwe, but all the phones numbers we found online or on guide books were incorrect. Emails were also incorrect, for both the embassy in Lilongwe and the consulate in Blantyre. The phones for the consulate were also incorrect! Including from a Malawi magazine aiming at tourist info!
If we cannot secure the visas in Blantyre we will just turn up at the border, not much else we can do considering how elusive Mozambique’s embassy and consulate are!
Finding an affordable place to stay in Blantyre took also some time. The fact, that, as usual, google and booking.com seem to place hotels and guest houses in random locations, making them look like they are in town instead of 30 kms out of time, does not help. Any promising place we found we had to cross reference the address using other sites, and find out it was actually totally out of town!
Day 61 – Cape Maclear, Eco lodge – Saturday 28th July, 500 m ride.
We packed. The place was fully booked for the weekend so we moved 500 meters down the road to the Eco Lodge . The room with shared bathrooms was cheaper than the Funky Cichlid, at 20$ instead of 30, but the communal space less comfortable and the bar small and poky. We realised that lots of people from the Eco Lodge were actually lounging at the Funky Cichlid’s large open bar and lounge area, as we recognised lots of people having their breakfast at the EcoLodge ! Also at the EcoLodge, the cheaper rooms were away and in a more poky place with lots of junk lying around. I guess at that price we could not complain!
Once unpacked and changed, like everybody else, we walked along the beach back to the Funky Cichlid to lounge!
So we are having a relaxing Saturday by lake Malawi.