Lake Malawi

It is early morning when we leave the campground and start driving north, towards Lake Malawi. When we reach Liwonde we look for some shade and have a look at our map. In concentration we are studying the map as to which route to take. South, to visit the mountain, North to the small lake just before Liwonde National Park or Lake Malawi. In my head I follow the different coloured lines on the paper before me.

The squaking of brakes pulls us out of our concentration. We both look over our schoulders towards the main road. Through the rows of trees we can just see a truck parked on the side of the road. It takes a few minutes before the smell of burned rubber reaches us at the restaurant. At that moment we know something is wrong. It is quiet, an eery silence hangs in the air when we reach the main road. A group of people has gathered on the side of the road and they stand very still, faces staring towards the asphalt. I approach them very slowly, but no one seems to notice me. Looking at the asphalt myself it tells me what has just happened. A middle aged man on a bicycle was hit and probably run over by the truck that is now parked on the side of the road. It wouldn’t have made a difference if there had been immediate help, as far as I can tell, it would have been too late anyway. A man in a grey uniform drapes a piece of fabric over the body with the help of some bystanders. A human life sometimes ends in seconds. It’s not something we are very familiar with, but this shakes us up very much. We both think back to a couple of weeks earlier when we witnessed another fatal road accident. We navigate around the main road and without talking about it we drive towards the lake where we find a nice spot at the beach. A few local guys are busy to get a trawl in on the shore line. They walk in a line and when they reach the end of the rope, they walk to the front again. It looks like a tough job and I can use the distraction. The men seem very pleased when I decide to join the rope pulling to get the heavy trawl out of the water. In the tent that night, the wind picks up so strongly that we decide to pack everything up in the middle of the night. We drive our car away from underneath the trees that sway dangerously, while dropping branches and fruits, and find shelter behind a building. We sleep in the car on the front and back seats the for remaining few hours. Very stiff from a bad night sleep and without having to pack anything up, we leave early. A small track leads us to Monkey Bay. Monkey Bay and Cape McClear are popular tourist destinations because of the unique bay that has a sunset over the lake.We find a beautiful campsite underneath a mango tree and swim with hundreds of tiny coloured fish called cichlids. In the evening we see small groups of men walking towards the lake where they scrub themselfves until they are almost white, from the soap obviously. 

When we leave the Cape we run into a checkpoint very quickly. A young police officer stops us and sticks his head in through the car window. We talk a bit about nothing before he asks: “ and, what are you giving me? I can see you have 4 hats hanging in the car, you don’t need 4 hats, you can give me one.” I am taken a back by his straightforward approach and try to explain to him that we do need all those hats. I offer him a cigarette and after he tries to get a hat some more he gives up, takes another drag from his cigarette and lets us go. 24 September 2016 I walk through the small alley of the village we just arrived in on my flimsy flipflops. In my pockets I have nothing more than a few kwachas. School has just finished and the children are hanging around the low school building and draw figures in the sand with their sticks. I kick the powdery black sand up with every step I take and I can see my feet turning the same colour very quickly. The further I walk, the more the houses are packed together and finally I walk into a tiny alley. It is clear that the residents have tried to create shade by putting pieces of colourful cloth and plastic in between the two rows of houses that flap loudly when the wind gets under them. It’s late in the afternoon and I’m looking for dinner ingredients. The houses, made of clay and home made bricks have little openings, where I can see their variety of goods. I take my time navigating slowly through the market until I reach a place where they sell vegetables. I buy a few tomatoes, a cabbage and some onions which they sell me for a Mzungu price (the Malawian word for white person). With everything loaded up in my backpack I easily find my way back to the place we are camping at. 

Lake of Stars Festival

29 September 2016 It is early morning and we can see that it is getting busier along side the road. Little stalls, made out of bamboo are being built in quick succession next to each other. A long narrow beam blocks off the road. A lot of people squeeze past it, while others shout out instructions over the handheld devices. It is a day before the festival starts, but it is already very busy at the Chinteche Inn. We try to get our car on the festival itself, but that request is denied and we are only allowed on foot. Right behind each other we walk through the gate and immediately we can feel the festival vibe descending down upon us like a warm blanket on a cold winter day. After walking around for a bit, we find out where the central nerve system of the festival is located and before we know it we’re put to work and find ourselves behind one of the festival bars. For three days we enjoy the live bands and relaxed vibe, while also volunteering by selling the drink vouchers. 

Lake of stars:

Lake of Stars Festival is an annual three-day international festival held on the shores of Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa. The festival was started in 2004 and continues attracts over 3,000 attendees with musical acts from Africa some international known artists. The majority of Lake of Stars staff are volunteers and the majority of performers get little to no pay. Over $1.5 million is generated by the festival for the local economy.

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