Pretty much since our arrival in Nkhata Bay, we Marc had been evaluating our options for onward travel. The front-runner of these options was taking a bus that passed through (but did not originate in) Mzuzu just before midnight, arriving in Dar es Salaam the next evening.1 We changed our minds after hearing from new friends who left Nkhata Bay for Tanzania a few days before we did: When the midnight bus arrived in Mzuzu, there were no seats for them, despite the fact that they held tickets for the journey on to Dar,2 and they had to take a taxi all the way to the Tanzanian border and then wait there until it opened in the morning.
Instead of rolling the dice with that bus, we decided to make the trip to Tanzania in separate stages. We started with a 5:00 a.m. taxi to Mzuzu that we shared with the Finnish couple we had met. It was a much more comfortable option than taking a minibus to Mzuzu and it deposited us at the open door of a bus heading north to Karonga just minutes before its scheduled 6:30 a.m. departure.3 You really can’t beat door-to-door service!
In Karonga, we encountered our biggest delay: finding somewhere to exchange Malawian kwachas into U.S. dollars.4 We eventually admitted defeat and commenced the next stage of our journey: a minibus to the Tanzanian border.
Our apologies for the dearth of blog posts lately. We have been traveling in some remote parts of Uganda, and I have had something of a head cold (stop worrying! I promise it is not ebola), which seemed to take up residence right in the space between the part of my brain that thinks up words and the part of my brain that commands my fingers to type. Good news: the Uganda “Day Nurse/Night Nurse” pill combination1 that I’ve been taking is proving pretty effective in chasing it away.
Anyway, it segues nicely into the next part of our trip: that time we got really sick in Malawi.
Marc and I have been pretty healthy here in Africa. We’ve come down with the odd headache or case of sniffles (and the abovementioned instant cold), but nothing either very serious or inconvenient. A few days into our second stay at Mayoka Village in Nkhata Bay, however, Marc started complaining about feeling achy. I immediately thought malaria.
Allow me to quote Lonely Planet’s section on infectious diseases: “Malaria’s early stages include headaches, fevers, generalised aches and pains, and malaise, which could be mistaken for flu.” Perhaps you remember our post on things we will no longer take for granted, where we showcased the following warning: PRESUME YOU HAVE MALARIA UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE. Should I note that this warning was included in an informational pamphlet in our room at Mayoka Village?
Fact: Ferries are my least favorite method of transportation. In my experience, they are usually crowded, rarely comfortable, and have a tendency to make me seasick.
Alas, the only way to reach Likoma Island from Nkhata Bay is by ferry.1 We had heard taking the ferry, named the Ilala, was supposed to be a quintessential Malawian experience in and of itself, and so we planned to take it from Nkhata Bay to Likoma Island.
The ferry only runs between Nkhata Bay and Likoma Island on Tuesdays and Fridays (see infra for additional practical information), and we boarded the Ilala early on a Friday morning for a 6:00 a.m. departure.
Lake Malawi was everything that we imagined and more: a serene expanse of clear blue water, so large that it was difficult to see the other side. Although many places along the lake sounded nice, but, in the interest of taking a break from travel, we chose only two: (i) Nkhata Bay, one of the main ports located about halfway up the lake; and (ii) Likoma Island, an island about 70 kilometers from Nkhata Bay and surrounded by Mozambican waters.1 Both places were magical.
After Bulawayo and Masvingo, we were pretty discouraged. Great Zimbabwe had been a nice respite, but it wasn’t enough to completely reenergize us. We set our sights on Lake Malawi and proceeded to bus ourselves across three African capitals in three days.
I’m sure that each of the three capitals (Harare, Lusaka, and Lilongwe) has its own unique character and gems that we didn’t discover during our abbreviated visits; alas, our spirits were so trampled from the rugged travel and the cold that we used the cities as merely convenient stopping points along our route to Lake Malawi. Our journey toward the lake was long and frequently frustrating, but, as a wise man told us at the start of our African adventure, you just have to see the humor in such things – and then laugh out loud at them.