Friday, 30 August 2013

Day 12: Zomba to Cape Maclear, Malawi

Masongola Hotel, Zomba

I slept better on my second night at the Zomba Forrest Lodge, there is something very appealing about sleeping in the pitch black and complete silence.

Another smokey shower and then more excellent homemade muesli for breakfast. We only ate two of the four muffins set out for us so the other two were packed for the road. Tom kindly drove us back into town. The track from the lodge was pretty slippy due to the rain.

He dropped us of at the Masongola Hotel. One of the oldest buildings in Zomba it has the feeling of faded glory. They served us an over expensive tea in thermos flasks on the lawn. We had a quick look round the accommodation annex and saw monkeys playing in the trees and climbing into one of the rooms through an open window.

After our tea we walked into two to catch a minibus towards Monkey Bay. We weren't sure if we'd get a bus the whole way so caught one promising to take us to Managochi, even though the sign on the front said Liwonde (only about half way). We decided to relax, go with the flow and see what happened.

Malawi - the home of second hand Royal Mail bikes

As we drove north the landscape started to change. We spent the day driving through wide flat valleys. There seemed to be more land under cultivation next to the road, mosques replaced churches, river beds were dry and the mud/thatch buildings we had seen were replaced by brick and corrugated iron constructions.

In Liwonde we were switched minibuses for one headed to Managochi. I didn't see it happen but the money boy from our bus must have paid the next driver as we were never asked for cash. We were underway again within five minutes. Integrated private transport at its best.

The guide book talked up Managochi town, but it seemed very scruffy to me. When we walked into the bus station we got touted into a minibus and sold a ticket for Cape Maclear. We had to wait an hour for the bus to fill up before it departed. I was dying to try a street snack samosa, but no seller came to the window of our bus as we waited. I did manage to take a photo of an old Royal Mail bike as a consolation instead.

Lake Malawi

Our driver up to Monkey Bay was pretty sedate. I probably should have been grateful for his cautious approach to driving, but I just wanted to get there! No music was played on any of the minibuses during the day. A welcome first.

In Monkey Bay we were switched from the minibus onto a very overcrowded pickup truck heading to Cape Maclear. The pickup had thirteen people, a baby, a large supply of plywood and around ten sacks of maize piled onto it.

I felt very precariously perched on the edge of the truck with my feet dangling over the edge and clinging onto a cask of maize for dear life. Thankfully our driver went pretty slowly. The truck was so overcrowded that on one of the hills five people had to get off and walk up as the pickup couldn't take the weight.

Our beach hut in Cape Maclear

We arrived in Cape Maclear around 4pm and headed to Gecko Lodge (run by Ed's distant relatives). Sadly they were fully booked so we headed a couple of spots down the beach to Migoza. A idyllic, of expensive beach hut*. I had a headache and was sugar crashing as we hadn't had any lunch and just wanted to stop travelling rather than worry about whether we could get a better deal somewhere else.

Around 5pm we walked up the beach in search of food. The place I was aiming at (based on the guide book) no longer seemed to exist and we ended up at Taipei Lodge instead. We were the only customers, my beer was warm and the food took over an hour to arrive. However, the whole Tiger fish caught from the lake was tasty when it arrived.

I'd decided to walk up the beach barefoot, but the sand was quite grainy and full of shells and it was quite uncomfortable on the way back. We stopped half way for a beer in another guesthouse called Mufasa. The night guard tried to engage us in conversation, but I think we both wished he hadn't.

We were in bed by 9pm that night.

A map of everywhere I visited in Malawi and Zambia is here.

*The beach hut was $65 per night for the two of us. It was a bit of a shock to be paying so much compared with the cheapies we had been staying at. However, after the shock subsided I really enjoyed Migoza. The beach hut right on the idyllic Cape Maclear was pretty special.


  1. Over expensive??! That tea was possibly the worst I have ever tasted! And it cost about three quid! Totally outrageous!

    Still, it was fun to visit such a good example of "faded grandeur" and hilarious seeing the monkeys invading people's open windows!

  2. Richard, here's the story about the Royal Mail bikes... We've sent 20,000 of them in total!