Sunday, August 25, 2019 | Zambia – Province of Lusaka, Lusaka | Petra
THE WARM HEART OF AFRICA
August 01–20, 2019 | We certainly don’t have a clear idea of Malawi before we visit this Southeast African landlocked country. We want to be surprised and within the first few hours after our arrival we understand why the country is promoting itself with the slogan “The warm heart of Africa”. Although life is anything but easy for them, the Malawians are very happy people with their heart in the right place.
HARD WORKING PEOPLE
Over 18 million inhabitants live in Malawi in a country area, which is about one-third the size of Germany. With a gross domestic product of $ 351.14, Malawi finished third in the rankings of the world’s poorest countries in 2018, behind Burundi and South Sudan.
Malawi’s men and women work a lot and physically hard. The children also fulfill their assigned tasks early in the busy day routine. They wash clothes by the river or carry buckets of water on their heads from the well to their homes. To visit the school often is pure luxury.
The bicycle is beside the own feet the most important and often only means of transportation. It is taxi, truck and wheelbarrow in one. Often the men move a pig or a goat, several heavy sacks of charcoal or lots of cans of fuel to where they can sell it. Often more than a hundred kilos of goods jam on the luggage rack and still the cyclists greet with a friendly smile.
With unbelievable dignity, the women balance heavy bundles of firewood, large buckets of water and maize sacks on their heads, sometimes for miles. In addition, they have tied their baby with a colorful sling firmly on the back. The little ones have to walk a lot very early. We only once see a baby carriage in Malawi, and it belongs to a family moved in from Italy.
Most families struggle to survive as smallholders or live off fishing. And although the Lake Malawi is the ninth largest lake in the world and offers a lot of water, drought periods, such as in 2002 and 2005, can plunge the whole country and its people into a life-threatening disaster.
Bricks for building a house are still originally made by hand from clay and dried in the sun or burned with fire under a thick layer of clay.
But if the weather god is merciful, the rain is decent, and the field yields enough, a modest crop of tomatoes, sweet potatoes, onions and white cabbage can make a little money on the market.
In general, the lively markets are a real spectacle. It is sold, towed, talked and laughed. From tomatoes and cornmeal to bicycle tubes and living room armchairs, you can buy everything you need in the larger places on the market. Even the Malawian version of the cheap-jack we can discover here. Full-bodied and certainly with high entertainment value, he extols his sensational jeans and leather jackets.
Lots of color women and girls also love on their traditional chitenge, the large, colorfully printed cloths that they nicely wrap around their hips as a long skirt. The little girls on the other hand, like almost everywhere in the world, prefer bulky tulle skirts, white or pink, ideal for playing in the street dust and mud with fun.
On Sundays to church the men wear their best suit and the women their best dress. So don’t be surprised if you see a woman in a golden dress carrying a huge bundle of long wooden poles on her head on her way home.
NATURAL BEAUTY LIWONDE
Of course we are drawn to nature in Malawi as well. The Liwonde National Park on Shire River is probably the most beautiful natural park in Malawi. During our arrival we only can spot very little of its species-rich wildlife. Except for a few puku nothing exciting so far.
So we decide upon an extensive boat trip on the Shire River the next morning and are richly rewarded.
Yellow fever trees, mighty baobabs and the great calm river conjure a beautiful landscape despite the drought. Two days later when leaving the park it suddenly starts raining. The sandy dust turns to sticky clay in no time, stubbornly clinging to tires and shoes.
An hour later the magic is over and we reach the Liwonde Safari Camp, where we have a date with our dear friends Kathy and Rick from California. They have already seen a lot of the world and have been touring Africa for some time. We had met the two last year in eSwatini. Now we are very happy to finally see them again and to talk and laugh with them to our heart’s content.
The following day, the two set off for their next destination. They want to head to the Zomba Plateau and the Mulanje Mountain Range, which sweet Bella recommended as their favorite places in Malawi. But soon we will once again have the joy of sharing stories with the two around the campfire, in Zambia on the banks of the Luangwa River.
BRIGHT GREEN COUNTRY
Dry thorn-bush savannah, high fan palms on the river, steep mountains and lush primeval forests – the varied landscapes of Malawi give this land its very special charm. In the south of the country, in the area around the economic center of Blantyre and the small town of Mulanje, even in winter bright green tea plantations extend far into the landscape to the foot of the giant Mulanje massif.
Malawi holds true tea treasures in the midst of its mountains and provides plenty of tea for the world market. Tea is next to tobacco and sugarcane an important export of the country. At Mulanje, we immerse ourselves in this lush green, which stands in stark contrast to the barren savannah landscape we have just experienced in the Liwonde National Park.
Not far from Mulanje we settle down to spend some days with Dani and Didi. Just recently, we met the two lovable long-term travelers in Zambia on the road to the South Luangwa, as they flashed us. At first we suspected something was wrong with our vehicle and stopped. Then it turned out that they immediately recognized our German license plate and therefore gave a signal. In a quarter of an hour, the first information were exchanged and we arranged to catch up for a real meeting somewhere in Malawi. Now the time has come and we really enjoy the days, which we experience now and later on Lake Malawi with Dani and Didi.
MALAWI IS LOCATED BY THE SEA
Malawi is framed by the countries of Tanzania, Mozambique and Zambia and the vast Lake Malawi. The lake is 570 km in length, 75 km in width and at its deepest point it goes down 704 meters. We want to head south to Cape MacLear, which travelers have highly recommended.
It gets adventurous when we squeeze our big truck through the small, densely built fishing village Chembe. We tower over the huts and houses with our vehicle and can comfortably watch the vivid activities behind the fences. There are people everywhere, the kids are waving to us and the road is getting narrower and narrower.
We are thrilled when we finally reach the beautiful Eagles Nest Camp and the great water lies in front of us in its full glory. It’s fascinating to observe the hustle and bustle of the small harbor. Half the village seems to gather here. The fishing boats are anchored, fish is sold and nets mended. Children happily jump into the water or ride their dugout on the small waves. The women wash their clothes, pots and children in the lake.
Before night falls and calm returns to the Cape MacLear, the sun calls for the grand finale and conjures up a sunset top class. We feel like we are at the sea.
This country and its people captured our affection from the very first moment. Although Malawi faces many profound difficulties, such as poverty, unemployment, HIV infections, population explosion, political dissatisfaction, a lack of industry and many more, people come to meet us with joy and warmth. We are deeply touched.
From a distance we are greeted by cyclists, playing children and colorfully dressed women. We see a lot of kids playing and laughing with each other. It’s just nice to see how the elder kids responsibly care for the little ones. They behave cautiously on the road, and we rarely see or hear children crying.
Every time we are in a village we enjoy the girls and boys with their innocent curiosity and contagious happiness. They confidingly take us by the hand, lean against us, want to play with us or touch my hair very carefully to find out how it feels.
And we meet other enthusiastic travelers, such as the students Fiona and Andreas or the globetrotters Stefan and Anja, with whom we can spend pleasant hours.
Yes, we actually experience the warm heart of Africa.