De Addis Abeba a Ciudad del Cabo (From Addis Ababa to Cape Town)


Chizimulu and Likoma islands
March 7, 2012, 7:20 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Round about now we should have been in Cape Maclear in the south having travelled there on the MV Ilala ferry but instead we’re in Lilongwe after a nine hour bus ride, but more about that later . . .

It’s been a pretty eventful two weeks in Malawi so far. They started with a lengthy journey from Zanzibar all the way across to Karonga, our first stop. There’s not much to see or do in Karonga but the locals are friendly and the children even more so (the afternoon we arrived we were walking back to our guesthouse from town along the paths in the village and as we passed a group of kids, one of them – not more than three years old – came hurtling out of the group and flung his arms around my legs and looked up at me with a massive grin on his face. The manager from our guesthouse was with us at the time and he’d only just been explaining that the children are afraid of Westerners but this little guy obviously wasn’t)! The kids are beautiful and full of smiles, I can kind of see why Madonna adopted one . . .

Our next stop (another frustrating day on buses) was Nkhata Bay where two things happened mainly – I damaged my foot and it rained, a lot. While I was resting my bandaged and swollen foot, poor Alberto had to do the 30 minute walk to town in the rain for water supplies – he also came back with much needed chocolate :-)

We decided to do a kayaking trip to Chizimulu and Likoma, two small islands a few hours by ferry from Nkhata Bay – four days of kayaking around the islands, camping on the beaches and enjoying island life seemed like a good way to cheer ourselves up, and I could still be active without moving my foot much.

Along with Kumbu, our guide, and Ruurd, a Dutch guy we’d met at the backpackers, we boarded the packed Ilala ferry last Monday evening at about 8pm for the less than 100km trip to Chizimulu (affectionately known as Chizzie). As we weren’t going far, we bought second class tickets and spent an uncomfortable ferry ride wedged on the front deck between lots of people and their produce, together with planks of wood and sheets of metal and who knows what else. Things got interesting when we tried to find space to lie down and were constantly being woken up by people standing on you and feeling people’s feet in your backside while others played blaring music on their phones. Nice.

4,5 hours later it was finally time to try get off (without being shoved) the ferry in the dark onto the little boat that was waiting alongside to take us across to Wakwenda Retreat, where we’d be camping for the first two nights. After being shown around in the dark (there’s very limited electricity on Chizzie so it had been turned off long before we arrived that night) by Bjorn, the South African guy helping out at Wakwenda, we pitched our tent in the dark and fell asleep in the early hours just before the rain started.

Wakwenda Retreat, Chizi (the bar used to be inside the boabab)

Wakwenda Retreat, Chizzie (the bar used to be inside the boabab)

On Tuesday morning it was still raining and we soon discovered the many creatures that live at the lodge, including the frogs (an animal that freaks me out), the bat who sleeps wrapped around the shower head, the colourful lizards that scurry around the bar area looking for food and the resident dogs.

Interesting animals aside, Wakwenda Retreat is a special little place built next to the small fishing village on Chizzie. Formerly a government lodge (there’s hardly any phone reception on Chizzie so to contact anyone, you need to phone the little post office – up the steps on a hill from Wakwenda – and tell the guys there who you’d like to speak to or leave a message for them), the current English owner has been there for 17 years and I can’t imagine that there are ever very many people staying there at one time. It’s the perfect place to escape to, the locals rely on the ferry to get supplies from the mainland twice a week and the nearest ‘town’ is on Likoma, 12km away (or two hours by kayak in our case) across the lake.

Wakwenda also possibly has the coolest bar I’ve ever seen. Previously in the trunk of an enormous boabab tree (the islands are dotted with boababs everywhere), the bar was moved to one end of the lodge a few years ago and is now spread out on different levels with lots of secret spots to sit and chill or swim and snorkel in the clear water below – definitely an awesome spot to easily lose a few days.

Possibly the coolest bar ever - Wakky's Bar at Wakwenda

Possibly the coolest bar ever - Wakky's Bar at Wakwenda

Once the rain cleared later that morning, the kayaking trip began. The next four days (plus one rest day, although we did an 11,5km walk in the heat around Likoma so it wasn’t all that restful) were brilliant. We kayaked and snorkelled around Chizzie and then kayaked on to Likoma – quite a bit bigger than Chizzie with a very small town selling supplies and a few (around seven) cars and motorbikes. We spent three days exploring different parts of the island, stopping for lunch on beautiful stretches of beach surrounded by boababs or with Mozambique just across the lake and were visited by curious local children wondering what were up to in their part of the world.

Check out those strokes!

Check out those strokes!

Working the waves

Working the waves

The distance we kayaked - Chizzie (in the background) to Likoma

The distance we kayaked - Chizzie (in the background) to Likoma

Local kids providing entertainment on Likoma

Local kids providing entertainment on Likoma

One of our lunch spots - with Mozambique within paddling distance just behind us

One of our lunch spots - with Mozambique within paddling distance just behind us

We camped on the beach for one night and then stayed at Mango Drift, another great little place, for our last two nights. Our arrival at Mango Drift was a pretty hairy one – as we paddled round the last point before reaching the lodge, the lake got quite rough and it was as if we were battling the waves in the sea and not Lake Malawi. I of course thought it was brilliant and loved being thrown about in the kayak (possibly because I had Kumbu steering our kayak in the seat behind me) but I don’t think Alberto liked it as much as their kayak was filling up with water a little too quickly and they had to stabilise it every ten minutes to empty it.

Our beach camping spot on one side of Likoma

Our beach camping spot on one side of Likoma

View from the bar at Mango Drift

View from the bar at Mango Drift

Resting sore muscles at Mango Drift

Resting sore muscles and contemplating stuff (well, not really)

A Mango Drift sunset

A Mango Drift sunset

On Saturday evening we were due to get the ferry from Likoma to take us to Chizzie for two days while we waited for the southbound service to Monkey Bay on Monday, and Kumbu would continue on to Nkhata Bay with the kayaks. However, on Saturday morning we woke up to be told that the ferry was suddenly not running and no-one knew when it would next be expected. Not such a major problem for us as we could paddle back to Chizzie to join the rest of the group who’d come over from Nkhata to Wakwenda and arrange a local boat back, but for the locals on these two islands, they rely on the ferry for supplies and food for their families and their businesses. Apparently the ferry company often takes it out of service (sometimes without prior warning) and people are never sure when it will resume its schedule.

The walk to Likoma town

The walk to Likoma town

Alberto found a new friend

Alberto found a new friend

Kumbu, our kayakmaster and good chef

Kumbu, our kayakmaster and great chef

So after another night at Wakwenda (which we didn’t mind as it meant we got to appreciate the location of the bar and have a swim), we piled into a local boat (10 wazungu – white people – and 15 locals plus chickens, a couple of puppies, babies and luggage) on Sunday morning to bring us back to Nkhata Bay. Six hours later, sunburnt, tired, drenched (the waves were pretty rough at times and this time it wasn’t so fun) and with a bag full of wet clothes and a phone that no longer works, we arrived.

And we pretty much didn’t move until our 5am alarm this morning to get the bus to Lilongwe. There’s not a lot happening in Lilongwe (except I got quite excited at seeing so many South African brands in the supermarkets) and it’s expensive so it’s another early alarm tomorrow for another bus to Blantyre – oh, the joys of travelling!

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5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Absolutely stunning! The girls in the office get so excited when I get a new blog as they love reading them! Safe travelling and see you soon. XX Stellie

Comment by John and Estelle Collier

Wakkys bar does look awesome! Think I would just vegetate there for a month or two! Your photo’s are amazing! Now about the ring Sisi??? Love you guys & keep those bloggs updated. You need to get them published!

Comment by Renee du Plessis

Esto si que es otro paisaje; me alegro de que os vayan bien las cosas y que hayais encontrado lugares tan fascinantes y gente tan amable. Un abrazo.

Comment by alberto

Hola padre! Pues si, a veces el viaje es duro pero luego cuando llegamos a sitios asi todo merece la pena. Un abrazo muy fuerte.

Comment by albertocuesta

Chizzie retreat looks nice. Wish i could have hung out at Wakky’s bar with you guys. Proud of you Simone for your kayaking, remember ‘left, right, left right’. Did you show Kumbu how to do the spins, turn yourself so your facing the opposite direction and maroon yourself like we did in Laos? :D Did Alberto name his new friend? If not I have called him Ru (pronounced Roo). x

Comment by Valerie McIntosh




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