24 days, August 09
Kind of travel:
me and my girlfriend Elisa in an independent travel
08th Aug- 02nd Sept09
I need a visa?: as EU citizien you don't. It'll
be just a stamp on the passport for free
I moved: super-overcrowded buses and minibuses gets
everywhere, and in the remote areas the pick up (in the back!)
turns the only option, while bike-taxi is quite common by few
(4-5) km's. The once per week Ilala ferry suhtlling lake Malawi
should be taken into consideration
or baking?: perfect temperature ranging from 18C to
26C, but in the very early morning or in the night consider
to wear a medium thick sweater. In the mountains temperatures
I slept: guesthouses ask 12-20€ for a double room,
but places are in quite run-down with low standards; water is
often given in buckets
I liked: the remote atmosphere of the town of
Mangochi, the travel to Chiponde in the back of the pick up
on the hairpin-bends of the moutains through the muslim villages
and then to the Moz. border by bike-taxi along the red gravel
What I disliked:
the getto-like white-managed places on the lake Malawi and the
total domain of the cell phone company when people don't even
have the electricity in the house, but the cell phone!
daily: Malawi smallness helps the budget but still
transport'll be an expense (2.5h squeezed in minibus: 5€/
each). hence transp+ accomm+ food is around 25€ each per
day. Anyway for sure it'll come cheaper than Zambia
you do need:
if you travel cheap carry your mosquito net and the stuff to
put up with travelling in the back of the trucks as a wind-jacket,
a cap or a bandana to cover the hair from the dust. Flash lamp
is a must
It was a hassle-free crossing the one from Chipata to Lilongwe.
After the custom it's few minutes drive by shared taxi to Mchinji,
from where frequent minibuses in 1h travel shuttle to the capital.
Lilongwe turned out nicer than Lusaka, nevertheless, as we did,
you might prefer to save the time for the Lake Malawi. In fact
we reached Salima in 3h bus, where we got dropped off in the
darkness then using our flash-lamp to find the way to the essential
but friendly Mwambiya Lodge (16$ for a double). The next day
we left our backpacks here venturing to Senga bay. Frankly we
freaked out being once again packed like hell in the back of
the pickup and taking more than 1h to cover the only 30km. Senga
bay didn't particularly impressed me and on the beach I didn't
feel at ease, even if the lake is still a must-to-be-seen highlight.
We had a rest at Cool Running lodge, surely a pleasant place
but with a kind of white men ghetto feel. Hence we fed up quite
quickly, and jumping from one crowded minibus to a stinky other
in Salima, Balaka and Liwonde, after 5h we were pulling into
This nice small town somehow reminded me Chipata in Zambia;
with its real African vibe and rightly sized between a city
(usually dangerous and chaotic) and a village (usually just
a street with nothing to do). In addition Mangochi is settled
on the lush green bank of the Shire river effluent of Lake Malawi;
the last but not the least here we saw the first historical
monument of the trip, the Queen Victoria Tower Clock placed
at the centre of the main roundabout!
The town is a throw of stone from the border with Mozambique,
but once again the theoretically easy travel turns in an adventure.
In Mangochi we waited a while before the back of the pick up
got filled with at least 15 people and their belongings including
a bike, several huge rice bags, chickens, mother breastfeeding
The road, snaking on the mountains, is very scenery, but don't
expect to enjoy, since you'll be busy struggling to defend the
room for your legs.
1h later we reached Namwera, everybody dropped off and we thought
no more surprises could happen. Once again we were wrong: the
jeep parked aside to a store, and few people started loading
some huge metal sheets sticking out meters from the car, on
top off the driver towed a motorbike (with the rider on it)
by a rope tied to its handle and the metal sheets. I was sure
he'd have fell down, in particularly when the jeep braked and
the rope would have twisted in the motorbike wheels
the end we did few km's, and everything went amazingly smoothly.
Again we thought we had seen everything, but once arrived in
Chiponde we had literally been assaulted by a crowd of young
taxi-bike drivers begging to be recruited to take us for the
3km's left up to the border.
After being given the stamp out of Malawi we picked two drivers
and along the dirty red road in the most rural area we have
passed, we enjoyed the most impressive leg of the whole travel.
IMPRESSIONS ABOUT MALAWI
Surely helped by the fact that we just quickly crossed the
country in few days, Malawi didn't particularly impress me.
It's a tiny country with this huge lake, however difficult
to enjoy unless you don't hire a boat. Hence I left the country
with a kinda of impression Malawi's mainly a jumping point
for travelling in the nearby countries, though the short distances,
the cheapness (at least compared to Zambia) and the friendly
English-speaking locals make the travel in Malawi easily enjoyable
like being in South-East Asia.