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Diary of a Volunteer





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Five Go Everywhere...

Four Get Lost in Zomba
A weekend visit to Zomba Plateau goes wrong More...More

Five Go For a Drive
A drive in the country goes wrong More...More

Three On The Way To Monkey Bay
Yet another journey goes wrong More...More

One Goes Swimming
A lakeside swim -last one!- goes wrong More...More

Two Alone at Last!
Everyone leaves - nothing else can go wrong! More...More


Nov. 1995

Andy and Chi Chi in Zomba

This was our first Malawi holiday. It was three weeks of hotel high-life, of mini-bus mayhem, of lounging by the lake, and - with one LAST alliteration - of Game-park gazelles. In the words of Enid Blyton: "5 Go Everywhere!"

(Want to read the introduction to the characters and plot?)

Four Get Lost in Zomba

THE Zomba Plateau is a beautiful collection of rolling hills, quiet streams, and magnificent tree-scapes. It is restful. All who are able to visit us, will be taken there.

On this trip, the cunning plan was to secretly infiltrate the Ku Chawe Inn (or at least get a big discount). Spacious rooms, big breakfasts and a perfect location awaited.

Delightful walks awaited us too. So the first morning, we filled up with fluids and packed the picnic - the four were off; in search of loot! Andy lead. We wandered one way and meandered another, all revealing yet more Zomba glory, and all as per the plan.

That is, until we started to head back: "Straight down!" said Andy, pointing to a well-marked forest path. My inclination said "no!", but the crow overhead squawked "yaaaws!". We all followed Andy down the path, with a happy skip.

The path continued, deeper and deeper into the forest. It grew less marked. None faltered. The path thinned. None faltered. The path stopped. We faltered - for a few anxious moments.

We continued. The undergrowth thickened. We continued. The undergrowth became jungle. We continued slowly, one scratched leg timid behind the other. The jungle stopped. Erm! We stopped too.

We had to stop. With an imminent precipice, all but hidden by the tundra - we had to stop.

Now common sense would tell you to 'go back, retrace your steps until you reach the path, then Keep To The Path!'. But stubbornness, indecisiveness, pride, and anger - they too had answers.

At first we tried to force our way through the dense tangle. It was dense, dense, dense. When that failed, we retraced our steps (with reluctant purpose). We made it back in time, but only just!

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Five Go For a Drive

Rachel had returned, and was ready for her own adventure. We would drive the hired Toyota to Liwonde National Park, gawp awe struck at the game; then, a few days later, proceed onwards to Dedza - land of cheesecake. After Dedza, an advance party would head to Monkey Bay, whilst the others returned the Toyota (in Blantyre). Confused? You should be.

So, all goes well. We see elephants grazing, we see monkeys scurrying, we even see gazelle (I think they're gazelle!). We head off for Dedza - and cheesecake, and pottery.

We head off for Dedza late. The motorway was so long, and so straight. It was hot. "How far had we got?" Our cheesecake stop at Dedza was looking more like a hurried B&B. So - as befits the best-laid plans - a change: skip Dedza, and go direct to Monkey Bay.

It was agreed. Not half an hour from Dedza, mid-afternoon, we left the M1 (yep! the M1) and took a right down the M10. No problems.

No problems! Only that the M10 had become a winding road-to-nowhere. Only that the so-called motorway was more a glorified let's-just-double-check-it-AGAIN dirt road. Only that it hugged the contours of the valley-side, providing hairpin bends, bumps galore, and s l o w progress. Only that the map had fooled us again!

Disoriented, we drove through villages, we searched for landmarks, we hunted for the main road. And when we found it, we still had miles to go. And when we arrived at Monkey Bay there was no place to stay (nowhere we wanted to stay, anyway). And when we drove on to Cape Maclear, it was along another winding (dark) road.

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Three On The Way To Monkey Bay

WE STAYED at the recommended Stephens rest house. (I would recommend it only for those who like to combine sleep, with a night-time sauna. Hot and wet, is an understatement!)

We woke as unhappy campers. And we still had a days driving to Blantyre. "Yes I DO still want coffee - I ordered it half an hour ago!!!"

Now, On The Way To Monkey Bay was the first television program we watched about Malawi. It tells of an old woman's return to Malawi, some fifty years after she left. Aboard the Mtendere, she journeys down the lake, and we see inspirational images of lake-side beauty. (Hence the Ilala trip.)

But as we returned to Monkey Bay the following day, our own television program started to form. We were 'On The Way To Monkey Bay': by taxi and minibus to Zomba; by Express bus to Mangochi [Express - more like Stop-A-Lot!]; and by Express to Monkey Bay.

It wasn't that bad, if you excused the cramp and awkward seating; if you forgot about the fretful waiting for the next bus. It was adventure; a 9-hours-to-get-250-kilometers type of adventure.

(We did get to relive the more appealing television version, some days later.)

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One Goes Swimming

ANDY had listened to gossip, he had read the newspaper, he had perused the in-flight magazine - all had one message: Don't Swim In The Lake! Quite categorically, he wasn't gonna swim in that lake, no way (neither was Chi). Each opportunity tempted, to no avail. Just Say No To Swimming!

So. Why was Andy now swimming one-armed in the lake, fully-dressed, with four foot waves trying to drown him, AND with his other arm desperately clutching his camera?

Yes, the Ilala had stopped at Mang'wina, to pick up passengers. And yes, we had been ship-bound for over 3 days - we needed exercise. And yes we were allowed to go ashore, to explore the lake-side stops.

That explains it then. Andy had got bored with the no-swim regime, and decided to take the plunge in the roughest stretch of lake for miles. To make it tougher, he would only use one arm (the other would hold an expensive camera), and he would swim fully-clothed. No! You don't think so! Then you'll have to ask him yourself. Go on, he tells a good tale, and I have run out of space to even begin to explain...

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Two Alone At Last

SUNDAY at last - the day of departure. Keeping good-byes brief - they packed, they joked, they thanked us; the taxi came, and they went. Simple as that! AND WE SIGHED...!!!... The spooky thing is, we've got to do it all over again next month when our families arrive. Eight of 'em. Get ready for Hurricane Hoggar! End 

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