Roadtrip to Malawi – Warm heart of Africa
by Marion Smith
Malawi is beautiful. Vast areas are wild and uninhabited. Peace and tranquility , which city folk struggle to find is in unbundance here. The locals sit and play a marble game called bao The air is clean and the lake a piece of paradise.
The adventure began on Intercape Bus. Now I know I am known for my weakness in bus travel. Travelling by bus gives one the opportunity to sit back and relax & admire the passing scenery. Starring out the window for hours lets you drift off into another world. You can find your inner piece as the subtle hum of the bus evokes your feeling of excitement.
This 2 day bus trip is the best way to get to see our neighbouring countries, it passes through Zimbabwe, into Mozambique over the mighty Zambezi and finally into Malawi where you have a choice of 3 stops. If you ever wanted to collect stamps in your passport then this is how you do it.
Tips for your in Malawi
Intercape – It leaves from Park Station at 8h30 in the morning. Professional and friendly drivers explain at each border stop what to expect. The bus is in great condition, drivers change over every 4 hours so you are assured of having well rested drivers. This is an affordable and comfortable way to travel through 4 countries and admire the African landscape and its people. On board entertainment and reclining chairs add to the comfort of the travel.
Stay at the President Walmont hotel – Located in Lilongwe this stylish and modern hotel is the perfect place for your first night in Malawi. The spacious and luxurious rooms are perfect for kicking off your shoes and relaxing after a long trip. The staff wear the traditional coloured shirts, adding to the feeling of Malawi. The buffet breakfast is delicious with all dishes labeled with their traditional names. You can be forgiven for loosing track of time here if you are sitting outside at the pool, relaxing.
Funky Cichlid – The most popular sundowner spot on the west side of the bay. The sunset on Lake Malawi is breath taking. Many a visitor has arrived and not left. This is the go to spot in Cape Maclear if you want good food, sundowners on a beach, water sports like snorkelling and kayak trips and awesome parties. The service and friendless I experienced here was out of this world. Jen, the general manager arranged everything for me, she even stayed in contact for the rest of my trip providing me with advice around Malawi. Close to this beach resort is the Nature Reserve, definitely worth a visit to see the crystal blue waters at Otters Point and to snorkel. A walk through the local village is full of fun and enterprising Malawians who have creative ways of making a living. My hide away spot at Funky was the hammock , i could sway gently here all day watching the local children sing on the beach and frolic in the waters. Its irresistible, actually addictive.
Norman Carr Cottage – Situated on the Southern lake shore of Lake Malawi this luxury African style lodge with its private beach front was once the home of the legend Norman Carr , who was renowned for his walking safaris in Zambia. This retreat was built for him in the early 1970’s. He would come to this lake house to write, a copy of his book, Return to the Wild can be found in reception about the 2 lions that he adopted & raised and took with him on his travels. This unique lodge is nestled in a quiet spot. The gigantic wild fig tree with hanging chairs and beach loungers was the perfect spot for me to read Normans book while overlooking the crystal blue waters of the lake. A morning boat trip takes you out to see the African fish eagles feed, the men on the boat call them & throw fish out. A sunset cruise is the ideal way to end off a day, bopping up & down on the lake. My spoil here was the signature open air showers, the lush garden and sounds of birds, monkeys and hippos at night fall. The delicious cuisine and warm hospitality provide by Leonie and her team makes your realise why Norman chose this spot all those years ago. Dont forget to mention you are South African when booking to stay here.
Pakachere ( meeting point ) Backpackers – This bright and friendly backpackers with private rooms and onsite restaurant is owned by Annelize and managed by local staff can be found in the Zomba region, a historical town set at the foot of a majestic mountain. Zomba used to be the capital of Malawi until 1975 and is known for its British colonial architecture. The Zomba plateau is a “must do “ activity in this town. With its forest trails, the beautiful Williams falls and sweeping views of surrounding plains. It has the oldest forest reserve in Malawi with a dam and the region is the fruit capital of Malawi. Isaac was my guide and he took me walking in the forest then drove me through the old town where he showed me the old colonial mansions and the Hotel Masongol, which is the most historic hotel in the country built in 1886, opposite the old parliament buildings. A few hundred meters from the backpackers is the beautiful …. church. If you are hungry stop in at Casa Rossa lodge, they serve delicious gelato ice cream and yummy Italian food.
Sunbird Hotel – Leaving beautiful Zomba its about an hours drive to Blantyre. This is the oldest European settlement in Malawi and home to the country’s largest shopping centre and only cinema complex. This hotel is centrally located and has expansive green gardens & a large swimming pool. A flag ship of the government – owned Sunbird Group this is the smartest address in Blantyre.Next door is the Shree Hindu temple, worth a walk through.The Anglican Diocese St Pauls Cathedral , second oldest building in Blantyre built between 1888 – 1891 is a 5 minute walk from the hotel. If you are looking for local crafts pop down to the African craft market and negotiate on the high quality carvings, sculptures and handicraft. Further down Victoria Aveune is the tourist office , this area has the main cluster of old buildings. The oldest is the Old Boma built in 1900 as a court house.
Veg delight Restaurant – This restaurant is unique in that it uses NO meat, poultry or fish products in their recipes. The vegan items contain no egg or dairy products. With an extensive menu, this delicious Indian food is a must. They also have a branch in Lilongwe. They are known for their good good service, cleanliness and quality.
Eat the delicious Chambo fish & slap chips – The local fresh water fish caught in lake Malawi must be the most delicious fish i have ever eaten. Served alongside the national dish called Nsima which is similar to our pap it is best grilled. I was amazed at how often I came across slap chips, they were sold all over, although the potatoes used are such smaller this does not deter from the great taste.
Use local transport – The kabaza, which is a bicycle taxi with padded passenger seats fashioned onto their metal baggage racks line the main roads of each town waiting for customers to hop on for a cheap ride. Some are decorated with number plates and they carry everything from a few family members, to goats, a generator to giant stacks of firewood.
Be local – Buy a brightly coloured chitenje worn by local women. It has many uses and makes for a good keepsake. Dont be in a rush, Malawi functions on Africa time, but there is no need to rush here, it is absolutely beautiful and to be lost in time is perfectly fine. Just about everywhere works with cash so make sure you have enough with you as AtM’S can be a bit tricky to find at times.
Malawi High Commission Pretoria (012 )342 – 0146
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