Cape McClear —> Senga Bay —> Chia Lagoon —> Kande Beach —> Nhkata Bay —> Liwonde
Before we got to Cape McClear, we read that it is a little slice of paradise, likely to lure you in to staying longer than expected. I’d like to report that we resisted the lure…
For the first few nights we camped at The Funky Cichlid, a chilled lodge/beach bar with amazing staff. The gentle waves, clean turquoise waters, selection of restaurants and boating activities were more than enough to fill the days. We even took a boat tour to the nearby islands to swim with the cichlids and watch the fish eagles feed. We decided to upgrade the last night of our stay in the Cape to a private beach chalet, complete with catered morning coffee/tea for a whopping $30/night. Considering you can find camping here for $3.50 pp/night and a meal costs $3-5 – this felt like real a splurge!
Our first impressions of Cape McClear were that it was kind of “touristy”, which isn’t normally a positive attribute to off-the-beaten-track travelers, but it has been impressive to see how the tourism has bolstered the community – not only with job creation but also with fundraising for local initiatives. Twenty years ago there was no potable water or electricity. Now, not only does the area have electricity [or generators when it’s not working], there is also an Irish memorial hospital run by international volunteers, a water project that has delivered drinkable taps, an orphanage, and more. We even had the opportunity to lend a hand painting a classroom that the Funky Cichlid staff were fixing up for the new term – they installed doors and secure windows to prevent theft and broken glass. We’ve discovered how much more sustainable/productive it is to donate to these organizations, rather than giving individual handouts to people on the street.
On our last night, we met up with Simon’s friend Andy, whom he met traveling in Thailand seven years ago. Andy has been working in Malawi to revitalize a rural school for several years, and has recently landed an opportunity with VSO to bring iPad technology into 70+ schools in the area. Because government schools can sometimes have class sizes of up to 140 students per teacher, they have found 30 minutes of daily one-on-one interaction with the iPad for 8 weeks equivalent to 18 months of normal classroom lectures in a Malawian school. Andy [and his awesome co-worker Mike] is now working on an energy-efficient projector prototype that can project the iPad software for an entire class, to make the teaching software accessible to many more schools than would have been funded for iPads.
We had said before coming on this trip that we’d love the opportunity to volunteer. When Andy invited us to join him in Liwonde to volunteer with the school he works with, it was a no-brainer. The only catch was that he was planning to take a few days to vacation up the lake, which meant we had a great excuse to extend our period of relaxation and visit places in Malawi not originally on our route. We were even able to fit our bikes in his car, which was a huge bonus until a police officer at a roadblock told us to pay a $7 fine for carrying “goods” in a “passenger” seat. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it was the principal of paying for something that we should be able to do in a personal vehicle that made us turn around and find a side road that by-passed the police check-point – oops! Other than that hiccup, and Olivia battling some sort of fever-inducing, bowel tickling virus, we had a relaxing time traveling up the stunning Lake Malawi. After almost two weeks of relaxing, we’re more than ready to get back to work – this time at a school!