Monday, November 5, 2012

Malawi Trip - Part II

I left you hanging with the beginning of my encounter with the hippos of Liwonde during our canoe safari… we were so close to them! We just quietly canoed on by, and although we got some seemingly dirty looks (but who can really read a hippos face?) we passed by safely. It was a beautiful view of the river and the park from where we were canoeing. Mike, photog extraordinaire, took a billion pictures which will hopefully be updated to facebook soon for your viewing pleasure. I couldn’t even name all the animals we saw (and that Mike has pictures of), we saw a lot of the smaller type of animals.

UNTIL… we turn our canoes around and begin to head back the direction we came, when we see, a small herd of elephants feeding themselves in a field. We have to stop our canoes, because the path we need to go thru is too close to the elephants- and the facts are, although elephants are beautiful and majestic creatures (my personal favorites) they will stomp the shit out of you if you bother them. And I guess they’ve earned it, being the biggest land mammal on Earth and all. So we sit in our canoes, watching the elephants eat… for awhile. More than a half hour passes, and our canoe guides take some safe efforts to force the elephants to leave- namely, tapping the side of our canoes with the oars. [Ideally] just bothersome enough to send the elephants away, but not so bothersome that they will desire to stomp us.

Another half hour passes with our subtle oar tapping. Elephants show no sign of moving. Our guides start talking amongst themselves between our canoes, apparently discussing what we should do. They decide… to move on,  and head toward camp. We’ve been stopped in our canoes for more than an hour, so I guess it’s just time to move on… much to Kate and I’s fear. Mike was desensitized to the danger of elephants as he had just ridden a domesticated one in Zambia. Kate and I on the other hand, were quite fearful. As quietly as we could possibly be, our guides paddle our boats forward as Kate and I duck down into our boats, in pathetic attempts to hide/keep an eye on the elephants, should they decide to head towards us to stomp us. We moved very, very slowly, but eventually, we’re in the clear, out of view of the elephants and we can begin to chat again. Mike asks his canoe guide if he can paddle back the rest of the way, as we are nearby now. Mike takes over paddling when his guide says “There might be elephants around the corner” and my canoe’s guide says “alipo”, which means, “it’s there”, and we look up, and see in the near distance a baby elephant. Cue Kate and I’s desperate ducking, we paddle by, and make it back to camp before a full on panic attack is induce. Whew!!

It was a very exciting safari that was TOTALLY worth the money ($20!!!). We were exhausted from all the sun exposure (even with our awesome hats) so we went to get lunch in town, and have some drinks by the river (where we could watch the hippos have their meetings at a safe distance). It was a really wonderful stop on our trip and Kate was a wonderful host!! Thank you Kate!!!

The next day we headed to Zomba- the former capital of Malawi. It is a very developed area, with a big university, lots of NGOs, businesses, and the famous Zomba Plateau. My friend Gibran lives in Zomba town and hosted us for the night most comfortably in his very fancy loft apartment. We had brownies and watched tv!! The plan was for Mike and I the next day to head to the plateau to camp the next night, so it was nice to live it up fancy style before our overnight camping trip.

The next morning we repacked our bags and shopped for some food supplies to take with us camping. We headed to the base of the Zomba plateau and began the walk up.. it’s a paved road all the way up (there are less developed paths, but we knew the road would take us to our camp site). We walked for a bit of it but then we were easily able to hitch a ride all the way to our camp site, the Trout Farm- the site of a fish farming operation in progress. The ride was beautiful. Zomba plateau houses a very full and green forest reserve, and a beautiful dam. Again, Mike gladly took pictures. We set up camp and then set out to hike some more- there is a big loop of a hiking path around the top of the plateau, supposedly 7 hours. Mike and I packed some bread and peanut butter to take with us to eat on our long hike. Using Mike’s impeccable sense of direction we were able to just wing it- although our hike had no big “end point” or destination, we stopped at some beautiful sites and enjoyed the exercise. We also may or may not have left our initials carved in a tree stump somewhere.

We got back to camp to find someone selling fresh raspberries harvested from the plateau- we gladly bought the whole bowl and destroyed them immediately. Delicious!! So yummy!!! I’ve never really considered myself a berry person but these were delicious. As the sun began to set, we met some fellow campers- a swiss couple with an AMAZING truck that turned into a residence. It looked much more comfortable and warm than our dinky (yet awesome) tent. We started a big fire to cook and for warmth- and enjoyed a dinner of delicious ramen noodles and soya pieces. It was a wonderful evening of chatting around a campfire, who doesn’t love that? Unfortunately, when we headed to bed, we found we weren’t as prepared for the drop in temperature that comes with being on top of the plateau. We were quite cold, the difference in temperature between the plateau and town was astounding.

But we survived!!! We were tired from our not so great sleep, but we packed up and headed down the mountain. We did not luck out so much on the way down- we had to walk the entire way, which was a little rough (but made me appreciate the ride we got up that much more). On our way down we stopped at Casa Rosa, a new Italian restaurant, where we had chocolate crepes and fruit salad. It was random, and delicious. We headed back to Gibran’s to get our things together and for a rest, and that afternoon, we set off to Blantyre- the biggest city in Malawi, located in the southern region.