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Getting from Mandimba to the border was a funny ordeal because it was done on bicycles, well on the back of bikes to be honest. So there the four of us were being peddled slowly to the border, the girls had heavy bags so on hills it was a bit tough, and I’m not exactly the lightest guy, but they made it and we got through the borders with no hassle. At the Malawi border we met an Irish guy who lives in Lilongwe, he offered to take us to the turn of for the Lake of Stars venue since he was heading past after making a quick stop to see one of his friends.
His friends lived in a beautiful estate up on a mountain overlooking the lake, a Scottish Malawi couple with hippy tendencies. They were setting up a lodge and camping grounds, they had built some lovely facilities with an outside shower, rondavels (huts) and hiking trails. We spent about two hours up on the mountain, chatting and enjoying the scenery; we got our first look at the lake. Then we were off, down and around the lake, through the town of Mandimba up the shore where we got dropped off at the turn off to the festival. Back on the backs of some bicycles we got to the festival, bought our tickets and headed to the campsite.
The campsite was right by the festival grounds on the shore of the lake, a beautiful setting, apart from thousands of ants that were firmly in control of a large part of the area. We managed to find a nice patch of sand that the ants seemed to have yet to take and pitched the tents. Bilharzias is a parasitic disease spread by freshwater snails, it can cause some damage to your insides, and it is known to be quite prevalent in Lake Malawi. But it was hot and there was no way I wasn’t going swimming, so I headed for the water, fresh, clean and refreshing, if the bottom wasn’t muddy it would have been perfect. I spent the rest of the afternoon having a nap, grabbing something to eat (French fries or “Irish Potatoes” as they are called in Malawi) and just relaxing before the music got going in the evening.
We had a great time; the music was a fantastic mix from International acts like foals and Goldierocks to a huge selection of African groups from all over, with some great performances from Freshlyground and Black Missionaries. Freshlyground is the South African group that preformed the 2010 FIFA World Cup Song Waka Waka with Shakira; they were great on stage, awesome stage presence and a good mix of music.
It was a bit of mix of ups and down, but the atmosphere was a pretty relaxed one, there was local food stalls outside the gates, the beach, three stages with a good mix of music. So, I spent the time sleeping, eating, chilling out during the afternoon and then partying at night.
Unfortunately, Emily started to feel sick when we arrived on Friday and then found out it was Malaria, so she was out of commission for the whole time and the girls decided to go straight to Lilongwe after the festival and rest for a day before their flight. The Lake of Stars festival went from Friday after noon until Sunday evening, Kat and I stayed until midday Sunday, we decided to head up the lake to Cape Maclear to see a bit more of the coast.
We hitched without much issue up to Monkey Bay before jumping on truck heading to Cape Maclear; we arrived in the evening and found backpackers. Since I began SCUBA diving I have always wanted to dive in Lake Malawi and I finally got to do it while also passing the 50th dive milestone. I dived with Frogman divers and it was just me and the dive master, we did two dives. The water was warm and clear, and it was just a short boat trip to the sites. The first site was on a purpose sunk wreck and the second was around a rock reef. The were both very beautiful sites it their own way, the bottom was a simple brown rock floor with boulders spread around, but the fish were gorgeous with such vivid colours. Also, it was my first dive in fresh water and it was so refreshing and easy, and surfacing without the taste of salt was great. I would recommend it.
Spent two nights at Cape Maclear, there were hammocks on the beach which were great to swing in and read with the shore live providing a continuous entertainment. I met a British guy who is a school teacher that is taking a year of to cycle up from Cape Town to raise money and awareness for a school in Zambia. The stories you hear on the road are damn interesting and you meet people from all over doing a wide array of things.
From Cape Maclear we headed to Blantyre where I said goodbye to Kat who left to fly out back to the States via a pretty impressive route. It was very nice having her come to visit and to get to catch up. Because I had been to Blantyre I just chilled out for two nights before I left to head back to Mozambique. I did the same route I did before and got to Tete in Mozambique with the average Africa travel difficulties.
I was heading to Manica to help another volunteer, Stephen, out with a workshop for his organisation. I had time to spend two nights in Tete though and used my full day there to head out to the Cahora Bassa Dam, the fifth largest dam in the world. I took a chapa to the closest town and then hitched out to the damn. The area surrounding the dam was picturesque and the lake was calm and clear. I spent some time by the lake before heading back to Tete by hitching in the back of a pickup truck.
The next day I found out that the only chapas running to Chimoio left early in the morning and I had missed them. So, I looked for other options, I was able to get a lift in the cab of a tractor trailer, it took longer than any other transport I had taken but it was comfortable, and I got to chat with the driver. Finally got to Chimoio in the afternoon and met the volunteers Stephen and Pru who are based in the area. I caught up with them before Stephen and I left to head to Manica where he lives, a short 30mins away. So, I arrived in Manica in the evening and checked into my hotel (VSO funded workshop so I got a nice hotel, hot water and everything). Tomorrow I’m heading into Stephen’s office to get setup for the workshop on Monday, so I guess back to work now, but its different work and I am excited to get to it.