October 13, 2013

To Likoma

We awoke this morning to a beautiful day and decided to wander back into the main town area in Nhkata Bay for breakfast. Our task today was to soak up some sun, along with a bit of swimming and relaxing, all while enjoying the view – that was, after finding out when the boats departed for Likoma Island. It was a nice walk back from our accommodation to the main town area, kids were everywhere as they headed to school and the roadside shop owners seemed to have had advance notice that we were coming and were waiting for us like lions for prey. We were headed to the port area though, so much to the disappointment of the shop owners, we didn’t stop to browse their wares.

View of Nhkata Bay

View of Nhkata Bay

At the port area we managed to find one nice young man who made it his mission to make sure we had an answer before he left us. He was a rep for a sales and marketing company and had pretty good english skills. After he’d got all the details for us on when the next boat would be leaving (tomorrow), we shouted him breakfast at one of the restaurants near the port area. You can’t plan these moments and while at breakfast, he just happened to hear that there was another (private) boat possibly leaving that day. He gave our details to those people and they were going to call us in about 30mins or so.

Our boat

Our eventual boat

With a possibility of heading off to Likoma later that day, we wandered through the local markets, checked out the post office, banks and supermarkets along the main road while we could. Nhkata Bay is definitely a picturesque town with great views to be had of Lake Malawi from the surrounding hills. Deciding that our contacts were never going to call, we wandered back to our accommodation past the over zealous shop owners trying to sell us their paintings. We weren’t that interested in buying anything – who wants to buy paintings or local crafts at the start of a trip and then cart them around for the rest of the trip? These young guys were always thinking though and asked (well guessed really) where we were staying and said they’d be up with their wares in a few minutes. I honestly thought they were joking, but turns out they weren’t. Never before have I been hassled to buy stuff (from outside store holders) from within the place I’ve been staying. It was definitely odd – where you’re staying is normally a place of refuge from the hassle of over zealous salesmen, but these guys just came right up to where we were sitting and relaxing beside the lake. (And no, I didn’t buy anything, but the others did – their persistence paid off!)

Lake Malawi, Nhkata Bay

Lake Malawi, Nhkata Bay (View from Butterfly Space)

Having given up on this lead for a trip to Likoma today, and after finally getting rid of the salesmen, I started doing some washing, swimming and relaxing on the shores of the crystal clear Lake Malawi at Butterfly Space. Of course as soon as I started doing the washing, we get the call. We’re leaving NOW, are you in or out. Errr… we’re in, but it’s about a 20min walk to the dock, so can you make it 30mins… Surprisingly they agreed so we did the quick pack, checked out and hot footed it to the port as soon as we could. It was all a little mysterious: we had no idea who we were going to meet, no idea where the boat was leaving from – except the port “area” and truthfully – still no idea whether it would actually happen or not.



We found the boat and with nobody anywhere near it, (so we’d hurried for nothing) sat down to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the port area (aka waiting patiently while nothing much was going on). You may wonder, why would we bother with a boat we knew nothing about – well this was a speed boat: the journey was reported to take 3-4 hours instead of 8 hours.

To cut a long story short – we didn’t leave til about 1pm, the journey took about 4.5 hours, with 2 85hp outboard engines and 1 stop at Chizumulu Island. We followed the golden rule in Africa: sometimes it’s better not to ask questions. After our stop at Chizumulu though, we did ask a few – the boat was hired by USAID and it was a trip this boat did regularly (once or twice a month) to deliver USAID medications to remote and underprivileged areas and they often took extra passengers. Good thing nobody was smoking or playing with matches on board, as all the fuel spilt from refueling while moving would surely have exploded at the first spark.

Refilling on the go

Refilling on the go

With the sun now sinking fast, we got to Likoma just on dusk and then had to hike cross country to our accommodation while at Likoma: Mango Drift. It was dark, but even in the dark I was impressed. Malee and I were walking a bit slower, managed to get a little lost and took the long way. But, on arrival a lovely meal of chicken pie and vegies was waiting for us – we were made to feel right at home from the moment we got there.


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