Thumper…

January 27, 2014

Around Lilongwe

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 8:36 pm
Tags: , , ,
Goats hitching a ride on a bike!

Goats hitching a ride on a bike!

The next couple of days we spent looking around Lilongwe (22-23/5/13), and honestly, there’s not much to see there in terms of tourist type attractions. We’d heard of an “international village” and supposedly the best time to go and visit was Wednesday afternoon’s. We found somebody willing to take us there, one of the ladies from our accommodation who said it was on her way home and she knew where it was. We agreed on a price – good thing to do in those places when you’re going somewhere (and later on this lady came back and wanted more from us). Took us ages to get there and it turns out she didn’t know where it was… On the plus side we got a good tour of the more upper class part of Lilongwe! When we finally did find it, it was all suspiciously very devoid of people actually moving around. They were all gathered in one place, at a feast. The village itself was closed for a private function. Oops! Oh well. Turns out it was not an international village so much as an aid organisation that did occasionally host cultural nights and events at this place called Kumbali Village. That presented us with a new challenge though – how to actually get back into town – there were no taxis out this way. Thankfully the guy in charge was great and spoke really good english – not sure whether he was an Australian or not, I can’t remember now. Anyway, he offered the services of one his workers, who would be happy to take us to the place where the taxis leave as long as we gave him a tip. That sounded like a plan to us, so we spent some time looking round while we were there. They had a nice gift shop with some varied souvenirs in it and it was good to know that all the proceeds went to a good cause.

Bridge near Kumbali Village

Bridge near Kumbali Village

Our day actually took a turn for the better then. There were some young girls (18-20) who were over in Malawi volunteering here who had been staying at and working with the organisation at Kumbali and they were about to head into town. We joined in with them, and got to see some of the work that they’d been doing while they were here: Some teaching in the schools, establishing some permaculture gardens and teaching the ladies about it, raising pigs and working with the school and very young children. It was good to see the ladies being willing to learn so that eventually they can create an income for themselves and have a way of supporting them and their families.

Local lady planting seedling

Local lady planting seedling

Then, finished the afternoon off with a nice ice cream! It turned out to be a good afternoon, after it looked like all may have been lost earlier on. For something different we ate at the peacock place just around the corner from the Korea Garden Lodge where we were staying. The food and service was ordinary, so the next night we were back at our favourite haunt – Korea Garden Lodge!

Ahh, ice cream

Ahh, ice cream

The last day in Lilongwe was just going to be an easy day heading down to the new town area to have a look there. First plan was to catch a mini bus taxi. Unfortunately just as we were trying to find the taxi, some guys started hassling us, trying to get us to buy things. We jumped on the first mini bus taxi, which we thought was the right one. Turned out it wasn’t and instead we had a tour of the poorer area of town. It looked a lot like Uganda and the back streets of Kampala there, although a lot less dusty! The taxi does a loop and on the way back they decided to drop us off at another taxi rank so we could catch a taxi to our original destination. Only problem with that was an official taxi rank – not the mini bus taxi rank and the prices they wanted were a little absurd for what we knew was a short trip. So we opted to walk, of course, getting lost!

Cavalcade, Lilongwe

Cavalcade, Lilongwe

At one point on the busy main road, it suddenly went very quiet. The absence of traffic in both directions caught our attention and we wondered what was going on. Next thing a cavalcade comes tearing through, obviously with somebody important on board. We stopped quite a few times and asked for directions, finally wandering past the Parliament building, the gardens near the building and eventually making it to the university area where we found a place to eat. The little cafe loved having us there and service was excellent. There’s not that much to see around the new town area – it’s more the business area, so we caught a mini bus taxi back to the old town area (much much quicker to get home), stocked up on a few last minute souvenirs and supplies at the old town supermarkets, met up with our old “friends” from earlier that day who had tried to sell as things as we were boarding the taxi and finally headed back to the Korea Garden Lodge.

Washing hands for lunch

Washing hands for lunch

I was taken by the cakes available in the supermarkets and purchased a swiss roll to take to Uganda with me. Not very practical, but if it tasted as good as it looked, it was going to be worth it! (And for the record, it did taste as good it looked!) Another of the interesting things we found in the supermarket was Baobab juice, being juice from the baobab tree. It looked interesting and being brave, we decided to get some and try it. Of course we weren’t going to do it alone and when we caught up with Andy and Malee end enjoyed a lovely final meal together, it was accompanied by the baoba juice. It was extremely thick, didn’t have us all running back for seconds, but was bearable enough to get down.

Shamwari Juice, Baobab Juice...

Shamwari Juice, Baobab Juice…

Our flight to Uganda was the next day – and our taxi driver had us booked in so that we could “beat the traffic”. We sure did beat the traffic and wound up spending about 3-4 hours hanging around the airport. Good thing we had more security checks than normal to keep us occupied. Our taxi driver had told us that there was somebody important travelling today – possibly the president, so all the staff were dressed in their best and were being very official about all their duties. And on that note, the Malawian part of my adventure ended. A lovely country, one that I would definitely like to return to, I loved the weather, the people were mostly fairly friendly, mostly left you alone and didn’t hassle you like they do in other African countries (esp Uganda) and it was a fairly safe place to be.

Flying over Malawi - So dry

Flying over Malawi – So dry

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January 26, 2014

Farewell Likoma Island

Unfortunately, the time had come to leave Likoma and Mango Drift. We were actually planning on staying another day, but nobody could tell us for sure whether a boat would be leaving on Tuesday or not. All we and anybody else knew for sure was that there was one leaving today (Monday) and Wednesday. It was hard to argue with the theory that it may be good to have a day spare if the bus breaks down or something else happens, so rather reluctantly I agreed with Ev to depart today rather than Wednesday. I think she was glad to be going, me I could’ve had a few days more there for sure! Unfortunately that meant we also left behind Andy and Malee who had a few more extra days in Malawi before heading over to Vic Falls. We were hopefully we’d meet them back at our accommodation in a few days before we both moved on though, and that proved to be the case.

Sunrise

Sunrise

Now that rather suddenly my last morning in Likoma was upon me, I was up early to see another marvelous sun rise. While I love sun rises, I’m not the best morning person, but with the warm weather and not having to actually “do” anything, I found getting up in the morning a bit easier. So I watched the sun rise, or rather the effects of the sun rise as the sun rises on the opposite side of the island, and again, just marveled at the cool and stillness of the morning. My breakfast was the Likoma usual – banana honey pancakes, minus the honey as between us we’d cleared them out of honey! Unfortunately I ended up feeling rather green and the breakfast didn’t stay down: I’ll put that down to the malaria tablet and I have since learned my lesson to make sure that I take it after, not before, I eat. I was really not looking forward to a full 8 hour boat ride.

Breakfast!

Breakfast!

Kevin at Mango drift was really good to us (as he had been for our whole stay) – took us around to Kaya Mara in the boat (the boat I had been kayaking around the last few days and the one that appears in most of my shots of Lake Malawi from the shores of Mango Drift), then we grabbed the vehicle from there and got a ride into the dock. Of course nobody knew when the boat to Nhkata Bay was going to go, just that it would. We watched as loads and loads of dry fish were carried on by the young boys. I was wondering where it would all go, but the boat was deceptively small from the outside and there was actually a fair bit of room inside when I took a look.

Our vehicle to the dock

Our vehicle to the dock

The captain was nowhere to be seen, he was off having “tea”. Tea at 8am was a little odd, but tea was explained as code for off visiting the ladies. However when he did arrive, he ensured that our stuff was stowed safely and that we had a good place to sit. Finally the boat left – we had a good 7-8 hours sailing ahead of us and no stops on the way. That’s what we thought anyway. Once we did get underway, we almost did a lap of the whole island, stopping at a few places along the way, including just off the area near the Hunger Clinic where we had been a few days ago, to pick up more cargo and passengers. It was interesting loading these big bales of fish from boat to boat and watching the young boys in the dugout canoes was pretty amazing. They were standing in them – I couldn’t even sit in one the other day without it toppling over! (They did tell me that the canoe was dodgy, I’ll take that). A stop at Chizumulu Island proved to be the last and those that needed actually had a chance to use a toilet.

Fish anyone?

Fish anyone?

In Australia we’ve often seen the pictures of people from Indonesia arriving in boats as they try to come to Australia. Well, the boat we were in looked just like that. You can see why and how so many people drown in those things. Conditions were ordinary – we did have some cover from the sun, which everyone was grateful for, and while there was a toilet at the back, I was not keen on using it at all – in fact it wasn’t until later in the trip, near the end, that a few brave locals used it – you know something must be a little ordinary if even the locals are avoiding it. I was on the edge of the boat and being white, the locals also kept a bit of distance from us too, which admittedly I didn’t mind because I had some room to stretch out. Near the beginning of the trip, I looked over the edge and tried to get my hand in the water to cool down. I was miles from the water and I remember thinking if I actually touch that, surely I’d have to be mighty close to actually falling in, rolling over or sinking. Well, during the trip, my hand met with the water many times. The boat was rocking around like a cork in a shaken bottle and at one point the guy in front of me was throwing up over the side. It was an interesting trip – nobody really talked much to anyone, the noise of the motor drowned out most attempts at conversation anyway, and people seemed to make themselves comfortable however the could.

Enjoying the ride!

Enjoying the ride!

I was glad to see land after about 8 hours on the boat, but even unloading proved to be an interesting affair. Normally you would get off in an orderly manner, then have somebody unload the cargo… Nope. Nothing like that. It was pretty much every man for himself, and with the boat pulled up parallel to the dock the whole side of the boat was “an exit”. As well as that, virtually everyone on the dock actually got on the boat to help unload the boat as well, leaving the boat dangerously lopsided. We decided to make a dash for it and while it was a great experience (and yes I’d do it again), I was more than happy to leave the boat, chaos and confusion behind!

The chaos of unloading

The chaos of unloading

We negotiated more chaos in the main street and ended up staying that night at Big Blue Star Backpackers in Nhkata Bay. I’m not sure I’d recommend this – in fact we sent a message through to Andy and said find somewhere else! It wasn’t totally bad, at least the showers were warm, but I’m glad it didn’t rain as I’m sure the roof would’ve leaked and looking through the holes in the floor through to the rocks below was a little unnerving. We ate that night in one of the local restaurants – service was good and food was a typical African meal – but can’t remember the name of the place.

Shrug, it's just a window!

Shrug, it’s just a window!

The next day was spent on the bus back to Lilongwe with our Punctual Reliable and Friendly coaches – AXA Bus Company. And would you believe it, we broke down! Thankfully it wasn’t far from Salima – apparently AXA have two bus mechanics to service their fleet all over the country, one based in Salima and the other in Lilongwe. The one from Salima just happened to be in town and was able to come out and get us going again. Of course I’d hate to be the driver who apparently didn’t check that his bus had the necessary oil and water it needed…

Help is on its way!

Help is on its way!

While we were stopped, Ev asked a local to show her to a toilet. He took us on a short tour of the laneways, past people cooking, their houses, shops and backyards. On arrival at his personal toilet, there were about 5 or 6 people building around outside, and the toilet (and anyone using it) in full view of those guys. Not suprisingly Ev got cold feet and the poor young guy was left wondering what was wrong when she wouldn’t use it!

Chooks and bongos on the bus

Chooks and bongos on the bus

The bus ride was another interesting trip – by and large the locals gave us a wide berth but we were grateful to the young guy who had travelled a bit and could speak reasonable english and kept us informed of what was happening. He had an interesting story and along with his cargo of about a dozen bongos, it was looking like he’d have to spend the night at the Salima bus stop as he’d missed his connection. We were quite surprised that he was relying on the buses running on time to get his connection. He was quite surprised that our trip UP had taken 12 hours and that excluding the delay, we were still running late now!

Between Salima and Lilongwe

Between Salima and Lilongwe

The countryside between Nhkata Bay and Salima tells a tale of a country in poverty and of a hard life lived on the land. Largely the people are doing it tough, the houses and clothes speak of very little money and food, there doesn’t look to be much farming activity undertaken and the areas around look very dry. Despite that, it is a country I’d love to visit again, it’s safe and the people are generally very friendly.

January 13, 2014

Likoma Island Day 3-4

Awoke to another great sunrise and I think I managed to catch it again – it’s always much easier to get out of bed when it’s warm in the morning! Day 3 was Saturday (11/05/13) – and I could hear the hammock calling. While the others headed off for a hike, Malee and I spent some quality time with the hammocks, hung underneath a few of the trees. I spent some time reading, wrote a couple of songs (lost in the book that was later stolen – more later) and of course I’m sure I had a bit of a sleep there too. All too soon the others were back and our peace and quiet was interrupted. Still, the hammock time would have to be one of the highlights and they did bring news that they’d found somewhere that served dessert!

View from my window

View from my window

After the usual pizzas for lunch, the rest of the day was spent in a similar vein, although the hammocks were in the sun in the arvo, so it was back to the nice big common area under the mango tree! A bit of kayaking in the arvo when it cooled down, another great sunset and the day was done and dusted.

Kayaking near sunset

Kayaking near sunset

Sunday came – and we decided to head into St Peters Cathedral to hear the singing in the cathedral. Malee though, had promised we’d drop into one of the workers church – the smaller St Marks at the south end of the island. Best thing was they said – it wasn’t far from here – just over the hill, a few minutes away!! Africans don’t have much idea of time and it took us about an hour to get there. We stayed for a while before heading to our original destination, St Peters – which was at the other end of the island. That too, was just up the road, so another hour later we got there. I’m a slow walker anyway, perhaps even a bit slower in warm weather when I’m on holidays. Maybe I was slowing the others down and that was why it took so long – I dunno!

Road up the center, heading north (An excuse to rest!)

Road up the center, heading north (An excuse to rest!)

Anyway, we eventually got there, it was jam packed but they found space for us in some seats at the back – which I felt really bad about. The singing was good, one a hymn I knew, but couldn’t quite remember the words to. I enjoyed it, I love attending church in other countries, but I must admit, I did look longingly at the pentecostal church as I heard the singing coming from there as I walked past it on my way to the cathedral. However, that would have to wait til Uganda.

From there we headed to Ulisa Bay Lodge, on the west of the island for some lunch, at least the walk to here was fairly flat as it was starting to warm up. Can definitely recommend the food there, the view was also pretty good (as it was everywhere). The staff at Balisa bay were a bit fascinated by our desire for sweets, so not only did they do up an excellent one for our lunch, but when we enquired about some to take away, they did everything they could to help us, even finding a little toothpick jar to put the cream in. The hike back to Mango Drift was another hour, excellent scenery along the way, a brilliant blue sky and baobab trees, although at some point we thought it was going to pour. The main problem there if it did rain was our precious cargo of sweets – we did not want to walk back and get more! Some kids kept us company for a while, but all they wanted was money or lollies so when we didn’t oblige, they soon left. The staff at Mango Drift were quite willing to store our sweets in the fridge for us, which was really good.

West Side, near Ulisa Bay

West Side, near Ulisa Bay

Some time in the kayaks and swimming in the crystal clear warm blue water and another excellent sunset, with a lovely communal meal finished another day on Likoma, which unfortunately was to be the last.

Sunset

Sunset

January 12, 2014

Likoma Island Day 2

Filed under: Trips — pearsey @ 6:52 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Day 2 looked a lot like day 1 – except that today was a Friday! Lovely weather to begin the day with, which of course stayed that way the whole day. The locals are always up at first light, doing their best to get the days work done in the cool of the morning, before hibernating once it gets too hot. The washing is done, fishing nets attended to, anything else is taken care of too.

Sunrise and off to work

Sunrise and off to work

We headed off in the morning to find St Peters Cathedral, the third largest cathedral in Central Africa. Andy was sure he could remember the way and of course we believed him. I’m sure an hours hike became about 3, as we followed little goat tracks all over the north part of the island, each preceded with a comment “I’m sure it was this one”. Anyway, never mind, we had a good tour of the long dry grass on the island! Interesting, even the long grass is used, we would slash and burn it, they collect it and it’s woven into their huts.

Carrying the grass

Carrying the grass

The cathedral certainly wasn’t that spectacular when you compare it to any that I see every day. But when you consider that here we are, on an island in the middle of Africa, it certainly is a stunning achievement. There’s actually another cathedral on the island as well, similar in style, but a lot smaller. There were one or two people willing to show us around while we were there, so we had a good tour of that. Not surprisingly there were still parts of it that were unfinished, as most cathedrals often are, and many parts have had or will need restoration work at some point.

St Peters Cathedral from the West Side

St Peters Cathedral from the West Side

It wasn’t quite lunch time when we made it to the town center – the part of the town where the market is on the east side of the island. Instead we took a look at the boats to Mozambique, a mere 7kms away, and had a snack at the Hunger clinic – so called because it’s meant to fix your hunger, just like a doctors clinic should fix your body.

Fishing boats toward Mozambique

Fishing boats toward Mozambique

We wandered back through the rest of the town – mainly trying to be back at Mango Drift by lunch to beat the heat. Evidence of lack of rainfall was everywhere – far too many crops planted but never able to grow. Ironic given a permanent water source just meters away from the crops that die from lack of water. Sadly many stories are told of offers of help to make the locals more self-reliant, but perhaps through a lack of will power on their behalf, the changes needed and help offered are never embraced.

Road to the west of the island

Road to the west of the island

After our trip into town, the rest of the day was spent lazing around near the beach – well, in the shade under the big mango tree. Once it cooled down I jumped on the kayaks again and spent a bit of time on the crystal blue water, before watching another sunset.

Lazy Afternoon

Lazy Afternoon

Another lovely day.

January 6, 2014

Chistmas Haul

Filed under: Idle Ramblings — pearsey @ 7:39 pm

Christmas rolled around again, I got to spend time with family, managed not to eat too much and again got a few good presents. So just to continue the tradition, here’s my Christmas haul for last year (2013).

  • Two jumpers
  • Two squash grips
  • Two OTG micro usb to usb cables
  • Ken Duncan – Lifes An Adventure book
  • George Foreman Mix & Go
  • Toilet roll holder
  • Assorted things to eat and a hamper
  • 2 rolls of lunchwrap
  • Alaskan Calendar
  • Tape measures
  • A couple of candle holders made by Dad and another dish
  • USB power bank
  • Torch
  • Air Turn BT-105 Hands Free Page Turner

Basically, the air turn connects over bluetooth to your tablet device and then as you play through your music, you use the foot pedals to advance or go back a page. Sure looking forward to giving this a run this week when I’m playing guitar at church.

It’s Lemon Time!

I seem to have an abundance of lemons around at the moment, and finally with a bit of time on my hands, I’ve got back into some cooking. No prizes for guessing what the primary ingredient was.
To start with, I made some Succluent Honey and Lemon Chicken. Quite simply – take some lemon juice, honey, rosemary, garlic and butter, combine it all and cook until it smells good. Poor that over some chicken pieces and cook for an hour or so. I didn’t get a photo, it was gone too quick! The juices were too good to waste, so with the leftover stock, I actually made a chicken mince stew a few days later. Will definitely make the lemon and honey chicken again, it was really easy and tasted good.

To go with that, I needed some dessert for the visitors, so I went hunting for some cherry recipes, as I had plenty of them lying around as well. I found this: Frozen cherry yogurt pie. I made a couple of them and took one to work as well. All reviews were favourable, however it definitely needs to sit out of the freezer longer than the recommended 5 minutes. Again – quick and easy: Grab some yogurt (recipe says vanilla yoghurt, but I used natural yogurt with some added vanilla), honey, cinnamon, mix it together, put it in a pie base and whack it in the freezer. So easy! The pre-made pie bases I bought weren’t quite big enough though, so all of the left over yogurt mix went into a container and into the freezer. So now I have some frozen cherry yogurt to eat on nice hot summer days as well. Next time I make it I might try and make my own base though, or halve the yogurt part of the recipe.

Frozen Cherry Pie

Frozen Cherry Pie

Back on the lemon theme, I went for gooey lemon squares and a lemon cake.

Gooey Lemon Squares, recipe from All Recipes.

    For the base:

  • 1 3/4 cups (220g) plain flour
  • 1/2 cup (90g) icing sugar
  • 185g butter, softened
    For the lemon filling:

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups (350g) caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons icing sugar for decoration

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Grease a 20cm x 30cm x 5cm deep baking pan. Combine the base ingredients and pat dough into prepared pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until slightly golden. While the crust is baking, whisk together eggs, caster sugar, flour and lemon juice until frothy. Pour this lemon mixture over the hot base. Return to the preheated oven for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until light golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Dust the top with icing sugar and cut into squares.

Mine didn’t quite come out of the tin, despite the baking paper on the bottom and is now all cracked on the top after my efforts. But next day, after overnight in the fridge, it seems to be coming out ok. It tastes quite good, although with all that sugar you definitely only need a small piece at a time.

Gooey Lemon Squares

Gooey Lemon Squares

Lemon Drizzle Cake, again from AllRecipes.

  • 125g butter or margarine
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 185g self raising flour
  • a pinch of baking powder
  • 1 lemon, rind grated and juiced
  • 1/4 cup milk, or as needed
  • 4 tablespoons icing sugar

The best thing about this is – put everything bar the icing sugar and lemon juice in together, mix it up and put it in the oven to bake (180 deg). I didn’t quite follow the recipe – I didn’t do the drizzling. Instead I put in some extra flour (about 1/2 an ounce extra), put around about 1/4 cup of lemon juice into the cake, extra milk and mixed that altogether. It has a lovely lemon taste and is not too dry. Don’t know why it didn’t rise though!

Lemon Cake

Lemon Cake

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