Our intrepid traveller; a client’s account of Africa – Part 5

Malawi Background: There are 12 million people in the small country; 1/2 million in the capital so there must be a lot of people per square kilometer in the rest of the country.

There are 12 tribes. Chewa is the largest and is in Tanzania and Mozambique as well. It is their language, Chechewa that is the national language but The Queen’s English is taught in school and widely spoken. Others are Yawo, Sena , Lomwe in the Southern and central areas. Northern tribes are Ngonei, Tumvuka, Tonga, Ngonde, Lambiya, and Sukwa. I don’t know what the other 2 are. Some tribes have the wife going to the husband’s home after a dowery to the bride’s parents and the children would stay with the father in case of a divorce. Others have the husband going to live with the wife’s parents and the children would stay with the wife in case of a divorce. There is no dowery. The husband is just for procreation! In Michael’s case, his is a matrilineal tribe, the Lambiya. He is the chief’s oldest son, but his children would NOT inherit the Chiefdom. His sister’s son(s) would. And in times past, he would have had to pay for her kids schooling to be sure they went to the right schools and had the best education while his kids would have been taken care of by an uncle who wouldn’t necessarily do right by them.

Malawi is chiefly an agricultural country with very little industry. For export they grow tobacco and tea. Almost all of those two crops leave the country. The tobacco is cured and sent out in its entirety. It is processed outside the country. Not many of the Malawians smoke; probably cannot afford the cigarettes. Other large agricultural crops are sugar cane and macadamia (Michael says he doesn’t see macadamia nuts in the stores either.) Other industries are sunflower cooking oil, plastics, cement, and tourism, which is growing rapidly. For food the people raise cassava, vegs, sweet potato, bananas, pineapple, mangos and other fruits. Everyone has his own plot of corn and there is lots of clearing of land for this. Even if you live in the city and work there, you will have a plot of land where you grow your own corn; you are considered very, very poor if you have to buy corn. They use it to make flour from which a staple is a type of mashed corn, sort of like our mashed potatoes.

There are 4 good colleges/universities in the country.

Modes of transportation is mainly bicycles and walking. There are bicycle taxis which will take you from the main roads to your village up to 10-15 kilometers for $1.50 to $2. That would be one difficult job!

Most people make $50 to $100 per month. They live hand to mouth. Most houses are mudbrick or fire hardened brick with thatched roofs. A few have windows, most are just about 12×12 and only a door. There is no electricity to most of the villages and water is pumped from the village well. They use wood and charcoal to cook. Probably don’t need fire to keep warm, even in winter.

The country is 85% Christian and 15% Muslim.

Approx. 12% of the country has HIV/Aids, which is pretty good. Some of the African countries are three times that and more.

Education is mandatory for primary 1-8 grades. They have to pass a Standard 8 Exam at the end of 8th to be allowed to go on to Secondary school which they call Secondary 1-4. They must pass an exam after Secondary 2 to go on to Sec. 3. Another after Sec. 3 to go to Sec. 4. After Sec. 4, they have to pass an exam to go to college/university. If they fail, they cannot repeat the class at the same school, unless, of course, it is a private school, which will be happy to relieve you of some more of your money. Therefore, most students, when they don’t pass, drop out of school at that point.

Michael doesn’t own a refrigerator.

Our intrepid traveller; a client’s account of Africa – Part 4

January 7th
This morning after breakfast of bacon, fried tomato, toast, pancakes, cereal, bananas, and papaya. We drove for 3 hr. to Zomba Plateau and staying at Ku Chawe Inn.

Before we left I took photos of the giant snails crawling on the sides of the house. One of them had about a 5” shell and was splayed out about 8 inches as he crawled along. The mountains were shrouded in mist.

The roads are very good, unlike Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa. Most of the women don’t use a ring of cloth to help them balance their baskets, buckets, or water jugs. Their posture is incredible and they can balance what seems like anything going up and down hills, walking barefoot, and carrying a baby tied on their backs. Speaking of which, one almost never sees the babies squirming or crying. They are very passive. What are we Americans doing wrong???

Saw bicyclists that bike 120 km RT to Blantyre to sell their goods.

During day saw, Hammerkop, White Stork, Southern Red Bishop, Yellow Bishop, Blue Spotted Dove, White Throated Twinspot, Familiar Chat, and 2 baboons.

After arriving in Zomba, the old capital of Malawi and the old British colonial capital, we drove to the Emperor’s View (King Selassie I visited in 1965) and the Queen’s View about 100 meters apart located on the plateau high above the town. At the Emperor’s View, the mist cleared for about 10 minutes so that I could take a few photos of the vista and Lake Chilwa in the distance; the Queen’s View was socked in when we got there a few minutes later, so I called it “No View.”

I was the only caucasian I have seen for the past two days. Buffet for dinner.

January 8th

All the last few days excursions have been on 4 wheel drive 1-lane roads. Today we headed out toward Chingwe’s Hole going about 1-5 kph. After about 20 minutes both of us saw a ball in a tree in the distance about the same time. He had told me there were Blue Monkeys in the plateau forest but they were very shy and one almost never sees them so I had figured Diane wouldn’t get to see them. Well, Blue Monkey morning! There was a whole troop in about 5 trees. And we even had the male in charge issue many warning calls to us and his troop. We were there about a half hour.

The hole is on one of the plateaus and about 15 feet across. It is concealed with trees and bushes now. Not sure about before. The drop is about 20 feet that you can see and it divides into two more holes to either side. So the story goes, when people died of leprosy, no one wanted to touch them so the person was tied to a pole and carried to this hole and thrown in. During the rainy season, people’s bodies and parts would turn up at this village about 15 km away in a tributary leading to the Shire River. This happened so often the name of the village became Dead Body Village and to this day that is what the village is called. In 18th/19th centuries people decided to see where the two holes came out to see if that answered how the bodies got down to the tributary. Several men tried to be lowered into each hole but at some point several hundred feet down, the hole became so small that they could go no further. So, obviously there is an underground river/stream but no one has yet found its beginning.

In the afternoon we went to the Zomba Dam to look for birds. It was EXTREMELY quiet–no herons, no nothing except for the swifts flying.

Today saw the Blue Monkeys, Jameson’s Firefinch, Natal Lily, Golden Bristlegrass, Cape Penduline Tit, Black Headed Oriole, Common Stonechat, White-browed Robin-Chat, Flame Lily, Red-collared Widowbird, Red-backed Mannikin, Pin-tailed Whydah, Variable (Yellow Bellied) Sunbird, and Black Headed Bulbul.

Tonight was buffet again with chicken, beef, fish, vegs., rice, a lasagna type of pasta, etc.

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Images couresy of Dana Allen.

April in Botswana – Kwando sightings report…


The northern Kwando region has been home large numbers of zebra, giraffe, tsessebe and wildebeest which have been attracted by the excellent grazing resulting from the seemingly never ending rains. The relative absence of lions this month as they follow the buffalo herds means that Wild dog and leopards have been a regular sighting, including a large male found in a tree guarding his impala kill. The buffalo sightings remain sporadic due to the excessive water and grazing found in the mopane forests though guides have spotted small herds on several occasions.

An additional and unusual sighting made this month was the regular sighting of large herds of Livingstone’s eland. This is the largest member of the antelope family and is extremely shy, generally residing in dense forests. Sightings are therefore very unusual and often fleeting.


The above average number of zebra, giraffe and wildebeest in the region has led to an increase in the number of predators hunting a wide variety of game species. A mating pair of lion were found on giraffe kills on two separate occasions while several other male lions have been sighted this month stalking wildebeest. Several leopards were also followed on drives both during day and night drives as they stalked warthog and impala. The three cheetah brothers, not to be out done, were observed hunting wildebeest, while the three separate packs of wild dog were sighted hunting regularly and kills were made on lechwe and two kudu.

Further sightings of an eland herd, of approximately 20 animals, has also been spotted on more than one occasion. These sightings bode well for the eland population which is notoriously difficult to estimate due to their shy nature and the remoteness of their habitat


The Kwara concession continues to disprove that the commonly held view that the rainy season is not a good time of year to see game. Consistent quality game viewing in February and March continued in April with regular sightings of lion, cheetah, wild dog, leopard, hyena, honey badger and elephant. Of course there was also the usual lechwe, reedbuck, giraffe, zebra, tsessebe, wildebeest, warthog kudu, impala, hippo, crocodile, jackals, cobras, pythons, ostrich, ground hornbills and wattled crane to name but a few!!

Significant sightings included a lion pride chasing a male leopard up a tree and an incredible confrontation between two pack of wild dog, in which the heavily pregnant alpha female was targeted and almost killed. She was last seen with serious wounds and the guides are unsure whether she survived or not.

If this is the green season we can only imagine what the dry season holds in store!