Our intrepid traveller; a client’s account from Africa – Part 2

I was picked up at 5:45 a.m to transfer to the airport for my flight to Malawi where I am staying overnight at Heuglins Guest House. Again I have a suite but not as sumptuous as the House of Waine.   Was met by my guide for the next 9 days, Michael.    I was told Michael is among their best guides but I imagine they tell all the guests that.  I told Michael I wanted to see it ALL – insects, reptiles, birds, mammals, and plants.  I shall put him thru his paces and see!  Have a living room/bedroom, a second bedroom with access to a patio with table and chairs and lounge chair, and bath.  This one has mosquito netting, which I didn’t need to use, but I did.  I love being enveloped in the netting–maybe it has something to do with reminding me of the old colonialism.  

There was a pool and I heard it calling my name.  While I was out by the pool, I saw 3 Redbilled Woodhoopoe hopping around one of the large trees and being very noisy. 

I am the only one here  and dinner was handmade rolls, butternut squash soup which was really divine, sliced pork tenderloin, roasted potatoes, onions, and carrots,  a slice of fried eggplant, and homemade apple sauce.  Dessert was apple crisp.  The chef personally served me.  I asked if I could take him home with me and he said “Yes.” 

I thought of you, Pat H., when I went back to the room–knowing your penchant for lizards!  On the wall was a medium sized gecko and in the bathroom a small one, and an even smaller one peeking out from the bathmat hanging on the tub.  You would have run screaming from the room, no doubt!

I was given a folder this afternoon by Wilderness Safaris with my itinerary while in Malawi made out of — are you ready for this???? — recycled elephant dung!  I have no idea if it smells–will let anyone who wants to, check it out when I get home.  I am sure it doesn’t tho. 

This morning you will be transferred by road (8 hours with picnic lunch and stop for ATM)  to Lujeri Lodge for a two night stay.  This is in the southern part of the country. 

There are lots of flame trees and flamboyant trees (Royal Poinciana or Delonix regia) here which I just love.  GW, would they grow in Rvsd at all?  Remember the novel,  Flame Trees of Thika.  I think of that every time I see the flame trees–don’t know their genus right off hand. 

Early in the drive we passed a mountain called Smiling Mountain.  About 1/3 of the way up the hill is a very large cave.  When you look at the mountain from a distance, it appears to be smiling at you. 

There are shamans in the villages and they advertise with flags, yellow, or blue or red with a cross on the flag.   Michael says few people frequent them anymore, except the believers and those who can’t afford to go to a doctor/hospital. 

Remember my mentioning needing wood; there were many, many markets along the drive and there were lots of bicycles with wood cut in 1 1/2 feet lengths and stacked behind the bicyclist and actually climbing over the head of the cyclist.  They have a rack attached to the bike that carries the wood behind the cyclist and over his head.   Also saw cyclists carrying up to 200 kg (yes kg, not pounds) of potatoes on his bike.  Lots of vegetables, fruits, charcoal, pottery, etc., as well. 

Also saw a car coming from Lake Malawi with about 6 or 8 fish tied to the passenger side mirror on the outside of the car.  I guess he didn’t want to smell up the inside of the car. 

The road parallels the Mozambique border for quite a while.  On the Mozambique side you can still see bombed out buildings which haven’t been replaced, even tho the war ended about 15 years ago.  According to Michael, even tho only a road separates the two countries and the Mozambique villages are very far from any other Moz. cities, they were attacked and Malawian citizens were never harmed.  I mentioned that surely a stray bullet or bomb must have hit Malawi.  He says not.  And when I asked about why the villages were attacked when they were so far from other Mozambique civilization, he replied, “They vote.”    The Mozambique peoples use the Malawi water and goods and trade as if there is no boundary. 

We drove through the Rift Valley for much of the day.  It extends from Lebanon to Mozambique, through Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, and Mozambique–not sure of others. 

Saw 2 pied crows along the way.  Malawi birds don’t seem to like to be on power or telephone lines as I didn’t see one on a line all day.  However, to be fair, there aren’t a lot of the lines. 

The people who don’t want to walk or cycle to the markets sell by the road.  One of the unique items we stopped to look at were bowls of fried termite flies.  They are dark reddish brown and about an inch long.  People fry them with tomatoes and onions.  I made Michael promise not to have those for me during the trip.  I was so grossed out, I forgot to take a photograph.  How often does that happen?!

All day long, after leaving the Heuglin’s House, I saw all of 9 other caucasians and 7 of those were in the former capital, Blantyre. 

There were Eucalyptus trees planted everywhere to be used for firewood since most of the endemic trees were all been cut long ago. 

We were headed to a tea plantation in the south near Melanje.  In the south there are large to immense tea plantations and a few coffee plantations.  The staff are paid monthly and are expected to pluck 40 kg of tea leaves per day–think of it, that is almost 100 lbs!  Granted, the leaves still are dried yet so have water in their leaves when picked, but 100 lbs per day??   The baskets are weighed and if the person picks more than the 40 kgs, they are paid extra for that amount.   There are sirens that go off at 5 a.m. to get the workers up, one at 6 a.m. to have them assemble, and again at 5 p.m. to tell them ‘quitting time.’  I can hear them from the lodge.   Reminds me of the muslim call to prayer by the imams. 

I am in the middle of an immense tea plantation called Lujuri Tea Estate.  I am at a 100+ year old colonial lodge that was used in the past to house guests of the plantation.  It is in a hilly area adjacent to the Mulanje Mountains and just gorgeous.  It has 4 rooms for guests, a huge kitchen, dining area, and living room,  The veranda runs around 3 sides of the house.  The two sides are bout 10-12 feet wide and the front is about 20 feet wide.  The front right hand corner is enclosed with windows which open for breeze but can be closed when it rains.  There are two sofas, 3 chairs, and a cocktail table plus about 8 or 9 metal chairs for people to sit in when wet from the pool in that area.  Very comfortable.  The rooms have 20 ft. high ceilings with imprinted tin ceilings.  There is a large, lovely garden on all 4 sides of the Lodge.  Rooms are quite large, but the size is going down as I go from lodge to lodge.  There is no internet and the lodge is in the middle of nowhere with nothing around it but tea.  It would be an ideal place to get away and write the great novel that is bursting to get out.  There is a pool on my side of the house and I headed for that quite quickly as it is really hot and humid here.  The rooms only have a fan.  Joan, I thought of you last night.  When I went to bed, my alarm clock said 87.7 degrees.  The fan ran all night and when I got up, it was 86 degrees.   Only night in years I have slept without a sheet or blanket.  The windows have to be closed to keep out mosquitoes and other insects which would be attracted to the lights.  Tonight I will open the windows after I turn out the lights to see if that helps.  

And, again, I am the only guest here!  There is a chef and an assistant chef/house cleaner.  We arrived about 3:45 p.m. and after the dip in the pool I was on the veranda looking at the view of tea plantation and mountains.  About 5 p.m. the asst. chef came and asked if I wanted to have tea.  I thought it would be a travesty to ask for iced tea since I knew that was not what he was offering.  I quickly said “yes, please.”  In a few minutes  I had a tray with a tea pot and cozy, milk, sugar, tea strainer, cup, and spoons.  There was also a thermos of hot water with tea bags if I preferred.  They are VERY proud of their tea here.  I had the teapot tea since tea bags just didn’t fit in with my vision of ‘tea on the terrace.’  It was a bit bitter for me but I drank 2 large cups anyway and watched the sun begin to dip behind the mountains and watch the greens of the area fade to grey.  (Doesn’t that sound a bit Moody Blues-ish??) 

Michael has had malaria 8-9 times; the chef has had it less than 10, and the asst. chef has had more than 10 times. 

Michael was amazed at my Kindle which I was reading before dinner, as was Naftali in Nairobi. 

Dinner was at 7:30, a most civilized hour and was on the veranda where it was cooler.  Had Lake Malawi fish fried just perfectly, roasted potatoes that were crisp on the outside and perfect on the inside, carrots, green beans and zuchini,  a slice of fried eggplant, and a salad of very small chunks of cucumber and tomatoes.  Yes, I ate the salad and so far no problems. 

Jan. 6th.  Birds began their songs about 4:35, just before sunrise.  Got up about 6 and opened the windows and turned the fan up really high to get the heat out before it turns really hot.  It is misty this morning but doesn’t obscure the mtns, hills, and tea. 

After shower, took computer out on the veranda to write the background and yesterday’s info.    Breakfast will be in a few minutes at 8 a.m. on the veranda.  I could really get used to this, I think.  But probably would be bored after a week.

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