Malawi Part I – Chitemba and Livingstonia

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Getting across the border and into Malawi was easy peasy. One day Hugo will remember to do his post about our border crossings and all the red tape involved. For now we will stick with: no problems encountered!

We heard so many nice stories about Lake Malawi that it was a huge disappointment when we finally set foot on her shores. It was littered with rubbish and full of locals fishing and bathing in the waters. Now, I do not begrudge them their swimming and bathing, where else would they do it otherwise? But it is a bit of a disappointment when one expects pristine beaches and the first one you find is full of rubbish and naked men.

Child labour...

Child labour…

We decided to stay at Chitimba for a few days as we wanted to see the town Livingstonia and the only way to reach the town was by way of a mountain pass that would be very hard to do with a trailer. In fact, many people told us it would be near impossible.

We set up camp on the beach with a sort-of view on the Lake. It was in the sun but as we did not plan to stay long, we could live with it.

Our first camp on Lake Malawi

Our first camp on Lake Malawi

Livingstonia

Perched on the Rift Valley Escarpment above Lake Malawi, the town of Livingstonia, founded by Scottish missionaries in the late 19th century, is one of the most scenic places in all of central Africa. The vertiginous views from the edge of this historic town – plummeting down the escarpment and across the lake to the Livingstone Mountains in Tanzania – are quite breathtaking. Indeed, on a clear day, and with sufficient imagination, the horizon is so distant that you’ll swear you can see the curvature of the Earth.

Arguably the most intriguing settlement anywhere in Malawi, and certainly the most unusual, Livingstonia is a curiously unfocused place. Dotted along the escarpment, there is a resthouse, school, technical college and hospital, all dating to the turn of the 20th century. Elsewhere, separated by scattered patches of plantation forest and indigenous woodland, there is a low-key market enclosed by a few poorly stocked grocery shops, the vast mission church, and a cache of venerable administrative buildings and a clock tower overlooking a bizarrely redundant stone traffic circle surrounded by blooming flower beds. The overall impression is as if somebody started transporting a small Victorian village to the edge of the Rift Valley Escarpment, but got bored before they finished the job.

– Source: www.bradtguides.com/destinations/africa/malawi

Our first night was not very restful, the camp being in a village. Early in the morning the sun was shining with its full African Summer Force on us and we got up to avoid being cooked alive.

The pass up the Livingstone Mountains was interesting to say the least, with twenty extremely tight hairpin bends and gaining more than 700 meters over 9 kilometres. It offered spectacular views of the lake, and is often described as one of the most exciting roads in Africa. (We can attest to that – the other one is the road up the escarpment between North and South Luangwa in Zambia.) We were relieved to have left the trailer at Chitimba Camp, Petronella on her own was sometimes too lengthy to make a turn at the first try. And with a turning circle similar to an ox-wagon, things got nerve-wrecking at times.

The squiggly lines of the mountain pass on the GPS

The squiggly lines of the mountain pass on the GPS

Found this on one of the bends...

Found this on one of the bends…

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Welcome at Mushroom Lodge, says the Tokolosh!

Welcome at Mushroom Lodge, says the Tokolosh!

Once at the top we stopped at Mushroom Farm. Alan and Denise Geddes stayed here and recommended the vegetarian dishes at the restaurant.

The lodge had a few good choices on their menu and while we were waiting for our food, the children inspected the coffee roasting that was being done.

Coffee roasting at Mushroom Lodge

Coffee roasting at Mushroom Farm

After lunch we went onwards to Livingstonia and the Stonehouse Museum.

History904px--Clay-daubed_Ngoni_Warrior,_Livingstonia-_Malawi,_ca.1895_(imp-cswc-GB-237-CSWC47-LS3-1-013)

 “Clay-daubed Ngoni Warrior, Livingstonia” Malawi, ca.1895

Livingstonia was founded in 1894 by missionaries from the Free Church of Scotland. The missionaries had first established a mission in 1875 at Cape Maclear, which they named Livingstonia after David Livingstone, whose death in 1873 had rekindled British support for missions in Eastern Africa. The missions was linked with the Livingstonia Central Africa Company, set up as a commercial business in 1877. By 1881 Cape Maclear had proved extremely malarial and the mission moved north to Bandawe. This site also proved unhealthy and the Livingstonia Mission moved once again to the higher grounds between Lake Malawi and Nyika Plateau. This new site proved highly successful because Livingstonia is located in the mountains and therefore not prone to mosquitoes carrying malaria. The mission station gradually developed into a small town.

The leading missionary for 52 years was Dr Robert Laws. He established in Livingstonia the best school in his time for the whole region, and Livingstonia graduates became influential in several neighbouring countries, including the southernmost, South Africa. Dr Laws wanted Livingstonia to develop into a University, but his successors did not pursue the dream.201509_chitimba_012

In 2003 the Livingstonia Synod of the Church of Central Africa, Presbyterian (CCAP) renewed the vision and started Livingstonia University.

– Source: Wikipedia

Stonehouse Museum

The fascinating museum in Stone House (the original home of Dr Robert Laws and now a national monument) tells the story of the European arrival in Malawi and the first missionaries. Here you can read Dr Laws’ letters, peruse black-and-white photos of early missionary life in Livingstonia and browse a collection of Dr Laws’ books, including the old laws of Nyasaland. Also on display is an excellent collection of original magic-lantern slides, an early anaesthesia machine, an old gramophone and the cloak that Dr Laws used when he was a moderator.

Source: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/malawi/northern-malawi/livingstonia/sights/museums-galleries/stone-house-museum#ixzz48PRihF9N

[Because why should I type things that has already been written; let’s face it, some museums can sometimes be as boring as watching paint dry. Like this one…]

The museum was very dusty, hot and neglected. You kind of feel cheated to have to pay for entering it. Hopefully the funds will be managed wisely (yeah right, welcome to Africa!).

Gustav went for a stroll while Hugo was still (!?) busy finding something interesting to read in the museum.

Gustav went for a stroll while Hugo was still (!?) busy finding something interesting to read in the museum.

On the way down to Chitemba Camp, we stopped at the Manchewe Waterfalls, Malawi’s tallest waterfalls, with a 100 metre drop into a gorge, surrounded by rainforests. For some reason (it might or might not have something to do with climbing up and down a mountain), I decided to stay in the car and the rest of the troop went to have a look. Apparently it was a little underwhelming. Oh well, at least they’ve tried!

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Manchewe Falls. As you look down on the waterfall at this viewpoint, you do not really get the idea of how high it is.

Back at the camp, three big buses with overlanders have arrived. Not the retired-early-to-bed kind of overlanders. The we-are-young-and-will-play-drinking-games-next-to-our-neighbours kind. It was great fun watching them play a drinking game with a rugby ball, towards the end Hugo and I finally figured the rules out but by that time they have lost the track, and changed the rules. Sophia was enthralled by them obviously having a lot of fun, and begged to play with them. Maybe another day… In their defence, they all went to bed at a decent time and the only sounds you could hear were dogs, cows, donkeys, music, people…

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