Goodbye Africa: We Return to Canada Renewed

September 20-21

Every morning has started with a hearty breakfast in each of the five places we’ve stayed at in South Africa. Mid-morning we would stop some where for a flat white aka a cappuccino. I hope flat whites become available in Canada! I learned to love them in New Zealand.

A typical breakfast selection at the Little Scotia Guest House, Cape Town. In addition there were eggs, sausage, bacon, home made breads and preserves!

A typical breakfast selection at the Little Scotia Guest House, Cape Town. In addition there were eggs, sausage, bacon, home made breads and preserves!

Statue of Nelson Mandela in Kerstenbosch Gardens at the foot of Table Mountain.

Statue of Nelson Mandela in Kerstenbosch Gardens at the foot of Table Mountain.

Our room at Knorhoek Vineyard. Wine tasting, delicious sirloins and a Malay Bobitie.

Our room at Knorhoek Vineyard. Wine tasting, delicious sirloins and a Malay Bobitie and a good nap!

A newly emerged butterfly from Butterfly World near Stellenbosch.

A newly emerged butterfly from Butterfly World near Stellenbosch.

Reluctantly we left Knorhoek Vineyard in brilliant sunny skies. I’ll say it again, the Cape region of South Africa can match Canada’s beauty spots any day. Vineyard after vineyard passed by us, as well as mountain ranges, dams, lakes and old towns and villages. We had two destinations to reach before driving to a B+B in Milnerton, another suburb of Cape Town. The first was the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, a must see for any tourist to CT. It’s expansive and has been in existence for more than 100 years. Here you’ll see a wide variety of plants and trees native to South Africa including the Proteas, Ericas, Fynbos and Cliveas as well as bonsai trees, some over 150 years old.

Bonsai Fig tree, over 90 years old.

Bonsai Fig tree, over 90 years old.

 

Kerstenbosch Garden.

Kerstenbosch Garden.

Some of the fynbos plants in Kerstenbosch.

Some of the protea plants in Kerstenbosch.

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The iridescent sunbirds and sugarbirds were amazing as you can see in the photos. The Garden was full of hundreds of people of all races, many families, enjoying a sunny Saturday.

The iridescence was stunning.

The iridescence of the sunbirds was stunning.

 

Then it was on to the District Six Museum in heart of Cape Town. It had been the home for generations of immigrants and other people who were of Asian and mixed ancestry. It was a district with character, lively streets, theatres, shops, gangs, churches and most importantly homes. That all changed during the apartheid era when the Urban Areas Act forcibly began moving people out of the community because they weren’t white and the District had been designated a whites only area. Homes were bulldozed and the heart of the community was wrenched apart. Now the District Six Museum housed in a former Methodist Church in the area commemorates that community and the evil days of apartheid. This day there was a hip hop group and a local choir celebrating what once was District Six, the wounds of its demise still run deep as do those of the period of official apartheid from 1948-93.

A reminder on the outside of the old Methodist Church of the injustice done to the people of District Six in Cape Town.

A reminder on the outside of the old Methodist Church of the injustice done to the people of District Six in Cape Town.

A choir collective made up of different races, genders and ages that celebrates the community.

A choir collective made up of different races, genders and ages that celebrates the community. I love the enthusiasm of the director.

Hip hop artists celebrating the heritage of District Six, an area bulldozed during the apartheid era and designated a white area.

Hip hop artists celebrating the heritage of District Six, an area bulldozed during the apartheid era and designated a white area.

One of the African communities east of Cape Town. Not all have benefited from independence.

One of the African communities east of Cape Town. Not all have benefited from independence.

And so our holiday in Zambia, Malawi and South Africa has come to an end. It’s been a pleasure to share it with you.

Brian and Els

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Exploring the Western Cape – Stunning Beauty Amid Stunning Differences in Wealth

September 16-22

 

the cable car that travels 1000 m in three minutes.

A cable car that travels 1000 m in three minutes from the foot of Table Mountain to the top.

Looking south towards Cape point. Table Mountain rock is 600 million years old.

Looking south towards Cape point. Table Mountain rock is 600 million years old, older than the Himilayas.

Brian and Els on top of Table Mountain.

Brian and Els on top of Table Mountain.

Make hay while the sun shines was our adage on Tuesday as the sun was out and Table Mountain, the distinguishing geologic feature of this part of South Africa, was in its glory. We ascended 1000 m in three minutes in a cable car that carries 65 people and were atop one of the recently named Seven Wonders of the Natural World. Once on top, Cape Town lay below us, Cape point lay to the south while Robben Island, the once infamous home of large numbers of political prisoners could be seen 13 km from shore. The mountain is rich in flora, as well as bird and animal life although the only animal we saw was the dassie, a large rodent. Table Mountain was a source of ‘sweet’ water for early Dutch settlers and sailors on their way further east to the Dutch East Indies.

Robben Island, notorious for its brutal incarceration of political prisoners like Mandela, Sisulu and Sobukwe.

Robben Island, notorious for its brutal incarceration of political prisoners like Mandela, Sisulu and Sobukwe.

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Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben(Dutch for seals) Island. He was on the island for 14 years.

Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben(Dutch for seals) Island. He was on the island for 14 years.

Robben Island, despite its name, has no seals on it that we could see but it does have large flocks of ibis. We joined two boatloads of tourists on a one hour trip to the island where Nelson Mandela, Robert Sobukwe and other well-known political prisoners were imprisoned, tortured and even killed by white police and guards. We were shown the quarry where Mandela mined lime as well as his cell where for years he was kept in solitary confinement.

Nyanga, a suburb of Cape Town. Most blacks are landless and poor.

Nyanga, a suburb of Cape Town. Most blacks are landless and poor.

 

Travelling east of Cape Town, we passed by Nyanga, a ‘shanty’ compound and stark reminder to us that many people in South Africa have not enjoyed the fruits of independence. 79% of the land is still owned by whites and there seems to be no resolution of this imbalance. It is obvious in the Cape region that whites are the economic powerhouse and have a life style much better than most blacks.

The coast east of Cape Town on the way to Hermanus to view whales.

The coast east of Cape Town on the way to Hermanus to view whales.

The beach at Betty's Bay near Hermanus. The white sand was like powder and the waves were awesome.

The beach at Betty’s Bay near Hermanus. The white sand was like powder and the waves were awesome.

Right whale tale at Hermanus. They come here  in the hundreds so their calves can be born in warmer water before returning to the Antarctic in a few months.

Right whale tale at Hermanus. They come here in the hundreds so their calves can be born in warmer water before returning to the Antarctic in a few months.

We travelled along the coast to Hermanus, a popular spot for tourists because of the whale watching in September. For several hours we watched about 10 right whales frolicking offshore. They come here from the Antarctic to give birth to calves and mate. It was awesome to see them!

The Dutch Reformed Church in Franschoek built in the early 1800's.

The Dutch Reformed Church in Franschoek built in the early 1800’s.

Buildings from the 1700's in Stellenbosch, northeast of Cape Town.

Buildings from the 1700’s in Stellenbosch, northeast of Cape Town.

Protea, South Africa's national flower.

Protea, South Africa’s national flower.

The vineyard behind Knorhoek Guest House where we are staying.

The vineyard behind Knorhoek Guest House where we are staying.

The landscape near Knorhoek vineyard near Stellenbosch. It has been in the van Niekerk family for 6 generations.

The landscape near Knorhoek vineyard near Stellenbosch. It has been in the van Niekerk family for 6 generations.

From there we drove to Franschoek and Stellenbosch through stunningly beautiful valleys that have been farmed for 400 years by descendants of Dutch, French and German settlers. Franschoek was founded by French Huguenots or Protestants fleeing Catholic oppression during the reign of Louis XIV. This town and the nearby city of Stellenbosch sit amid hundreds of vineyards. Wine making is one of the major industries in South Africa. We had to laugh at the incredibly low prices of a bottle of wine, 2-3 dollars for bottles we’d be paying $12.00 or more in Saskatchewan. One gets the feeling in Stellenbosch that one is visiting a quaint European city in France or The Netherlands. There’s been a university here since 1685, including a major theological college of the Dutch Reformed Church. Numerous cafes are crowded with university students while in the central shopping area there is shop after shop selling beautifully designed clothing, household furniture and decorations, art, jewelry, coffee and teas and African crafts. Hardly anything is made in China as South Africans take pride in producing their own products. We are staying in aguest house on a vineyard called Knorhoek, again a gem of a place with a mountain as our backdrop. On Saturday we’re driving back to the Cape Town area, then on Sunday we fly to Johannesburg before flying back to Canada on Monday.

Have a look at their web site: http://www.knorhoek.co.za

The dining area at Knorhoek Guest house where we stayed two nights on a vineyard.

The dining area at Knorhoek Guest house where we stayed two nights on a vineyard.

Little Scotia Guest house in Cape Town where we stayed for four nights. Remarkable breakfasts.

Little Scotia Guest house in Cape Town where we stayed for four nights. Remarkable breakfasts.

A lovebird.

A lovebird.

One of the many beautiful birds in a sanctuary.

One of the many beautiful birds in a sanctuary.

A marmoset in a sanctuary near Stellenbosch.

A marmoset in a sanctuary near Stellenbosch.

Kapstadt: Cape Town at the Tip of the African Continent

Outside our room at the Little Scotia Guest House in Cape Town. The breakfast choices are a gourmands delight!

Outside our room at the Little Scotia Guest House in Cape Town. The breakfast choices are a gourmands delight!

September 13-14

 

Flying from Johannesburg to Cape Town takes two hours which allowed me to chat with a young white fellow on a business trip to the Cape. He was optimistic for the future of South Africa and felt that Africa had a lot of potential for growth and development. The Chinese have seized the moment and are investing heavily in many African countries because they want natural resources, land on which to grow food and increased influence. While Canada seems to be withdrawing from Africa, other countries like the United States, have realized that Africa has more to offer than meets the eye.

Cape Town is a wonderful city, if you can afford to live here. A lot of people, especially those who are black or coloured, just do not have the money to enjoy ‘the good life’ Cape Town offers. Although there is a growing black middle class, there are great gaps between the rich and poor; still one has to congratulate South Africans for the strides they’ve made since the end of official ‘apartheid’ in 1994. Land ownership I am told is a bone of contention between whites and blacks. It would be unfortunate if South Africa followed the disastrous policies of Dr. Mugabe in Zimbabwe.

An old building across from St. George's Cathedral, Cape Town.

An old building across from St. George’s Cathedral, Cape Town.

One of the spectacular stained glass windows in St. George's Anglican Cathedral where Desmond Tutu was Archbishop.

One of the spectacular stained glass windows in St. George’s Anglican Cathedral where Desmond Tutu was Archbishop. It depicts Christ in Triumph over Darkness and Evil and is in memory of Lord Mountbatten of Burma.

The chancel of St. George's Cathedral, Cape Town. It has been a cathedral since 1847.

The chancel of St. George’s Cathedral, Cape Town. It has been a cathedral since 1847 and the cornerstone was placed in the 1830’s.

On Sunday, Els and I attended services in the Anglican Cathedral of St George. It was high Anglican: smells and bells, chanting, genuflecting, kneeling and crossing oneself. The order of service had words printed in English, Afrikaans and Xhosa. Whites were in the minority, while others represented the various hews of racial mixing in the South Africa of today. Desmond Tutu was the first black Archbishop to hold that position at St. George’s, but during the worst excesses of the apartheid era he wrote the following when bishop in Johannesburg:

‘And as I have knelt in the Dean’s stall at the superb 9:30 High Mass, with incense, bells and everything, watching a multi-racial crowd file up to the altar rails to be communicated, the one bread and one cup given by a mixed team of clergy and lay ministers, with a multi-racial choir, servers and sidesmen – all this in apartheid-mad South Africa – then tears sometimes streamed down my cheeks, tears of joy that it could be that indeed Jesus Christ had broken down the wall of partition…’

This is what I saw in the service today.

September 14 was the Sunday that the death, but more importantly the life of Steve Biko, the black consciousness fighter and martyr, is commemorated. One of Biko’s cell mates and one of the last persons to see him alive gave a tribute to Biko and reminded the congregation the struggle continues because in South Africa there are many who are poor and many who still feel unjustly treated.

Els amidst flowers in the Company's Garden in the heart of Cape Town.

Els amidst flowers in the Company’s Garden in the heart of Cape Town. The garden was originally established by the Dutch East India Company in the mid 1600’s to grow vegetables and fruit for sailors aboard ships sailing to Indonesia i.e.. The Dutch East Indies

Bird of Paradise plant in the Company's Garden.

Bird of Paradise plant in the Company’s Garden.

After church we explored the beautiful Company’s Garden, established by the Dutch East India  shortly after arriving at the Cape in 1652. It has a variety of flowers, fruit trees, ferns, indigenous trees, oaks, birds, fountains, monuments to Cecil Rhodes, war heroes, colonial officials and all surrounded by important buildings like the Cathedral, Parliament, Supreme Court, a national museum of art and the national library.

 

 

Cape Town central is a breathtakingly beautiful city with leafy boulevards lined with shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. The road network is as good as any Canadian city if not better. What really knocked the socks off of me is the Victoria and Alfred(her son) Waterfront. Thousands of people were enjoying the sun and seeing the sites. Again a great racial mixture of humanity watching street performers, eating, hugging each other, enjoying life.

The bustling Cape Town harbour.

The bustling Cape Town harbour.

A street entertainer making balloon animals by the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.

A street entertainer making balloon animals by the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.

Harbours are always a bustle of activity and this was no exception: boats taking tourist to Mandela’s prison home on Robben Island, sun cruises, large cargo boats unloading, sail boats docked at the piers. The mall was incredible as it has hundreds of shops on three levels including the high-end types such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Lacoste. I’ve never seen such a magnificent mall! Such a contrast with Malawi and Zambia.

Els and Brian with Table Mountain as a back drop.

Els and Brian with Table Mountain as a back drop.

 

On Top of the World on Zomba Plateau

The Zomba Plateau looking from the north. It's about 3500 m high.

The Zomba Plateau looking from the north. It’s about 3500 m high.

September 9-11

 

By 8:00 am Tuesday morning, we were off again in our Toyota, through the Machinga Hills for a quick stop at my old school, Malosa Secondary, one of the many schools administered by the Anglican Diocese of Upper Shire. The Form 2’s and 4’s had already returned so we were able to meet some of the young staff members and students. Malosa Secondary had the third highest number of students selected to University this year, a great testament to the hard work of both students and staff. Unfortunately many Grade 8’s never have the opportunity to go to high school and many who graduate have no prospects of getting a higher education or a good job. This is the complaint I’ve heard most often from Malawian youth, ‘NO JOBS’. The school was run down and most of the staff houses needed considerable renovations. Roads on the Mission station were mined with rocks or badly eroded. I was afraid I’d tear the bottom out of the rented Corolla.

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Els in front of our first house at Malosa Secondary School. We were living here when Pieter was born.

Els in front of our first house at Malosa Secondary School. We were living here when Pieter was born.

Also on the mission station is St. Luke’s Hospital where Els did some teaching and where our oldest son Pieter was born. The hospital has been enlarged and is well staffed, except just now there are no doctors as the most recent doctors returned to The Netherlands last week. There’s also a nursing and midwifery school at the hospital and a dental clinic.

Travelling from Malosa to Zomba, the colonial capital, was a challenge as I had to dodge people and bikes on the highway and drive very slowly past mushrooming markets at intersections and turnoffs. The stalls are literally on the edge of the highway which can be clogged by taxis, overloaded taxi mini buses and local people trying to sell vegetables, cassava, fruit and household items. There were also numerous police stops.

Girl near Likwenu School which was close to Malosa Secondary where Brian taught. This photo was taken in 1984/85.

Girl near Likwenu School which was close to Malosa Secondary where Brian taught. This photo was taken in 1984/85.

The population explosion was evident as we approached Zomba. Thousands of people have squatted on the outskirts of Zomba, once considered one of the most beautiful cities in Africa.

Els and Lydia Mukulongo whose husband taught at Malosa. Unfortunately he Ackim died of diabetes, aged 47.

Els and Lydia Mukulongo whose husband taught at Malosa. Unfortunately he Ackim died of diabetes, aged 47.

Matthews and Eve Chilambo, former colleagues at Malosa and both now retired. Matthews did an M.Ed. in Winnipeg in the late 1980's.

Matthews and Eve Chilambo, former colleagues at Malosa and both now retired. Matthews did an M.Ed. in Winnipeg in the late 1980’s.

 

We met Lydia Mukolongo and her sons Victor and Ackim, named after his late father who I taught with at Malosa. We also met old colleagues, Matthews and Eve Chilambo who served us a chicken lunch. Matthews did an M.Ed in Winnipeg and ended up teaching at the University of Malawi.

The Presbyterian cottage on the Zomba Plateau. Always a place to relax and escape the heat.

The Presbyterian cottage on the Zomba Plateau. Always a place to relax and escape the heat.

The highlight of being in Zomba was staying at the Presbyterian cottage on top of the 10,000 ft Zomba Plateau. We had visited the Plateau and cottage many times while here so it was with anticipation that we drove up to the top on a greatly improved road. The views are stunning; on a clear day one can see Mt Mulanje in the distance. The Plateau is a serene and cool place which offers walks to William’s Falls, a trout farm, Mulunguzi Dam, even horse stables.

Els and Brian at the William's Falls on the Plateau. We came here often with our kids and dog Taurus to enjoy the refreshing water.

Els and Brian at the William’s Falls on the Plateau. We came here often with our kids and dog Taurus to enjoy the refreshing water.

A man carrying wood down the Zomba Plateau. It's long walk. Often these sawyers are charged for illegally cutting down trees. The wood is made into charcoal and sold.

A man carrying wood down the Zomba Plateau. It’s long walk. Often these sawyers are charged for illegally cutting down trees. The wood is made into charcoal and sold.

The Kuchawe Inn, now part of the Sun hotel chain, offers luxury accommodation to the well heeled. Our quarters at the cottage were simple, but brought back many good memories of being there with friends and our children Ruth and Pieter. After two nights we drove back to Lilongwe and the Kiboko Town Hotel. We’re off to South Africa on Friday!

One of the beautiful species of butterflies in Malawi and Zambia.

One of the beautiful species of butterflies in Malawi and Zambia.

The Lounge at the Kiboko Town Hotel in the centre of Lilongwe. Owned by Dutch nationals, it was clean, cozy and a safe haven.

The Lounge at the Kiboko Town Hotel in the centre of Lilongwe. Owned by Dutch nationals, it was clean, cozy and a safe haven.

Mbao, a popular board game.

Mbao, a popular board game.

 

More Pictures from Liwonde National Park, Malawi

I’m taking the opportunity to send photos from the Kiboko Hotel in Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital. I still have to add a blog about the Zomba Plateau south of here. In a few hours we fly to South Africa and will spend most of our time in Cape Town.

Baobab tree in Liwonde Park, supposedly 4000 years old. These trees are very fibrous and not good for wood fires.

Baobab tree in Liwonde Park, supposedly 4000 years old. These trees are very fibrous and not good for wood fires.

A waterbuck bored by more tourists with cameras. They have no natural predators in Liwonde Park so they're numerous.

A waterbuck bored by more tourists with cameras. They have no natural predators in Liwonde Park so they’re numerous.

The dining room at Liwonde Safari Camp. We were joined by 4 Dutch visitors and two from Norway. One couple about our age is travelling through Africa for 16 months.

The dining room at Liwonde Safari Camp. We were joined by 4 Dutch visitors and two from Norway. One couple about our age is travelling through Africa for 16 months.

Hippo near the Shire River with egrets picking off leeches.

Hippo near the Shire River with egrets picking off leeches.

Elephant dung. Elephants need to eat several kilos of plant life per day. Not surprising to see such big heaps which are devoured by dung beetles and add organic matter as well.

Elephant dung. Elephants need to eat several kilos of plant life per day. Not surprising to see such big heaps which are devoured by dung beetles and add organic matter as well.

A unique toilet in Liwonde Safari Camp owned by a young Dutch guy.

A unique toilet in Liwonde Safari Camp owned by a young Dutch guy.

Liwonde National Park: If We Could Talk With the Animals!

September 7-8

Brian at the anglican cottage at Namaso Bay where we stayed frequently 1981-85.

Brian at the anglican cottage at Namaso Bay where we stayed frequently 1981-85.

Liwonde Safari Camp. Our tent near which elephants meandered after supper.

Liwonde Safari Camp. Our tent near which elephants meandered after supper.

The distance from Cape Maclear to Liwonde Game Park is only 140 km, yet it took us 3 ½ hours to get there! Why? Well, we traversed over corrugated roads, stopped at Namaso Bay where we used to stay at the Anglican Cottage in the 80’s ( it was just as beautiful a spot and much the same as it was back then), numerous times we stopped to let goats, sheep and/or cattle cross the road, we zigzagged around potholes, avoided people on bikes, stopped at police road blocks, slowed down to 50 km through numerous villages and towns, bought petrol and tried getting cash using 4 different cards, unsuccessfully. Everywhere people are walking or biking along the highway an indication that the population here has almost tripled since we left and this in spite of family planning programs and the scarcity of jobs. Muslim families are large in number, in fact the Muslim community is growing rapidly as is the proliferation of mosques, now seen in every community on the stretch of highway we drove on today. Christians are still very much in the majority however, in fact, Christian programs on TV and radio are widely followed.

 

Liwonde Safari Camp Kitchen. The cooks preparing chicken, rice, and veggies.

Liwonde Safari Camp Kitchen. The cooks preparing chicken, rice, and veggies.

Shortly after noon we drove into the Liwonde Safari Camp, owned and operated by a young chain-smoking Dutch guy named Frederik, who declares that he has no wish to return to The Netherlands. We stayed in a tent elevated on a platform and containing comfortable single and double beds. There was an honour bar (you just entered your name in a book and indicated what you drank) under a huge grass roof, bar stools and concrete lounge couches covered in enormous cushions. The open- to- the- air showers and toilets were also under grass-roofed structures. An old baobab tree had been carved out, a ladder and platform placed inside so you could overlook the camp. There was also an elevated viewing area where we were served delicious Mzuzu coffee and veggie samosas. Immediately we spotted a small family of elephants, gaudy bee-eaters, kingfishers, and blue waxwings. Within a few hours we were off on a walking safari with a young Dutch couple (the Dutch are everywhere here!!) and a guide named Nepherus. We carefully skirted around the elephants, then moved on to see warthogs, bush buck, a hippo just emerging from the Shire River and numerous birds- ibis, egrets, courcals, storks, bulbuls, weavers.

 

 

The majestic kudu!

The majestic kudu!

Els observing elephants on their way to the Shire River in Liwonde National Park.

Els observing elephants on their way to the Shire River in Liwonde National Park.

Supper in the dark at 6:30 pm (did I mention that there was no electricity?) was interrupted by at least 6 elephants adjacent to the grass-roofed dining room and bar. They were pulling up bushes and grass and other plants not caring a hoot about us who watched in fascination. Els and I couldn’t get to our tent as it was blocked by an elephant, but eventually it moved on to greener pastures. At 5:15 am we were wakened by a myriad of bird calls and screeching vervet monkeys, which was fine as we were leaving on a driving safari at 6:30. Again we saw numerous herds of majestic elephants, some far in the distance near the Shire River. In addition there were scores of impala, Cape buffalo, water and bushbuck, kudu, warthogs, even a mongoose and several more bird species, including the stunning lilac breasted roller. Near the entrance to Liwonde National Park, an elephant had been tranquilized by a team of vets, trying to remove wire from around one of its legs; probably a wire trap set by poachers. Poaching is still a problem but often it’s done because Malawian villagers want meat to eat and not because they wish to harvest the tusks.

 

 

 

 

 

We Return to Lake Malawi

September 4-6

 

At Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka, Jimmy and George Mashinkila, Jimmy’s son and nephew bade us farewell before boarding a 20 seater aircraft for Lilongwe, Malawi. We were picked up and driven 30 km to the Kiboko Town Hotel in Lilongwe, and were pleasantly surprised to find a clean, modest and funky place owned by a Dutch couple. It has that typically Dutch eclectic mix of decorations which create a ‘gezellige’ or cozy atmosphere. Impressive carvings – hippos, chameleons, masks – some 6 feet high, were everywhere. You’re never far from street markets, and such was the case outside Kiboko Hotel. Women selling African materials and crafts were in abundance. We picked up our rented Toyota, did some shopping, got phone minutes and exchanged money, gingerly avoiding the illegal black market money changers and we were off.

 

As in much of Africa, cities like Lilongwe have grown uncontrollably, are over crowded and can’t sustain a largely unemployed populace. Everyone is trying to make a few bucks, so one runs a gauntlet of street merchants and small shops before one finally leaves the city.

Malawi is blessed with unusual mountain formations and ranges. Some seem to stick up from out of nowhere. We drove to Dedza Pottery where the coffee was fresh and the scones scrumptious, but not before getting a speeding ticket in a poorly marked section of the highway. As we passed over the Dedza Mountains on an excellent highway, kids yelled out for money. People here are poor compared to Zambians.

Finally we reached Mgoza Lodge, our destination at Cape Maclear on Lake Malawi a place that we know well and have fond memories of. Our cabin on the lake is similar to a Malawian villager’s home: grass roof, brick walls, wood doors but also has a bathroom, a king size bed with mosquito net. There’s a bar and restaurant only a few metres away and a small pool filled with lake water. Behind the Lodge is Chembe Village. Its 16,000 inhabitants are at the lake early in the morning, bathing, washing dishes or clothes, gathering water, or using it as a source of food.

 

Our cottage at Mgoza Lodge Cape Maclear. The cottage is Malawian style with grass roof, en-suite bathroom. The bar and restaurant were convenient.

Our cottage at Mgoza Lodge Cape Maclear. The cottage is Malawian style with grass roof, en-suite bathroom. The bar and restaurant were convenient.

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Lake Malawi is a 320 mile long lake shared by Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique. It’s famous for its numerous species of cichlids, which are of turquoise, yellow, orange, black, deep purple and white hew. Tourists come to snorkel amongst them and enjoy the aquamarine water and sandy beaches as well as feed fish eagles.

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Gibson accompanied us to Thimbe Island and prepared a meal- fish (kampango), rice, relish, rape. He also came with us when we drove to Monkey Bay to repair a tire. Again people everywhere. Europeans, as we’re called, become a magnet for beggars, drunkards, kids and anyone who wants to see someone different. Gibson is the same age as our son Daniel, 27, and yet their lives a complete antithesis. Gibson desperately wants a good job or an opportunity to further his education, but all the doors seem shut for him and many others.

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There’s just very little money. Kids and adults alike are creative in earning kwachas, Malawi’s currency. They’ll make you a shirt, play music, sell paintings or carvings, carry your stuff. They get a temporary fix but systemic injustices and a lack of jobs determines their long term fate.

 

Mua Mission enchanted us in 1983 when we first visited the place. The Mission was started by White Fathers(because of their garb) in 1902 and comprises a large hospital, school, church and cultural centre, the latter being the handiwork of Father Boucher, a French Canadian priest/artist who’s been in Malawi for decades. Besides being an expert on the Cewa, Yao and Ngoni cultures he has created a village that reflects the art and traditional proverbs of these tribes and an amazing museum that describes and interprets the traditional practices of these tribes. For years Boucher has gathered about him local carvers and painters whose work is incorporated into the buildings on the mission station and can be bought on site. The Catholic Church has tried to get close to Cewa culture and synthesize Catholic beliefs and liturgical practices with local tribes. It’s best said in a quote on a wall in the museum, ‘ Culture in Jesus and Jesus in culture’.

One of the finely carved masks at Mua Mission, established by French priests. The Mangoni Culture Centre has an outstanding museum of Cewa and Ngoni culture and supports Malawian artists.

One of the finely carved masks at Mua Mission, established by French priests. The Mangoni Culture Centre has an outstanding museum of Cewa and Ngoni culture and supports Malawian artists.

Before leaving Mgoza Lodge on Lake Malawi, we gave the Chembe Football team a soccer ball after waiting for it for two days. You should have seen the wide grins on the boys’ faces. Fishermen, as they have done for hundreds of years, came in with their catch watched by women cleaning pots and children frolicking on the beach.

Brian giving a soccer ball to eager kids living by Lake Malawi. These same kids formed the Chembe Village band as well.

Brian giving a soccer ball to eager kids living by Lake Malawi. These same kids formed the Chembe Village band as well.