This weekend I left Zomba for the first time, to go to Liwonde National Park, just 45 minutes drive from here, up towards the lake. However it took me three hours altogether, because I had to rely on public transport. 'Public transport' being the madness that are matolas, shared minibuses, and bicycle taxis.
So I went to the bus depot in Zomba, and immediately a flock of minibus drivers approached me, convincing me to step in to their vehicle. These buses do not run on a time table, more on a fill-up-and-go basis. So I had to sit, jammed into a seat, for another 40 minutes before finally hitting the road. And then there is stops along the road to let some people off, and even more people on. Four people per row is minimum. At one point I think we were 30 people in there, of which half a dozen where infants. And the police stopped us three times, expecting bribes for overlooking the vehicles lack of warrant of fitness.
And so I got off in Liwonde town, only to be surrounded of boys with bicycles, bicycle taxis, that all wanted to give me a ride to the camp site. That is 6 km along a dirt road, in the scorching mid day sun.
The campsite is called Bushman's Baobabs, with baobab being the huge, chunky, funky looking tree that grows all over the park. The main hut and the 'dining hall' did not have any walls, only a thatched roof held up by tree trunks, whereas the toilets had only walls and no ceiling. All in all a terrifically relaxed place, with very friendly staff and a bar where you could grab whatever you wanted and simply put a mark on a bar list. Flocks of elephants, impalas and warthogs could be seen just outside the camp (with no sort of fence in between), from the elevated viewing deck overlooking the majestic Shire River.
I signed up for a boat safari along the river, expecting to see crocs and hippos. And we did see crocs and hippos, but more importantly ELEPHANTS! Elephants out in the river, grazing the reeds on the river banks. I never even thought one could get so close to an elephant,sitting in a boat!
The view from the viewing platform in the camp
To young fishers
It is a baby elephant!
Baobab trees, look at the car for scale
I'm a poor lonesome traveller, and a long way from home...
And so the sun set, just before six as always, and the few guests gathered around the dinner table, and later around the camp fire. Beer in hand. Malawians all drink Carlsberg, referred to as simply a 'green', with the closest brewery being established in Blantyre, by a dane who thought Malawi lacked a good beer.
Life is indeed good.