Malawi

Bureaucracy
My first encounter with Malawi bureaucracy was a pleasant one. Five kms after exiting Mozambique at Zobue I rode through the gate of the Malawi border post at Mwanza, to be chased by three or four touts shouting offers to ‘help’ me (sell me something). As is the procedure in these situations I ignored them and continued the two hundred metres to the Immigration building. By the time I’d parked the bike, taken off my helmet, gloves and extracted earplugs the first of the chasing crew got to me - grinning and out of breath - insisting on the need for vehicle insurance and he could provide it. What could I do but smile! It must be a quiet day.

After doing the necessary paperwork - all the while being guided by my escorts (“This is the Immigration”, pointing to the sign above where I was standing) - I checked with the guards at the barrier who confirmed that legally I did need insurance. Assuming the uselessness of motor insurance in the event of an accident (the wealthy foreigner will always be at fault) I considered waiting until the city of Blantyre to check it out further, or avoid paying it altogether. “There is a police roadblock ten kms down the road and you will be sent back!” I was warned. Of course they’d say that I thought. Reluctantly I bit the bullet, negotiated the fee down to $20 and entered their ‘office’, a steel cargo container on the side of the road. One of the group - it now appeared they were all together - in a collar and tie, sat down behind a rusting steel desk, carefully arranged the triplicate carbon paper and on a battered old typewriter banged my details onto the necessary form. This was all done in a relaxed, convivial manner and I couldn’t help but smile at the whole transaction. In a profession that must rank fairly low in the respect stakes, these guys were the nicest and most humourous border touts I’d come across. And, refreshingly, it was all conducted in English. Five minutes down the road there was indeed a police roadblock, where I was asked to produce my drivers licence and insurance.
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Busy in Blantyre
Described as ‘The warm heart of Africa’, or ‘Africa for beginners’, the country of Malawi is dominated by the lake of the same name, formed in the tail end of the Great Rift Valley that stretches down the eastern side of the continent from the Arabian Gulf. I was keen to visit the lake shore, a popular destination for travellers due to its sandy beaches, fresh water swimming and not least its low costs. But first it was onto Blantyre, named after David Livingstone’s hometown in Scotland, at an altitude and fairly cool - attractive in the summer heat I’m sure, but not so enjoyable in the drizzle and grey weather I was experiencing since Zimbabwe. Doogle’s, a popular and busy backpackers, the only one in town, had cheap dorm beds, decent food, and internet access.

I spent a couple of days here doing a few chores, one of these an attempt to get a Mozambique visa. In the consulate, the two staff didn’t seem sure about where the various border posts were, didn’t have a map to refer to, and eventually informed me it would take between 10-15 days before my passport would come back from Maputo with a visa. They advised me to get it at the border. I wasn’t confident this was possible in tiny Cobue where I was planning on entering Mozambique - the staff didn’t even recognise the name - but sending my passport off to Maputo wasn’t an option.

Another task was to try and ascertain whether the venerable old Lake Malawi ferry, the MV Illala, could transport the bike to the Moz side of the lake and I called into the agents in town, Wilderness Tours. Kerry, an Australian, was friendly and helpful, making some phonecalls on my behalf. This was an unusual request and it became apparent the best thing to do was to visit the ferry terminus myself at Monkey Bay, where I was given the name of Anton, the South African ferry manager, who would be the best person to discuss it with.

Kerry had lived here a number of years and I happened to catch her on her last day at work - her husband had been transferred, to her regret. Chatting with her about the tourism situation, she sang the praises of Malawi, citing the lake, the scenery and wildlife as the main attractions, though expressing sadly it would be the people she’d miss most. She showed me glossy brochures for some very upmarket Lodges - including Kaya Maya on Likoma island, and Nikwichi Lodge on the Mozambique side of the lakeshore. Of appeal particularly as honeymoon destinations, these exclusive resorts looked idyllic, timber huts built into the forested hillside with white sandy coves and turquoise blue water at their doorstep. Mozambique she reckoned was the new up and coming destination, and it was a pity there were no direct flights between the two countries.

Self Help Encounter
Ready for some warmth I hit the road for Lake Malawi, riding through rocky outcrops and forest. Passing through the sleepy, lushly green town of Zomba, once the capital of what was known as Nyasaland under the British, I was pulled up short by a logo I recognised on a roadside sign - Self Help Development International, with the assistance of Irish Aid! I was hoping to visit some Self Help projects in Malawi, though as I was making faster progress than anticipated was still waiting for the Irish HQ to forward me details or contacts. And here I came across a Self Help office. The project manager I was told was out of town, but there was another project in Liwonde, a few hours up the road and I was given directions to their office.

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After taking a snap of my bike against the Self Help sign for posterity, I continued on through beautiful landscape with forested slopes of the Zomba plateau on my left. In Liwonde I was directed to the nearby Hippo View Hotel where all the country’s seven project managers, as well as the country director, were attending a three monthly reporting session. Well that was a stroke of luck! Conscious of interrupting the meeting unannounced, I decided to go ahead anyway and visit the group. I guessed they wouldn’t mind - I had ridden a long way for them!

Waiting for the afternoon teabreak, the country director, Ernest Malawi was very gracious in welcoming me, insisting they put me up the night allowing an opportunity to chat. This was my first encounter with Self Help staff outside Ireland, and with a policy of not employing ex pats, only local people, I was curious to meet them. Ernest described their projects as being run on the same philosophy that emanates from the organisation based in Carlow - as the countries are responsible for identifying and developing projects themselves according to their needs, so the local communities too come up with projects themselves and the national Self Help organisation steps in then to assist. “Its the only way it can work,” maintained Ernest. “The communities then ‘own’ the projects. And there is a constant emphasis on sustainability - we gear everything to withdrawing our presence within a period of five years.”

Through my research before the trip, and my experience on the trip, I discovered one of the major difficulties with development aid, is that it interferes with a community’s finding solutions themselves to their situations. A culture of dependency has been identified as being a result of poorly thought out aid. This need for ‘self-sustainability’ appears to be recognised by Self Help here, hence their policy of moving on after five years to the next project. “We must see the improvements,” Ernest asserted. “For example if ten sacks of maize is harvested from a field, we might ask the community to attempt a target of 20. With the benefit of training in good agricultural practices, maybe irrigation, or access to improved seed stock, the harvest could often exceed the target, maybe achieving 25 or 30 bags.”

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The country program controller, Winston Chiwaya, slightly older than the others and I later learned the first Self Help employee in Malawi, described the main areas Self Help are involved with. “Food security is a priority, and that can include training in irrigation, seed provision, small animal husbandry such as goats or chickens, crop rotation and composting for fertiliser. Another area is literacy - you know there is only a 50% literacy rate in this country.”

We had been joined by a tall imposing lady who, she told me, is responsible for raising AIDS awareness. With a quiet but impressive presence, Ms Mayani explained to me the difficulties in combatting the virus in Malawi. “The biggest challenge is to encourage patients to admit they have it.” She said. “The problem is that there is a stigma attached to having the virus. First a ‘self-stigma’ - admitting to oneself they have it can be a major obstacle - then the social stigma. Once that is overcome, we can work on raising awareness to prevent passing it on.” So how does she believe the stigma difficulty can be dealt with? “To encourage patients to be tested, and to admit they have the virus, we try and concentrate on the
benefits of confronting it. Issues such as support - others have it too, you’re not alone - access to medication for pain relief and ARV (anti retrovirals), and of course, care. And we say ‘At least you know you have it, others who may look down on you may not have been tested and so don’t know their status.’”

As well as raising awareness, Ms Mayani provides nutritional information, to help the body combat symptoms. An interesting statistic she mentioned is that only 30% of children born to HIV positive mothers are born with the virus. She is following ongoing research on discovering the reasons for this. “Generally in the womb, blood is not exchanged to the foetus. Unless the mother has a venereal disease, or because of a physical trauma - maybe a blow to the abdomen - or even stress.”

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There was a self service arrangement for dinner. Sitting at the spare seat at one table of two project managers and an accounts assistant, I sensed a marked nervousness, which I put down to shyness. I then realised, with all my questions they probably thought I was there to check on them. In quick succession they finished their meals, made their excuses and retired leaving me on my own! I was pleased to see Ernest and Winston arrive. We chatted about the recent changes in the organisation in Ireland - Ernest giving his vote of confidence to the new chief executive Ray Jordan, formerly of GOAL.

I was interested to hear Ernest’s support for the idea of sponsored walks as a method of fundraising. Typically a group would raise sponsorship and come over from Ireland to Malawi to do a trek. The argument against sponsored ‘holidays’ as I understand is that after expenses such as air fares and accommodation are deducted, on average only about 50% of the amount collected goes to the charity. A very inefficient method of fundraising. When trying to raise sponsorship for my bike trip, I had to make it clear I was paying for the trip out of my own pocket, to avoid that tag of ‘don’t want to pay for someone’s holiday in Africa’. Ernest however argued in favour of sponsored walks, making the point that all participants go back home touched by their experience and wanting to do something to help.

It was my first encounter with local Self Help staff (pictured above) and I came away being impressed with the calibre, commitment and articulation of the folks I spoke to.

Ferry Research
The next morning I reached Monkey Bay, a small settlement at the southern end of Lake Malawi, and made my way to the harbour. Anton, with a broad Afrikaans accent, greeted me warmly and listened to my proposition with interest. Was it possible to load my bike onto the MV Illala ferry halfway up the lake at Nkhata Bay, and offload it on the Mozambique side? I was aware there was no docking facility for the ship as Cobue, where I had in mind, is little more than a small village on a beach. No he hadn’t had that request before, but he couldn’t see a problem. Cars had been winched onto the ferry so a bike would be fine. As for the unloading, he brought me over to show me the size of the lifeboat used to unload goods and passengers at the smaller stops. We both agreed it would be big enough to take the bike. It was just a matter of winching it onto the tender from the ship and then manhandling it off at the beach. Having manually loaded my bike on and off a pinasse on the Niger River all those miles ago, this prospect didn’t alarm me.

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Reassured, I set off. Thirty kms on a rutted and sandy track through the Lake Malawi National Park brought me to the isolated town of Cape Maclear on the lakeshore. Entering the town I was waved down by a local man next to his stationery motorbike. There was no fuel in town and he needed enough to get him to Monkey Bay. I was happy to oblige, although we ended up threading our way between the town huts on at times very soft sand, to get to his house where he had a plastic container. This sand business is no fun on a fully loaded, heavy bike though his light 125cc had no problem buzzing through. After giving him a few litres I made my way west along the sandy lakeshore track coming eventually to my destination, Gaia House for which I had a recommendation.

Billy Riordan Memorial Trust in Cape Maclear
Owned by Liina “the Finnish witch of the lakeshore”, it is a lovely little lodge on the beach. And next door was the Billy Riordan Memorial Trust (www.billysmalawiproject.org). I had heard a few years previously from a friend of the family the story of the tragic drowning in Lake Malawi of Billy Riordan and the efforts of his mother Mags Riordan, a teacher from Dingle in County Kerry, subsequently to commemorate her son by setting up the Trust in an attempt to improve access to medical care. This town of 12,000 up to then had no medical services and no aid agencies, the inhabitants having to go to Monkey Bay for attention. Since 2002 a medical centre has been built, staffed by volunteer health professionals. While I was there I met the current crew - Martina a doctor from Cork, Fiona from Cavan, Maureen - Dublin, Sheila - Kilkenny, Margaret - Cork, and Steven, a VSO office manager from England.

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Invited to visit the centre on the outskirts of town, I was shown around by Jeanette van Os, the Dutch doctor in charge (pictured above at the clinic). She is paid a local wage and contracted for five years. Jeanette looked tired. The previous night she had been on call, and as the local care assistant wasn’t confident enough herself, had ended up being called in to the clinic four times during the night. She was also six months pregnant!

Jeanette proudly told me 97% of the funding goes directly into the centre - volunteers pay their own air fares, accommodation and living expenses! As they have a successful record behind them at this stage, largely I was told due to the energy and commitment of Mags Riordan, there is a good chance they will get some help from Irish Aid - the development aid arm of the government. The obvious question to be asked was what involvement did the local community have in running the centre? “We provide employment for twenty two - guards, a cook, translators. But we haven’t been successful in getting qualified Malawi nationals to work here. We can’t offer them what they can get in less isolated towns or the cities - a decent salary, electricity, the usual comforts of city life.” A difficulty most developing countries battle with is in retaining trained health profesisonals, or any others for that matter. Besides the few committed to staying and helping their own communities, the general trend is to follow the higher salaries abroad. Jeanette plainly needed an administrative assistant to take some of the load of running the place off her. She agreed. “We are advertising for someone in the national papers. We’ll see what comes up.” She sighed resignedly. I was struck by how overstretched she seemed, and was pleased to see her the following day with a bit more spark about her after a good night’s sleep! Respect.

The Recurring Issue of Development Aid
I could feel nothing but admiration for the efforts of those involved here, yet the old question kept nagging at the back of my mind while I was talking with Jeannette - why should she and the others be working so hard to help this community when Malawians weren’t doing it themselves? I was shocked to hear the barren patch of land for the medical centre on the edge of town had to be purchased. Was there nowhere suitable that could have been donated by the village? And the Trust was being charged rent for the buildings where the volunteers where accommodated, admittedly a lovely spot on the lakeshore. And I could understand how Irish nurses could afford to come over here for a three month spell without pay, but what about local people taking some responsibility for the care of their sick?

The effectiveness, and effect, of foreign aid is a much larger debate and has many angles. It may stem from a vague wish ‘to help those more unfortunate than ourselves’, or ‘we as the wealthy West share responsibility for the predicament Africa is in’. An opposing argument that ‘development aid is subversive and destructive and
all of it should be discontinued immediately’ is another extreme. I was beginning to understand that line of thinking a little more, particularly seeing the NGO presence in countries like Malawi and Mozambique. Europeans in expensive 4x4 vehicles earning European wages, over here to help the ‘poor Africans’ who can’t help themselves. If that is a bit simplistic and unfair, it has a basis in truth. I was drawn to supporting Self Help as they have no ex pats working in Africa - believing that African problems can only be solved by Africans themselves - and even then I could see how the introduction of Irish money into the society can have a powerful effect. I remembered something Monica from the head office in County Carlow had told me when I first discussed with her my intentions - no matter how you introduce it, aid will always change the dynamics in a community. Even something as simple as the person determining what are the local needs - that person’s relationships with the other community members will be affected.

The question I was most interested in, was ‘what can the West best do to help Africans help themselves?’ I didn’t believe it was as simple as ‘pull out and let them sort it out themselves’ (for a number of reasons - among others historical responsibility, effects of ‘globalisation’, and not ignoring simple compassion) and suspected it had something to do with economics. For a start dropping some of our trade protection barriers and price supports. Of course incompetent African governments benefit from their countries being poor, because of the aid that attracts. It is convenient from afar to judge the international aid effort as a failure, which serves only to enrich a corrupt few, ruins local economies and disempowers communities. Easier too from afar, to speculate on the causes of wretched and desperate living conditions of so many actual human beings.

No, I couldn’t see how the project in Cape Maclear could be self-sustaining, how eventually the Trust could withdraw and leave local trained professionals to take over. What I could see here in Cape Maclear, is that with people's health it is difficult to stand back and ignore human suffering. The folks involved in the Trust can help, so they do.

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Cape Mac Residents
Apart from the Irish contigent there was a small ex pat community living by the lake here, mainly involved in tourism. Avi from South Africa owned Kayak Africa, a successful lodge, and was very helpful with information on the Mozambique side of the lake, having brought a few kayak tours over there. “You’ll have great fun with the bike on that sand,” he laughed when he heard of my plans to bring it over on the ferry. Martin from Johannesburg, who ran a diving school and had been here for eight years, also spoke positively of that undeveloped side of the lake. “When MacDonalds arrives here, thats where I’m moving too. Its beautiful!” When I asked Martin about the risk of bilharzia, or schistosomiasis, a water born parasite found in freshwater lakes, he smiled. “Have you had a shower yet? Then you probably have it. There’s a 90% chance you will get it here. I just take the antidote every three months - I don’t even bother anymore getting tested.” I must admit this did have an effect on my enjoyment of plunging into the beautiful clear water. I did it, but didn’t dally!

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At night dots of light could be seen on the lake - fishermen in their canoes, who then sell the fish ashore (pictured above). The man pictured right buys surplus fish from them, hot smokes it slowly on his grate, then brings it into Blantyre, or the capital Lilongwe to sell on the street.

‘Pops’, a tall, lanky old hippy in his mid fifties was another South African and had been in Malawi a number of years. He was building a post and beam house for Liina, with local timber and split bamboo walls (“Don’t hire a spiritual builder”, she warned me after some slight disagreement. I didn’t ask.) One evening the two of us were lazing on the beach. A man was doing his laundry nearby. We were discussing water quality, and he told me of ‘colloidal silver’. “A few of us live out in the sticks, where purifying water is a bit of a task. After some research on the internet, I began to use this system, which is basically nano particles of silver suspended in water. It kills any virus or bacteria in the water.” That sounded interesting I told him.
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“But listen to this,” he continued. “After about a year we noticed none of us had got malaria, which is pretty unusual. If you live here, you get used to getting it a few times a year in the rainy season. So I just put it down to luck. However, after the second year, still no malaria! That’s when I reckoned it was the colloidal silver. Six years later its still working.” He described how a meter measured the quantity of particles in the water - it had to be fairly accurate for the different applications. He uses a stronger solution to directly apply to any infections. “I just rub some on the skin and it clears up.” As to why this wonder solution wasn’t more widely known about, our conscensus was predictably that because there was no profit behind it, no one distributed it. I made a note to check up on this one myself on the net.

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Cape Maclear was a difficult place to leave - what with the relaxed atmosphere and tasty food in Gaia (and the option of something more upmarket in the French owned Cape Mac’s); socialising with the expats, volunteers and visitors; and the beautiful location. A few metres away from my room the soft sandy beach - through the shade of Gaia’s trees and palmfrond shelter -edged the clear sparkling water of Lake Malawi. Magnificent sunsets cast glowing oranges and pinks across the evening sky, silhouetting a nearby off shore island. However I was conscious of my plans to catch the weekly ferry across to Mozambique, and so after a week in this lovely spot, packed my gear and set off for Nkhata Bay, up the lake.

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Lake Malawi Shore
Nkwazi Lodge an hour or two short of Nkhata Bay, had been recommended to me by Paul, the wildlife documentary maker back in Tzaneen, South Africa. Nwkwazi is the Chichewa word for ‘fish eagle’ - found throughout the region, even as far as the Mozambique coast. A few kilometres off the road down a sandy track through the bush, when I arrived I wondered if the lodge was open for business. A slight air of decline lay about the place and there were no other vehicles. I was the only guest.

I was offered a small single room at a good price by Robert the manager (from Zululand!). Shortly after my arrival, I was asked if I wanted to watch television. At ten in the morning this would seem to be an unusual offer, but I realised it could only mean one thing - a broadcast of the final Tri Nations rugby match betweeen the All Blacks and Australia. A slightly built wheelchair bound man appearing to be in his mid fifties (in fact he was sixty), with shoulder length straggly blond hair and Harley Davidson cap, Jim Davidson waved me in, beer in hand. “So you’re from Ireland,” he welcomed me. “I’m Scottish,” he declared in a broad South African accent. Of course what he meant was that a male ancestor somewhere down the line had emigrated from there!

The McAlpine Fusilier
Jim had been working in London for McAlpines in construction, the only ‘foreigner’ he said among Paddies. After a few years they gave him a bursary to study, and he qualified in “square drawing”, or architects technician. He had fond memories of those times, which I think accounted for his apparent positive disposition towards the Irish. He told me the story of how he ended up in this place. “I got injured and was given six months sick leave, so spent the time travelling through southern Africa. I came up the length of Mozambique. It was in ‘92, just after the war had ended. That was some journey.
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When I got to Malawi, I really liked it, saw this piece of land on the lakeshore and got permission from the chief to buy it. A few years later I came back and built this place,” he said, arm sweeping over his head. He described it as a sometimes frustrating task, finding it difficult to source materials. “Where in South Africa you would go down to the hardware store, here I had to go to the forest, hand cut the trees, mill the timber with a pit saw.” I could remember marvelling at photos of pit saws in use deep in the New Zealand kauri forests. A platform would be built in the forest, with two men manning a huge saw, one below and one above. And so rough hewn planks would be prepared. But that was in the nineteenth century!

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The Lodge is an impressive structure, an open plan high roofed design set among trees (“I planted most of the trees here. They don’t take long to grow in this climate.”) with separate bar and dining area leading out to a verandah, wide steps leading down to the beach. It was a testament to Jim’s building skills and, it must be said, pioneering ability. Then, a few years back, an accident involving a collapsed wooden verandah in a bar in the nearby town of Nkhata Bay put him in a wheelchair. I found the lodge had a slight sense of, not neglect - the grounds were well kept, the track maintained, the buildings in good shape - but maybe a lack of attention. Jim agreed with me when I mentioned this. He came across as weary of the enterprise, and it was no surprise to learn he was looking to sell the place and move on to the next project. He reckoned he didn’t have the ‘people skills’ necessary to run a lodge. It appeared he’d lost the enthusiasm and interest.

A Near Miss with 'The Long Way Down'
I was to see his impatience rise up with the arrival of an extroverted South African, Steve Jones and his partner Dana. Where Jim was quiet and laconic, Steve was loud, enthusiastic and 'city sociable' in manner. "Did you come down from Ireland on that bike outside?" He asked, with the by now customary response of astonishment. They had stayed further south on the lake a few nights previously in ‘Cool Runnings’, “a great backpackers in Senga Bay”, where Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor were also staying. “Really cool guys actually. I liked them. I used to race motocross bikes and was a big fan of ‘The Long Way Round’,” referring to the successful television programme made of their motorbike journey through the former Russian republics. I had known they were on their way south down the east coast of Africa, with their next documentary ‘The Long Way Down’. It had been suggested to me that I make contact with the production and arrange to hook up with them - the producer would probably be interested in my story - and there would be great exposure for my website, and consequently the charity
Self Help. I hadn’t got around to following that up, and now discovered I had missed crossing paths with them by a few days. “They’re pretty down to earth,” said Steve. “I know what they’re doing is very different from you - they’ve got a back up 4x4, extra gear, everything sponsored and arranged. And you came down the west coast! But how they put it, they’re just making a documentary based on two friends travelling on bikes.”

Before setting off on my journey, I had watched ‘The Long Way Around’ DVD and enjoyed it very much. Like some others I had a few problems with it - getting a little frustrated with a degree of whinging, or complaint which crept into the second half (which I put down to the program editor wanting it to sound more dramatic and difficult). And the bikes they chose were too big. And they had support crew, big money, and organisation behing the whole thing. But picking up the book of the series subsequently in my local library, and examining their checklist for any last minute things I might have forgotten, I ended up finishing the whole book, finding it a good read. As Steve said, they weren’t setting out to be pioneers.

The New Colonialists
Steve had sold up his timber business in Cape Town, the two of them taking off in his Landcruiser for Kenya, where he was born, to start something there. He didn’t get further than Malawi. “We were camping outside Lilongwe on the way through. And you know sometimes you meet someone you’re supposed to meet?” He looked at me with a seriousness. “I’ve always been an early riser. So I get up at dawn, see this bearded character boiling up something on his fire, and go over. At first he doesn’t say much. A real bush man, weatherbeaten, quiet. When I explain what I’m doing, he suggests I take a look at a property next to his near the lake. Well we go there, and I tell you I fell in love with it. Its 4,000 sq kms of bush, a game reserve west of Nkhotakhota on the Boere river. Just pristine bush, beautiful river through it, crocs on the river banks.” He looked over at Dana who was smiling. “We spent a few days camping there, and I just knew this was right for me. So I went back to Lilongwe, hired a lawyer, and applied for a concession to build a Lodge there. That was a month ago,” he grinned disbelievingly. “The paperworks all done, I’ve met with the Minister of Tourism and presented my proposal. The Malawi government needs to see you are going to invest a minimum of $50,000 so I had to show them a statement from my lawyer before I could apply for a permit to live and do business here. We’re just waiting now for the go ahead. I don’t want to count my chickens, but its looking good.” Their excitement was plain to see, and a pleasure to witness. I could do nothing but wish them the best of luck.

To this couple and other South Africans, Malawi seemed to be a land of opportunity, particularly for tourism. In the days of apartheid, Malawi, under the dictatorship of Dr Hastings Banda had been one of the few countries friendly to South Africa. I had met an elderly man, with very broken English, who had worked in the mines near Johannesberg, along with many others from his country. As a former British colony English was widely understood - another attraction. And it was cheap! I had no expectations before arriving in the country, in fact knew very little about it. Despite my indifference, and the chilly start in Blantyre, I warmed to it. There is a definite Muslim influence, particularly near the lake. This is said to be from the slave trading times, when Arab traders came down the east coast of Africa dealing in slaves, ivory and gold (it was forbidden in Islam to enslave a Muslim). The country is still very poor - people appear to have little money - but the children seem healthy, and everywhere there is evidence of primary and secondary schools (assisted I am sure by overseas aid). Unassuming, low key, and good humoured, I liked Malawi.

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