It was immediately obvious to us that life in Malawi was a little easier than that in Mozambique. As soon as we crossed the border, the bumpy dirt tracks turned to potholed tarred road, crops were more prominent, and there was even the occasional brick house. We were still surprised to be in Malawi, unprepared and unsure of what there was to see. We had not planned to hit Malawi for months and only 3 days prior we were heading for Tanzania.We drove down an impressive escarpment en-route to Mangochi, the main town between us and the lake. With no money changing or ATM facilities on the lake (where we planned to spend most of our time) we needed to cash up. The banks in Mangochi were nice, even air-conditioned and you could see the English influence in the town already. The queues were much smaller aswell. Unfortunately though the Malawian Kwacha is one of those daft currencies where $20 dollars fills your wallet with a thick wad of notes, and we walked away with a pile of cash 4inches thick. On the plus side, with a 500Kw the maximum note ($4) we thought we should have no problem breaking large denominations. As we drove through town, it appeared the whole local community had come out to greet us, singing and dancing along the side of the road. Our ego's were shattered minutes later when we realised the festivities were in favour of the President who was due to drive past at any minute. Security and armed guards patrolled the highway, and we took the opportunity to stop at a roadside restaurant for lunch. It was a nice looking place but the food was terrible, we hoped this wasn't indicative of what was to come in Malawi, after all the food in Mozambique had been fantastic.A strange observation having only been in Malawi for a matter of hours, but the thing that initially struck us was the amount of people with deformities. Whilst sitting at the café we saw people missing arms, fingers, one with one normal leg and one super short leg, and a guy that could merely drag himself across the ground with his arms. It was disturbingly bizarre, I thought Mozambique with its history of land mines would have been much worse. The presidential procession over, we journeyed on to Cape Maclear, the southern playground on the shores of Lake Malawi. Nestled adjacent a National Park and famous for snorkelling, scuba diving, kayaking and all things water related we expected a bustling tourist centre. Perhaps having crossed the border there was a renewed optimism amongst us that clouded our judgement, for we were greeted with little more than grass and mud-brick huts of the local fishing community and some persistently annoying locals.Being a former British colony the official language of Malawi is in fact English. It felt a bit strange to be in a developing country where we could communicate with ease. It was the first time Kaz and I had experienced this throughout our travels in South America, Europe and now Africa. It almost felt like we were cheating, things weren't meant to be this easy, and to be honest we didn't really like it. A further reason to dislike it was becoming blaringly obvious - people would hassle you at every opportunity. "Beach boys" would swarm around us at every chance to offer their services, a boat ride, a bunch of bananas, directions here and there, or curios (souvenirs/artefacts/crafts), and "no" just wasn't an acceptable answer. Days into our stay in Cape Maclear and we had finally convinced the beach boys we just weren't interested, but the children still tried their wares everytime we passed them. It was the same old broken record "hello", "how are you?", "whats your name?" and then a blunt "give me money" or the occasional variation of "give me sweets/pen". Don't get me wrong, the kids are cute but saying hello 30 times on a five minute walk becomes tiring, and when they start with a greeting it is difficult just to tell them to "piss off".We ended up spending a week in Cape Maclear at Fat Monkeys, generally chilling out, but mostly doing nothing. We met a nice dutch guy named Paul in the first couple of days, and shared a few beers with him whilst watching the African Cup of Nations football. The following day he approached us as he was travelling by himself and he was keen to head out to one of the islands on an afternoon fishing trip. Sounding like my sort of activity, having not wet a line for months I agreed to join him and so did Boner. It was evident from the start that this was to be a fishin' mission. It was an absolute shambles, the equipment once they had finally tracked it down from all over the village was archaic, rusty and partly ceased. There was no spare tackle, knots in the line and even the sinkers we were using were just a group of bolts, nails and nuts tied messily together. Being a bit of a fisher-freak this was not the sort of thing I was used to. We soon realised the crew had little idea either. Firstly, assuming us white folk had never been fishing in our lives, tried to show us how things were done and ended up in a massive tangle of line. When they finally sorted that out, we discovered they had parked us in a spot on the lake so deep that we ran out of line before our sinker even touched the bottom. Recognising their mistake they relocated us closer to the island but within 5 minutes, when we all became snagged they realised they had parked us on top of a local fishermans net (despite the 2 bouys that were floating there). Concerned about his net the local paddled over in his dugout canoe but refused to let them pull it up, instead helping them try to unhook the lines. This was a pointless task and once hooked the lines were never going to be freed, and eventually there was no option but to break the lines. Having no other tackle it was the end of the fishing, and we had only been on the water for 30mins. Aware of their failings, and no doubt worried they weren't going to paid, the crew reverted to what they knew best and headed for the closest island. The island was home to a number of impressive fish eagles, their defining characteristics a dark brown body and bright white plumage on their head and neck. Trips were often run to the islands to feed the eagles, and after harassing some other local fisherman for part of their catch, our crew tracked down one of the magnificent birds. We sat offshore in the boat and after attracting the birds attention with a mock cry, they flung the dead fish into the water. The eagle took off from his perch and flew towards its prey, spectacularly swooping down to the water only metres from the boat and gripping the fish in its talons, before returning to its perch to devour it. The guides and bird repeated the show and it was impressive to watch, but eventually we ran out of fish and the bird became full and disinterested.Not yet done, we pulled onto the island and our guides began to show us the wonderful variety of colourful cichlids (fish) Lake Malawi was famed for. Using the left over fishing bait, the guides attracted the fish and even caught a couple with their hands. Our attempts were fruitless, but we were fascinated by the array of fish and even crabs, having never seen such vibrant fresh water species. Out of bait, and the sun going down we headed back to camp, disappointed by our failed fishing attempt but satisfied by our overall adventure.The following days were spent wandering round town, checking out the local craft stalls, exploring the local fishing villages and occasionally dipping in the lake. We met a local orphan lady selling hand-made cards and she agreed to take us to the local orphanage the following day. Although it was highly interesting, it wasn't at all what we expected. The orphanage was originally a WWF programme, and was now teaching the local community about sustainable development. They ran a small fish farm, grew their own crops and sold hand-made cards and paper to sponsor younger orphans to go to school, the youngest of which were in their early teens.A few nights into our stay at Fat Monkeys and James and Jen our travelling companions through the west of Mozambique drove through the gates with a dutch hitchhiker they had picked up named Friso. We had expected to see J&J sooner, having left them in Mangochi, but plans had changed and by coincidence they had stumbled across us once more in Cape Maclear. It was good to catch up again and we spent the night sharing a few yarns, and a number of drinks at the bar. The following day J&J left to continue their journey north and the same morning Paul and Susie headed to the nearby island on a canoeing trip, leaving Karen and I and our new mate Friso to ourselves. The tension of travelling together for so long was beginning to show and we had agreed with Paul and Susie that we would go our own way for a couple of weeks. The timing had worked out ok, and Karen and I planned to catch the weekly ferry, the MV Ilala II up the lake where we agreed to meet them again in the North.Our final 2 days at Fat Monkeys relaxing and preparing for our solo adventure. By now Friso had decided to join us on the Ilala aswell, but we needed to confirm the timetable and arrange tickets so we drove to the port town of Monkey Bay to sort out the logistics. At the same time we had intended to visit the post office to find out how much it would cost to send some wooden artefacts home. We were keen to purchase some local crafts in Cape Maclear but confusingly the post office staff did not know and could not work out how much it would cost. I was baffled, apparently the price list was lost, but if the post office didn't know the prices then how does anyone send anything? Either way, we were forced to can the idea for the time being.