We needed to be up shortly after dawn to make the crossing across to Chizimulu. The winds had been unpredictable of late and we did not want to get stuck in the middle of the channel if the weather turned.We packed up our tent and loaded into the old wooden boat, it was similar in size to our old fishing tinny but unfortunately much slower. We putted our way across the channel as the sun poked its head above the silhouetted Likoma Island. The waters were calm and the sun was shining and an hour later we had arrived at Chizumulu and Wakwenda Retreat, our home for the next few days. Wakwenda is an amazing little budget lodge, nestled in another sheltered cove but with a newer and almost resort like feel about it compared with Mango. Again there was a large bar, but the focal point would definitely have to have been the fantastic multi-tiered relaxation area on the rocky point overlooking the water, simply referred to as the "knoll".It was the low season and like at Likoma the lodge was quiet, in fact we were the only people there other than the managers Simon and Wendy (S&W). We took breakfast, and erected our tent and spent the rest of the morning snorkelling, reading our books in the sun and playing Bao. Since learning Bao a few days before, Karen and I had become addicted and would spend hours plotting each others demise in the traditional chess equivalent, claiming to be "world champion" when we won. Such is our competitive nature, we had had a similar Bocce (Boules) tournament on Likoma in which I had claimed the "World Championship" and this time Karen was looking for revenge.
Simon had recently purchased some new fishing gear and was keen to give it a go, and when he offered for us to join them on their fishing adventure later that day all my dreams were about to be realised. But when the wind picked up late in the morning and the seas beyond the bay became too choppy my dreams were shattered, and so after going for short walk round part of the island I turned to the bottle and spend the afternoon drinking beer instead. That night we were served dinner on the knoll and were joined by S&W for a great feast of locally caught butterfish and homemade chips.
Day 2 on Chizi and we woke to miserable drizzly weather, so Karen and I spent the morning sheltering from the rain and battling each other at Bao. However as quickly as the kitchen staff had disappeared when their break was due, the weather changed and our fishing trip was finally going ahead. We loaded up and trolled out of the cove, and it was only minutes before I was reeling in my first blue fish. We continued out to the deep reef where we were chasing butterfish in 70m of water. Simon and I using strange fishing contraptions fashioned from umbrella ribs and nylon twine to fish, whilst the girl sipped red wine and talked about "girly things". It was a good afternoon spent on the water, fishing and socialising, and although fairly unsuccessful from a fishing perspective we returned to shore pleased, jagging another bluefish along the way. We were invited for dinner and to watch a DVD at S&W house. The food was great once more, but the DVD a woeful boxing movie which will surely mean the end to Meg Ryans career.
The next day Karen and I mistakenly took a wooden kayak out for a paddle together. We ventured out beyond the cove and paddled round the point, but spent the majority of the time arguing. Karen had wanted "us" to do some exercise together but I was soon sick of paddling for the both of us whilst Karen rested her "tired arms", not least because paddling from right at the back meant we were continually moving in a frustratingly tight zig-zag pattern. The wind had picked up again as well so we returned back to Wakwenda for a swim. The snorkelling was fantastic just off the knoll, and although the fish seemed to be similar the lake over, the sheer numbers and their vibrant colours kept us fascinated.Later that afternoon and we joined S&W for a walk around the island. We set off with the lodge dogs in tow and pushed our way through the overgrown paths on the back side of the island. We reached the main village community and stopped off at the Island shop for S&W to pick up a few things. However when Karen and I stepped outside there were cats and dogs running everywhere and a couple of locals going crazy claiming the dogs had killed a cat. They picked up the evidence and dumped it in front of us, we didn't know what to do and either did S&W, but Karen and I were glad it wasn't our problem and took a back seat whilst Simon negotiated a cash settlement and offered to buy the owner a new cat (imagine how that would go down back home). A couple of minutes later and everyone seemed happy. We made our way to the local bar which was owned by the Wakwenda boatman named William. There was little to the bar, just an empty mudbrick hut with a 1980's stereo system that had been turned up so loud it crackled with a static like irritance, a common trait of African bars. There were plenty of people around the bar today with it backing on to the football pitch where a local game was taking place. The community was out in force and I guessed this was about exciting as it got for them on the island. There was no fridge at the bar and the drinks list was fairly straight forward, warm beer, warm soft-drink or a warm homemade cane spirit that would take your head off. We opted for warm beers all round and settled in to watch the football. William seemed extremely pleased to have us there, I don't think too many Mzungus spent time drinking at his local bar, and our presence seemed to spark a lot of conversation. Some local guys drinking cane-spirit from an old plastic bottle then offered us a drink. I don't know if it was out of sheer hospitality or if they just wanted to see our reaction when it touched our lips, but a small crowd gathered round as they served it up in the bottle cap and spontaneously laughed when our faces contorted at the taste. It was heavy stuff and it tasted horrible, who knows how they drink it by the litre.The local football was full of excitement but a long way from the beautiful game of Europe. The locals played barefoot, it was rough and tough, no diving, no free kicks and although often played in the air there was barely a header all game. Scissor kicks, fly kicks, kicks to the head, no doubt this game was a local adaptation due to the state of the pitch and refereeing, but it was interesting and entertaining for sure.We knocked back a couple more beers and hesitantly a couple more shots, barely keeping them down, and as darkness approached the football concluded and young kids invaded the pitch kicking round their makeshift footballs they had been making on the sidelines. We had seen these balls all over Africa, tightly packed bundles of rubbish but had never seen them being made before. The ball consisted of a bladder made from none other than a condom. It was then wrapped with layers of twine and old plastic bags until it became tight solid ball. With the high prevalence of aids in the communities, it was good to see the condoms were being used for the correct purpose, although possibly even more disturbing was the story that children were occasionally spotted rummaging through the Lodge bins looking for used condoms to blow up and use. Perhaps that's recycling gone a little too far.
Conveneing back at Williams house, just behind the bar we were introduced to the local chief and bought him a drink before returning to the lodge. Like déjà vu we dined at the house and followed it up with another crap movie.
Our final day on the island and it started much like the others with a few games of Bao, a relaxing swim and lazy hour or 2 spent reading on the knoll. Before we knew it the afternoon had rolled round and we found ourselves back on the boat on another fishing adventure. The afternoon was as much about the social aspect as it was about wetting a line, and whilst the girls spent most of their time sipping their wine and talking UK gossip, us guys fished and knocked back cold beer. Again the fishing was not overly successful but we managed to bag a couple and Karen even hauled in her first fish of the trip. We returned to camp and packed up our gear just in the nick of time before the heavy downpour began.The Ilala was due to arrive around midnight, so like the previous nights we dined at the house and finally sat down to a decent DVD. When it was time for bed we were extremely grateful that S&W had offered us a bed in the house and whilst we waited for the Ilala to arrive we expected to get a couple of hours sleep but were woken by the familiar horn as the vessel rounded the point. The Ilala was not renowned for keeping to schedule and it could've arrive at anytime during the night, but on this rare occasion it was running early and after farewelling some more new friends, we were piling back into the boat to be ferried offshore. The seas were a little choppy, and of course it was dark so it was again a challenge to clamber on the Ilala with all our gear and with the boat bouncing about, but we manage to get on board and found ourselves a nice little spot to set up camp. We were keen to find a spot to sleep protected from the rain and having been on the Ilala the week before, we had found a small corner outside the front cabins where it was partially protected. It was close to 11pm and we were due at our next port of call sometime around 5am, so setting up the tent this time was simply not an option.Luckily for us, the owners cabin was empty and we were able to lay out our stuff in front of its door, and after buying a ticket we lay down and tried to get some sleep. As predicted it rained, so we shuffled about and huddled in a thin strip possibly a foot or so wide which enabled us to keep dry and manage a couple of hours sleep.