Today we were picking up new group members from a hotel in a different part of Dar Es Salaam city, so we were up and out by 6am on the way. It took us over 2 hours to get there, through mental traffic, at one point being asked to keep a look out of the truck windows to make sure no one was stealing anything off the truck! Apparently that's pretty common. We did see someone syphoning petrol out of a tanker in front of us, at first he couldn't get the tanker open so ran home to get a spanner and still had time to come back and try again as the traffic was so bad. He was syphoning petrol off into a carrier bag!
Finally we arrived at the pick up hotel and met our 5 new tour members. We were hoping for some more young English speaking people but when they got on the truck they all appeared to be speaking German. The Germans we'd been with for the past week laughed at us that now we had to learn German as there were more of them than us! 2 of the group members were girls in their late 20's which was nice and they actually turned out to be Dutch with excellent English so we were back with English being the group language again! :-) We quickly got them involved in the younger people gang that Jo, Kev, Marco, Grant and I had formed.
After another long drive, this time slightly less bumpy as we had some more weight in the truck, we crossed the border from Tanzania to Malawi and arrived at Mikumi, a small place half way between Dar Es Salaam and Lake Malawi our next major stop. The hotel was alright, nothing special and pretty much what we expected from all of the tour accommodation but as an added bonus it did have a TV in the room! All they really had was the news, but still it was nice to chill on the bed watching TV for the evening. So much so that after dinner Grant stayed chatting to people at the dinner table while I went and chilled on my own, surrounded by all the stuff from my bag that I was supposed to be sorting out, just staring at the TV screen! Grant found me like that 2 hours later! :-)
Early the next morning some of the group went on an optional game drive in Mikumi national park but as we'd already been on quite a few we took the opportunity to have a lie in, the last one we were going to get in a while, and waited for the rest of the group to get back. Then we were off on another long days journey to Iringa to stay at a farmhouse camp. The place was lovely, the rooms were made to look like little barns and the toilets and showers, although outside, were fairly luxury (which doesn't sound possible but they were!). Our evening meal was a lovely and massive Masai dinner cooked by the hotel staff and served in a cosy barn, the best bit being that we didn't have to chop anything or wash up!! It was nice, quite a few glasses of wine were drunk and it was a really fun evening.
When we eventually headed to bed (and got lost on the way in the dark) we fell asleep easily in a nice comfy room, but it didn't last long when Grant woke me up at about midnight saying 'whats that!" and searching the room with his torch. We could hear rustling but couldn't see anything so told ourselves it was outside and tried to go back to sleep. Unfortunately that wasn't going to happen for me as from then on I involuntarily listened to every single noise trying to work out what it all was, shouting at Grant a couple of times to get up and have a look! Eventually during about the 3rd inspection we saw a mouse run over our bags! We checked our bags and found holes gnawed through them where the cheeky mouse had tried to get at the food we had! We put the bags in the shower room in a different part of the camp hoping that would solve the problem but it didn't and we watched 2 mice run up and down the walls for the next hour trying to find the food we'd hidden... No sleep for us then and again I was clock watching waiting until 4.30am when we had to get up for breakfast! Not sleeping was becoming a regular occurrence in Africa!
Eventually we were on the truck on our way to Chitimba on Malawi Lake and I was able to go to sleep!!
We had a long day's driving, arriving at Chitimba about 5pm, and I was on duty (since picking up the new people we had started a rota of who was chopping and washing up that day) so after a quick shower I helped get dinner together, ate dinner, then helped wash up. I wasn't in the best mood after having no sleep, and watching everyone else in the bar while I worked, so after dinner I stomped off to bed desperate for an early night :-) We were sleeping in a hut that night but despite all the noises going on around us I was so exhausted I managed to ignore it all and had a good night's sleep!!
The next day we moved onto Kande Beach, the other side of Lake Malawi. We arrived just before lunch and this time I wasn't on duty (Grant was!) so took full advantage and once we'd checked into another cute little hut, I dived into the refreshing lake. I'm not a major fan of the sea so it was lovely swimming in a clean fresh water lake. We had a nice lunch of pasta salad, which made a change to sandwiches on the road, then negotiated with one of the 'beach boys', the guys that hung around the beach trying to sell you anything they could, and a group of us got in one of their boats and was taken to a small island for snorkelling.
The snorkelling part was a bit of a con, not only did they not have enough snorkeling equipment for all of us to use at once, but there weren't really any fish to see anyway! Saying that tho, the water was really deep off the island and it was lovely swimming in the lake. When we'd all had enough and wanted to go back to the mainland the real hard sell started. They got out all their paintings and key rings etc that they made and targeted us one on one trying to sell us their stuff. Most of us ended up buying stuff, I fell for the 'please Kate I need to feed my family' line, which although looked pretty genuine, I'm sure was probably just a line, and bought a painting of Africa with all the countries we had visited highlighted, and a key ring of a hippo (that looked more like a rhino when he gave it to me) with my name on the back. We hadn't really bought many souvenirs so I wasn't bothered about buying it and at least it got the rest of the beach boys off my back for the next few days!! We got back to the mainland just before sunset, in time for Grant to go and help with dinner, and for me to have a shower and meet the group in the bar. Kande beach was supposed to be a bit of a party place but no one was there apart from our truck and although we went back to the bar after dinner and tried to stay up, we were all still in bed by 10pm!!
In the morning some of the group went off on a village tour including Grant, but I was craving some me time and spent the morning in a hammock with my book, even drinking a beer at 10am, bliss :-). When everyone else got back we swam in the lake, chilled in hammocks and sat in the bar before dinner by the truck.
4 more trucks had turned up and Kande Beach really started living up to its party name! One of the trucks were full of young English (I say young, I mean 20's, I'm so old now!) and they were really going for it, dancing on the bar and getting battered on shots! Our group again tried getting involved, this time managing slightly better and the 'young' group 7 of us had formed stayed up til 11 and got a bit tipsy, but then everyone headed to bed. Grant and I were disgusted with our effort and were about to get into bed and then thought sod it and headed back to the bar for another hour or so drinking on the beach front! We finally made it to bed after midnight! :-) I suffered for it in the morning tho, a bumpy truck ride with a wine hangover is not the one!!
Another fairly long drive later, via a wildlife sanctuary which was not only a bit crap after all of the actual wildlife we'd seen in the wild, but also pointless as all the animals were hiding anyway in the noon burning heat, we went through the Zambia border and arrived in Lilongwe. There's not much I can say about Lilongwe, it was a decent place, Grant and I shared a 2 bedroom cottage with Jo and Kev which was cool, but mostly it was just a stop over place before we drove to South Luangwa the next day.....