Beautiful Mount Mulanje in the southeast of Malawi. The annual Mountain Porters race was on with open entry, and I considered having a go until someone explained that it wasn’t exactly a ‘fun run’ but more of a hugely competitive 23km slog, half of which is run directly uphill. Or upmountain as the case may be.


Decided to climb the mountain. Luckily the park wouldn’t let me do it on my own and I was allocated a guide. The view from the top looking down across the border to Mozambique was definitely worth the effort.


On day 2 of the climb I made my poor guide George take us back down the steepest and most slippery trail on the mountain so we could hike back to town through the tea plantations. To serve me right, I couldn’t walk for about 3 days afterwards.


Sunset over Mount Mulanje. The strange atmospheric look is half due to the sunset and half because of tear gas the police had released along the streets of the town that day. It seemed there were some land ownership problems between local government and a foreigner who had opened an orphanage on public land. The foreigner had been put in prison and the orphans responded by rioting and stoning the police station.


One of the biggest challenges in Africa was finding somewhere to get a hair cut. Nobody seemed to know how to cut Muzungu (white peoples’) hair, although everyone was willing and eager to give it a try. My first hair cut in Uganda was from a lovely 16 year old boy. He precariously balanced a baby on one arm who was suckling unsuccessfully at his tshirt, while with the other he hacked away at my hair using a rusty pair of paper scissors.


Tried my luck in Malawi at the Hip-hop Barber Shop, but there didn’t seem to be anyone home.


1. The 3rd hairdresser in town was empty most days too due to church commitments.
2. Two generations of Jaffalih store owners, N. Jafah, W. Chipwaila and C. Fili. The older generation spent a few hours trying to teach me to speak Chichewa, with little success. Zomba, Malawi.

Charles and Zynab Kampango keep book at their store in Mulanje town. I thoroughly enjoyed my days hanging out with them, and the special meal their mother made for me. Like most Malawian’s, it had to be made in the darkness of the small mud shack due to unreachable setup costs for electricity.


A working couple near Zomba watch people passing on the street from the comfort of their front porch sewing machines.


1. Plastic bag seller at the Chikupila markets north of Zomba.
2. Fast food in Malawi is a plate of deliciously greasy salty chips; with a side of tomato and cabbage in case you feel like being slightly healthy.


Conrad and Zenith were two inquisitive teenagers who really put a smile on my face. Walking home from the markets one evening, they ran up and asked to join me. We got chatting about the world, and the usual questions about religion etc came up. Conrad pointed up to the stars which were starting to come out and asked me in all honesty, “have you traveled to any of them?”. Mr Chilimba from Chikupila School later explained to me that science is not really taught in schools anymore as it clashes with beliefs of church leaders.


Fishing on the Shire River.                                                                                                                                                        Back to Home


Camping along the banks of the Shire river, Liwonde.
The view was peaceful and the hippo’s didn’t so much as show an eyeball. I think they probably knew something I didn’t though, as I discovered at 4am that my chosen camping spot was infested with half a million ants. I discovered this thanks to sleeping with my mouth open. The entire inside of the tent had turned black with ants and gravity was slowly making them fall one by one onto my face.


Just seconds before spotting this little guy on a rock, a huge Monitor lizard had passed by. He or she allowed me only a glimpse before disappearing into thick undergrowth. This is on the small island of Thumbi in Lake Malawi.


A family day out in the fields between Salima and Sengabay.
I have no photo of them but want to say a public thank-you to Gezina Phiri and Potiphar Phiri from Salima, who really supported me in every way possible when I found out the news of my nana’s death. I hope one day I will be able to return their hospitality and kindness.


Playing volleyball on the beach in Cape McClear.


Sunset at Cape McClear, Malawi. It would be very easy to wind up staying in a beautiful place like this… except there are truckloads of loud annoying British students that pass through each week. Even more bizarre considering it has the worst stretch of road leading up to it, this side of Africa.


I used to love going for an early morning swim in the lake at Nkata Bay. The water at that time of day always had a fresh and serene atmosphere about it. The gritty sandstones proved perfect for scrubbing grime off bodies, as well as being a good natural scrubbing brush for dishes and clothes.


A couple of local football teams play each Saturday in Nkata Bay, drawing crowds from nearby Mzuzu.


Rowing on Lake Malawi at sunset.


Baobob trees are an icon of Malawi. The hollow space inside makes a cosy camp room during dry season for those without a tent.


Simple but effective. The stone bar at Wikwenda, Chizimulu Island, Lake Malawi.


Licoma Island, Lake Malawi.


A couple of Licoma Islanders see me taking photos and want one for themselves…                                                   Back to Home


Somehow I wind up challenging them and their friends to a gymnastics competition on the beach.


One flip and a few cartwheels later I’m out of the running. Competition was still going strong when I eventually got on the boat.


Louise demonstrates how to grind down Cassava for making Nsima in Bwelelo village. Among much laughter I get shown how to do it properly by 8 year old Jefoniro.


Cassava grinding was followed by loads of children wanted loads of piggy-backs and photographs. Chimango, Jefoniro, Modrick and Luxson…love ya!


Grandma Alina supervises the goings on from her central courtyard position.


Sellah expertly whips up a pot of cassava nsima for the whole family.


Some of the Nkata Bay artists take a break from carving and sanding. In no particular order, Gondwa, Sheeda, Lemon Squeeze, Thompson, Mikey, Julius Ceasar, Soba, Alec, Chicken Pizza, Simple, Cheese on Toast and Angoni.


Nkhata Bay’s solo female artist Merci ropes me in to help sand down some Bao boards, and I try explaining to Julius Ceasar why his name wouldn’t be so popular in parts of the world.


Getting the girls at Finnish Merja’s birthday together for a pic.


I went for a rather long hike up into the hills of Livingstonia on my last day in Malawi and came across a wonderful Oliver Twist-style communal kitchen behind the hospital. It was full of life, chatter and laughter which left me with many happy memories of Malawi.


Tryness, Albi, Victoria, Mackson and the rest of the group of women working at the Livingstonia Hospital put my nsima-making skills to the test. Even a few of the hospital patients came out to watch me struggling away with the pot and paddle. But Sellah and Soba had been great teachers and it was a success. Not a crumb left in the pot!

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All content copyright © Charlotte Hayes 2011
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