Lake Malawi is a gleaming panorama of glittering light blue water. It could very well be mistaken for a sea because the opposite shore is invisible across the horizon. It’s a perfect lake for swimming and playing in-water volleyball games due to its shallowness that extends far into the lake from the shore.
Again it was quite a journey to get to Lake Malawi from our last destination, Dar es Salaam. A loooong day of driving (starting at 4:30am to avoid the Dar traffic, ouch) was made worth it when we stopped to camp at a beautiful – although it was hard to tell for sure because it was already dark when we arrived – and remote – the starry sky was literally the most amazing I’ve ever seen – farm near the town of Iringa in central Tanzania. A dinner of beef raised at the farm and veggies grown on the farm was a nice reward for our exhausting day of sitting in the truck.
Another 4:30am morning and long drive into Malawi, and we finally arrived at our first campsite on the sweeping sandy shores of Lake Malawi. It was just a quick stop, though, because our real experience of Lake Malawi was to happen at Kande Beach, which we made it to the next day.
Kande Beach is a lively yet laidback beach resort and campsite on the mid-western shore of Lake Malawi. Its grounds expand over too-hot-to-walk-barefoot-on gold sand right up to the lake’s lapping waves. There are hammocks swaying on a deck overlooking the water, shaded and cushioned wood benches for napping away from the flaming sun, and a fun outdoor bar.
Our first night at Kande was a party night to celebrate the 20th birthday of the baby of our group, Josefin (YOS – ef – een) from Sweden. Earlier that day, we had each drawn the name of someone in the group, stopped at an African clothes market (which I think was selling mostly first world donations from the 1980s) and bought “fancy clothes” – what the rest of the English-speaking world calls costumes – for that person to wear to the party.
A few of us helped our crazy Spanish tour guide Gino make sangria, which I imagine was like cooking pasta sauce with an Italian – a little more clove here … taste … hmmm, a little more sugar there … taste … needs a little more wine … taste … now a dash of brandy … yum, perfect!
My fancy dress giftee, Mark from Scotland, was lucky to get to wear a floor length leopard-print dress for the night. I was grateful to wear a fringed gray tube top feathered in white and colorful men’s silk boxer shorts. Sangria plus crazy clothes plus a festive resort bar on the beach – the perfect prescription for a great night.
The next day was a day of rest in the shade by the beach, which was gloriously relaxing after so many long travel days and a party night. For dinner, we planned an amazing pig roast with the locals, which in theory seemed like a very fun and authentic thing to do, but it ended up feeling a bit contrived.
A theme of these “local” dinners is having the kids from the neighborhood sing or dance for us, then ask us to give them a tip. The kids are usually impressively talented – I can’t get over how well African kids can move – and man are they cute, but it seems very unlikely that they’ll ever see the money we tip them. The showiness of it all takes away from the local experience.
Our time in Kande Beach was nearing an end, but before we left the next day, we got to do the funnest thing EVER. We got to ride horses! It is something I’ve always wanted to do, despite being slightly apprehensive that I wouldn’t be able to tame a horse enough not to get thrown off. Thankfully, they had a nice, mellow horse for me.
My horse Charge was a slow poke and dawdler (hence his ironic nickname) but I loved him. All the horses were scared of Adam’s Pavarotti, but he handled him quite well. We started at some stables in the woods and meandered for two hours on a path through the trees, through local villages of huts, outhouses, and outdoor kitchens, to the beach.
At the beach, we de-saddled our horses, then hopped back on bareback and guided them into the water. Then we got to ride them while they SWAM! I didn’t even know horses could swim. It was a crazy feeling being on a horse as he paddled through the water.
When we finally had to say goodbye to our horses, they rolled around in the sand to dry off. It was hilarious. Horses are such cool animals.
Now we are bracing ourselves for tomorrow, our longest travel day yet through Mozambique to Zimbabwe.