Kande Beach: TIA = This is Africa

Thursday, July 09, 2009
Kande Beach, Malawi
Day 19 and this is the last of a 2 day, 3 night stop at Kande Beach, Malawi. We were due to stay here for only 2 nights but decided to do another 600 km travel day into Lusaka, the capital city of Zambia, tomorrow by combining 2 shorter travel days together.

A strong on shore wind has been in force since our arrival so no water base activities. Kande Beach is on the western shore of Lake Malawi which is over 500 km long and 80 km wide. It covers 1/5 of Malawi. It looks like a sea with no distant hills and as I type this the waves are up and I would not be surprised to see some surfers out next to the boggie boarders. Feels really strange with no tide yet like a beach side with a constant surf noise in the background.

As I mainly pack the tents into the Man powered truck, I know where our 2 person 2 metre by 2 metre tent is so can often choose a better tent site by getting it out quickly. Thank goodness that at this site I have other tents in front of me sheltering ours from the wind. Travel smart being the 50 something traveller? But the coarse sandy beach base is no fun as I suspect sand will be everywhere inside the tent at the end of our stay here.

Malawi has a population of 13 million but with an average life expectancy of 34 and 40 % of the population with HIV / AIDS, no wonder there are so many (over 1 million) orphans here. It is also a very poor country.

Yesterday we went for a 3 hour village walk and from this gained a little insight into the lifestyle of local people. Kande Beach campsite was established in 1995 for overland truck safari companies and with the income from the overland truck clients like myself has meant this village is a bit more fortunate than others in Malawi. Kande Beach has a population of 5,000 people with a primary school and clinic.

We saw a government funded hand operated water pump drawing clean water for a number of houses.

The different stages of one of the village's staple root crops cassava, plus saw sweet potato, banana, avocado, pineapple and maize growing.

How mud bricks for houses are handmade and then wood fired.

We also saw inside a typical mud brick house which has no electricity with evening lighting provided by kerosene lanterns and cooking done over an open fire in another outside building.

Dishes were left out in the sun to dry on a raised drying platform.

Chicken were housed in a raised structure built on 4 poles.

The primary school has a roll of well over 1,500 children aged 6 years upwards but it has only 8 classes or grades. While the government has set a guideline of 1 teacher for every 68 children, this school class sizes ranges from 90 to well over 100 children in each class. You do the maths: 1,500+ divided by 8 = far too many for good learning. No wonder the hordes of children were able to leave their lessons to greet us as we arrived. I am sure the teachers were none for the wiser of their missing pupils. Primary education is free and a child progresses to the next level once they pass each grade. I think this is correct.

We had an introduction to primary school life in the small school library which had books donated from around the world. Yes, I saw my old School Journal publications from various New Zealand schools dated from 1960 onwards!!!!

School started at 7 am with 9 x 35 mins sessions and 2 breaks during the day. Attached to this school was an orphanage.

One of the young guys showing us around was 18 and still at primary school. The very lucky few who can afford US$50 a term (3 terms a year) can attend a boarding secondary school in the neigbouring city. The guy who latched onto me was 23 and still had 1 year of secondary school education left before he wanted to become a mechanical engineer. He was needing more money to go back to secondary school, sold paintings and wood carvings plus relied on tips from overlanders to gain funds to achieve this. His parents were subsistence farmers with no real income.

The simple clinic services some 21,500 in the surrounding area. It is staffed by 2 nurses and 1 assistant doctor who had only 2 years of medical training. The clinic has only 10 beds for overnight stays, 6 with mosquito nets, sees well over 100 outpatients a day and delivers 5 babies a week. It can test for HIV / AIDS but can not treat people for this. It is just like a large over crowded under resourced doctor's surgery.

While the village walk was a paid trip optional extra, it quickly became apparent that by showing us overlanders into their school and clinic that at the end of each segment a request was made for donations or materials gifts. I left the pens and pads that I brought with me at the school for later distribution. The children would ask us all ... Hello sir, give me pen please. If we gave one child a pen then the rest would expect one!!!!

Look at the following sequences as we walked back to camp passing through the local village shops. Talk about the Pied Piper of Hamlin ....



Last night was fancy dress night with the clothes we brought at Mzuzu. It was like a secret Santa gift where we gave the clothes we had brought to our fellow unsuspecting traveller but before dinner. A pig was spit roasted that afternoon. Other overland groups also took part in the dress up. I'm told it was well after 2 am when the last few retired to their tents having finished the evening in the bar. A few weary travellers from the different overland groups were around camp this morning.

That's Kande Beach.

After our R&R at Kande Beach we have ahead 3 long travel days totalling 1,620 km till Livingstone at Victoria Falls, Zambia where we will spend 4 nights to see the smoke that thunders ie Victoria Falls. I heard today that they had a heavy rainy season and still a lot of water is going over the falls, so much so that the upper white water rafting rapids are closed as they are too dangerous to raft. I don't think it will change when we get there in a few days time.

Livingstone is like our Queenstown being Adventure Capital of Africa. It is also the change over point or hub for travellers with 3 well worn routes from Nairobi, Johannesburg and Capetown all meeting here. Some will leave our truck here, some will go onto J'berg and new people will join us. Of the 24 who left Nairobi, only 6 of us are continuing all the way to Capetown along with Tom, Mandy and our truck. Six left us at Dar Es Salaam and 5 joined us there.

Livingstone will be the half way point for me. I have just spent a couple of hours talking with a well travelled 71 year old who is travelling south to north along the same route as me. He is also camping with Dragoman. I am currently the 4th oldest in our group with a 70 year Aussie cattle farmer being the oldest. Most of our current fellow travellers are as expected in their 20's to 30's. At the moment we have 2 Dutch, 3 Aussies, 1 other Kiwi, 2 Americans, 1 Canadian and the rest are Brits. With some airfares from the UK to Africa being only 500 pounds, I can see why so many overlanders from the different companies we have met are young Poms. So this 50 something Kiwi is young amongst his older peers.

Today is free and for some it is horse riding around the local village and fields, finishing their ride in the cooling lake.

But for me, more mundane jobs awaits me like more clothes washing in this lovely drying lake breeze and also to write this blog on this slow internet connection but ... but hey, a few years ago they had no internet here. The world is certainly getting smaller. Next blog will probably be from Livingstone.

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