A Very African Day

Friday, October 28, 2016
Likoma, Northern Region, Malawi
On Friday we were booked on the MV Ilala, a ship which was built in the 1950's and has become something of an icon for Malawi. Once we arrived in the country we mentioned to everyone our intention to board the ferry at Senga Bay and were met with blank faces. No one seems to have done this trip and most people said the ferry did not stop in Senga Bay.
I was assured by email and telephone from a very nice lady called MaryZulu in the shipping company that it would pick us up and the captain would be looking out for us so what could possibly go wrong .
The timetable said the ship would call in Senga at 13.00, at 15.00 we saw it sail past to it's next port of call! Frantic phone call to the shipping company, no problem came the answer, we changed the order of stops it will be back for you later, "how much later?", "when it gets there".

Senga beach is about a mile long, it started to get dark, fewer and fewer people were around so we walked to a beach bar in the middle (with our luggage of course) had a beer and discussed the problem with the locals. They all agreed that the MV Ilala does not stop in Senga Bay and that we were doomed but I still had faith in Mary Zulu. After a couple of beers I was getting in the mood to spend the night on the beach when one of the lads said "there she is", it did not look like a ship and I was a little apprehensive, I am afraid I was in Indian mode expecting a scam. Anyhow everyone in the bar agreed it was the ship, two lads picked up our cases and we scampered half a mile back along the beach in the dark to the most likely landing point. I was in front with my trusty head touch, Gill was at the back where a 20 year old called Romeo was holding her hand to guide her around the fishing nets, sleeping people and boats scattered along the beach, it made her day! The ship dropped anchor, a lifeboat was launched which got to within 30 yards of the beach and we waded out to meet it. We were the only passengers getting on or off. Once on board the ship we were taken up to the "Owners Cabin" the poshest accommodation on the boat with two beds, toilet, shower and huge bath, not that the bath and shower actually worked . All this and the 24 hour boat journey for the princely sum of £54.
What all the other passengers thought of this delay and effort to pick up two whiteys I dread to think but I will always remember the day a ship stopped just for us!
Why "An African Day"? It was a great example of Africa, disorganised, chaotic, everyone is friendly and wants to help, they will always give an answer even if they have not the faintest idea because they don't want to disappoint you. And in the end everything works out OK but don't expect to be on time.
Next morning we explored the ship, the top deck (first class passengers only) has a bar, a bit of shade and a wide open area which is too hot to spend any time on. The second deck has the cafe, 8 cabins and the office. The lower deck is just open and where the locals travel, we did hear one story before we joined the ship of someone using the lower deck communal showers to wash a herd of goats he was taking to market, at least that what he said he was doing!
For most of the time you can see land either Mozambique on one side or Malawi on the other, the water is a lovely shade of blue and there is a strong breeze which creates a few waves.

We are now safely ensconced on Likoma Island where we are staying until either next Wednesday or Saturday as those are the days the ferry's call in, I don't suppose we will be doing anything very exciting, just walking along beaches, splashing about in the water, photographing baobab trees (the island is full of them and they are amazing) and drinking cool beer, we have an excuse, it was Gills birthday yesterday.
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