Religious Rights

Tuesday, November 08, 2016
Livingstonia, Northern Region, Malawi
Throughout Southern Africa there is a strange, almost religious, custom which is performed every day. Guest houses, lodges and hotels insist that at around 5pm you get in a vehicle, drive up the nearest hill, unload a table, a few chairs and a cool box and have a "Sundowner" which is either a G&T or a beer whilst you watch the sunset. You then all climb back in the vehicle and return home in the dark. Whilst I rather like a nice G&T or a beer I have never understood this custom, the sunset happens every day as, unlike England, it is always sunny, why leave a perfectly serviceable bar to drink somewhere there is a high probability of sand, flies or other rubbish getting in your drink.
This strange custom even takes place in the Nyika Park, we were going on a night game drive, off we went at dusk, the Land Cruiser took us to the top of a hill, out came the table and the cool box but as it was about 5c and everyone was wearing woollies we had tea and coffee . Once this ceremony had been performed then we were allowed our game drive. Did we see any leopards? I am afraid not, we did get quite close up to a pack of hyenas which was quite exciting.

Poaching - Everyone says the park has a lot less game because of poaching, not the poaching we hear about in the UK of elephants or rhinos but local villagers taking antelope or zebra for the pot. This has always happened, the people had small farms where they grow maize, potatoes as well as a few chickens and a pig. The men would then hunt. Much as happened a few hundred years ago in Britain where a big landowners would push all the locals off the wild land so they can shoot deer or grouse here the big landowner (the parks department) says the locals can no longer hunt and they will go to prison if they do. During the summer the animals stay up on the plateau (where we were) but in winter they drop down to the valleys where they are closer to the villages and therefore vulnerable. The locals will say they have always hunted, which is true, but nowadays they are better equipped with guns and trucks (to transport the meat) so the number of animals killed is increasing beyond what is sustainable.
So the bottom line is Nyika Park is not great for animals however the birding is good, the scenery spectacular and the place we stayed is branching out with mountain bikes and fly fishing. We would definitely go back if we visit Malawi again just for the contrasting scenery and the cool weather.
After a long and quite hair raising drive we are half way down the edge of the plateau at a place called Livingstonia, a town whose only access road is a very steep and rutted track which goes through 13 hairpin bends in 8 miles, amazingly there is a hospital, a university with 1000 students up here yet no bus could make the journey nor a conventional ambulance. As it's name suggests the town was founded by missionaries although Dr Livingstone is not thought to have been here. For the first 20 or so years he and his followers were based next to the lake, they had difficulty surviving let alone converting the locals as they were in areas prone to maleria. Eventually they moved up into the mountains, much cooler, fewer mossies and they started to make progress. They built a hospital and a school and suddenly the local people started attending church in return for free health care and schooling for the children. They still kept up the witchcraft though and the two religions are followed by almost everyone side by side.
We are staying just outside the town in an amazing place called the Mushroom Farm until Sunday when we hope to catch the ship back down the lake, I say hope as last week it broke down so did not go anywhere, fingers crossed it will be back in time to pick us up otherwise we are stuck.

Other Entries



Hope you manage a sundowner on the 14th - the date for the supermoon - biggest for some 60 years. we expect iconic African photos with the moon as a backdrop.