Sailing Down the Lake - Men Overboard

Monday, November 14, 2016
Rumphi, Northern Region, Malawi
Welcome back to Lord and Lady Mucks blog. We are now cruising down the lake in our steam ship the MV Ilala. Unfortunately it is no longer steam, it has diesel engines, where is the romance in that! We are back in the Owners Cabin complete with non functioning bath and shower and at least one cockroach (now deceased).
Very few tourists or middle class Malawian people use the ferry. It is so unreliable that the tour companies or anyone on a tight schedule cannot rely on it and the main roads in Malawi are quite good so anyone with a car drives. So the two upper, first class, decks have about 20 people (only three of us are white) and the lower, second class deck is absolutely rammed with people most of whom have huge amounts of luggage. If they just had a case they would travel on the cheap minibuses which run everywhere but you can't fit 20 bags of fish or 12 carpets in a bus so they come by boat. There are also a few villages along the lake where the ferry is the only means of access, these tend to be poor places, otherwise there would be a road.

We had some excitement this morning when the ship stopped at one of the beaches along the lake, the life boats were launched to pick passengers up but lots of other boats also joined in the fun. It was quite rough and one overloaded boat nearly sank, most of it's passengers jumped into the water and somehow the helmsman managed to nurse the stricken boat back to the beach. The lifeboats picked up the swimmers. No one but ourselves thought this was anything unusual. We will add the pictures next time we have a half decent internet connection.

One last story about Livingstonia where we spent four days. During the uprising against British rule in 1959 the authorities were concerned about the safety of the missionaries in the town, which was even more isolated than it is today. They flew a plane over which dropped a canister with a message "If you want to be evacuated put a large V on the lawn when we fly over tomorrow, if you are OK put out an I". The inhabitants discussed the message at a town meeting, they wanted to do more than a simple answer and emphasise to the world that different peoples can live together so they put out the "I" (don't evacuate) but added "Ephesians 2:14" in white stones. This verse of the bible refers to all men being equal or something along those lines. The plane flew over next day, took a photograph of the message which appeared in the British press next day. The message is now preserved in white concrete, of course nowadays they would just send a text and it would be forgotten in no time.

Whilst remembering things I should have mentioned earlier, in Nyika National Park we saw a bird called a Bar Tailed Trogen. This means nothing to me, I can just about tell the difference between a duck and a chicken when it is on a plate but our guide got quite excited and I hope those of you who know anything about ornithology will be impressed. I am afraid I did not get a picture so you will have to take my word for it.

Throughout Malawi at the moment they are burning the bush, the fire moves quickly, so fast it does not seem to seriously affect the trees and the locals don't seem to worry about it spreading too far and burning down their houses, but each night from our viewpoint in the mountains we could see many fires moving across the hillside. Supposedly it helps new growth, it does create a lot of smoke which hangs around all day. I always thought this spoilt the fertility of the ground but everyone I have spoken to here says this is not the case, why the fires don't run out of control I have no idea.

This blog update (and email collection) was done by taking a chance and leaving the ship at one of the bigger stops and then hopefully getting back on in the chaos before it sets sail. The main reason for this is I left my camera behind and someone has kindly left it behind the counter in a bar near the ferry landing point. It could all go wrong, all our luggage carrying on down the lake leaving us stranded.

Tomorrow, all being well, we will arrive in Nkhotakota where we hope to explore the slave town, potter about on the beach and visit another game forest over a period of seven days. They have recently moved 400 elephants into the park so we expect to see a few bad tempered animals as they take a while to settle in.
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2018-05-22