Waist deep in water and Immigration Trouble

Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Cape Maclear, Southern Region, Malawi
Our final trip on the Ilala. We were annoyed at being fleeced by the local boatmen when we arrived at Nkhotakota so this time we were prepared. All money, phones etc were in our cases. When the lifeboats came close to shore (about 100 yards out) we waded out holding our cases out of the water. We threw them in the lifeboat and then discovered it was grounded, so we pushed as hard as we could with lots of children in 4ft of water to refloat the boat and then we hoisted ourselves aboard. When the water temperature is like a warm bath you don't mind getting wet. We did not get a discount for helping out but the captain did give me a tour of the bridge once on board. They have radar, sonar, GPS on the bridge but no one was in it as the steering seems to be broken, so they are driving the ship from a secondary wheel at the back from which they can't see where they're going nor make use of these hi tech gadgets.
The ship was on its homeward leg and the crew were keen to get back, so keen we left Nkhotakota half an hour early, and the last port of call three hours ahead of schedule, no idea how many people will have missed the boat as a consequence .
We were met at the port by two immigration men, at least that is what they said they were, dressed in jeans and tee shirts. They claimed our visas were about to expire and I smelt a scam was quite abrupt with my usual "Take me to your office and we can sort it out". So we did go to the office where their uniforms were hanging up very smartly so as not to get worn out. It turns out that although we bought visa's valid for three months they only allow you to stay for 30 days after entry, you then have to pay another £5 to buy another 30 days. They in fact saved us a lot of hassle because if we had not renewed them today and waited till we tried to leave the country we would have been fined, perhaps this is a sneaky ruse by the government to fleece tourists. Further investigation will be carried upon our return to blighty.
We are now in Cape Maclear which, as I mentioned yesterday, was described to us as the Benidorm of Malawi. I have never been to Benidorm but if it is like this I will go there next summer. It is more like a small Greek tourist resort. There is a long beach with lots of small bars, restaurants and lodges along it. There are people selling tourist crap but so far it does not seem too bad. Our cottage is right in the centre and we even have a private deck made out of an old boat jutting out above the beach.
In the past three days we have tried three ATM's, none has worked, so we now have to eat in places which take US$ which is a nuisance as you always get swindled on either the exchange rate or the change.
Tomorrow we paddle out to a tropical island for two days, it has no electricity so I assume no internet access either so it will be a couple of days before we update the blog.
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