Malawi: Cape Maclear, Nuns on the Road & International Beer


My what a trip! Nkhotakota to Cape Maclear is probably the most challenging journey we’ve completed to date, but was not entirely unenjoyable. In fact, the first minivan (share taxi, often with 24 people or so in its 11 seats), to Salima, was a great time.

The Journey

Something we’ve noticed in Sub Saharan Africa is that people love physical comedy. This is great news for us as it gives us an opportunity to share in the joke without speaking the language. When our minivan failed to stop at one passenger’s shout, everyone laughed. When the van continued driving despite knowing this man wanted to get off, the laughter went up a notch. The man finally got off and started walking back. Further down the road the van was told of more passengers we’d missed. It turned around and arrived back in the town at the same time as the man who’d had to walk back. The laughter reached an all new high, while the poor man just glared at the driver.

I’m often reminded of how small the world is when travelling remote locations. A woman got into our minivan. “I’m sorry, I’m so fat,” she chuckled as she sat half beside, half on top of me. This woman as it turns out is a teacher and had just retuned from a stay in London with their partner school – in the suburb we lived in. This is the third Golders Green connection we’ve made whilst travelling. One in Myanmar, one in Vietnam and now one in Malawi.

The next minivan was only capable of 40km/hr putting us really behind in time. Later, stranded at the turn off to Monkey Bay, with the light dwindling, we worried that we had made a terrible mistake trying to travel so far in a day. However, within minutes of sticking our thumbs up a car stopped. Imagine our surprise when we looked in and found an Italian nun. It took all my self control not to burst out laughing as the memory of that scene from Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back came into my mind unbidden. The sister took us to our next turn off and put us into the back of a truck for the rest of the journey. Phew! That was lucky!!


Been spending a bit of time like this

An Explanation

We’ve had some bad news from home, which means that we will now be heading to Australia in a couple of weeks to care for an unwell relative.

We’re very lucky to have been able to do the travel we have, and also to be free to go home at short notice. This has also meant that our budget has gone up significantly, so we will be doing some things that previously we couldn’t afford.

After a couple of nights in a noisy bamboo hut on the beach we decided to utilise our new financial status and checked into a resort. Electricity is essential at the moment so that we can charge devices and stay in touch with home. Well, that was our excuse anyway.


Our bamboo beach hut

Cape Maclear

Our favourite thing about Cape Maclear was when we got lost in the village. Just wandering around talking to people was lovely. Malawi is now tied with Ghana for the friendliest country I’ve ever been to.


The local bar, Uncle Charlo Booze Den

One day we thought it would be a great idea to kayak to one of the islands in the bay. It was not a great idea. It wasn’t even a good idea. Things got a bit rough in the middle and our crappy kayak with home made, terrible, uneven paddles just didn’t cut it. After that frightening experience we decided to stick to drinking…


Kayaking in Lake Malawi

Which brought on another frightening experience… Shake Shake. Labeled “international beer”, Shake Shake is like nothing else I’ve ever tried. We went into a Shake Shake bar and after a glance at the passed out people in the gravel courtyard (it was 11am), decided to take away. One patron informed us that we were very lucky, as the Shake Shake truck had just made a delivery and it was very fresh.

Presented in a milk carton with no alcohol percentage, Shake Shake looks like banana smoothie and tastes like sour milk and stale beer. One sip each was enough. I don’t know how people drink it!!


Shake Shake

We’ve been noticing the same songs throughout Malawi and the kids in Cape Maclear really love their music, singing these songs everywhere they go. These songs from South African and Nigerian artists are now permanently in my head. The video for the first one is hilarious.

Professional music aside, there is a band of children roaming the beach performing on home made instruments, for a small fee of course. After confirming with some adults that it is in fact school holidays, we let them perform for us. They’re not amazing, but very creative.

Our 4 nights in Cape Maclear were enough and one again we added an unplanned stop off the lake. Onwards to Dedza.

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