HELLO + WELCOME as we drive from Sydney to London, via the East Coast of Africa.
It’s Kirsty here today with our travels from Southern Malawi.
After lapping up the luxury of Pumulani in Lake Malawi National Park we drove towards the country’s less visited southern parks and reserves. On the way we came across Rita’s place at Palm Beach and had some of our favourite days of the trip so far. Made special by the people we met.
When we arrived Rita welcomed us to the lodge with about one hundred local school kids by her side. It was the day before their annual athletics carnival and we were told to either park off to the side or be ready for some noise the next morning! Needless to say we parked on the beach close to the athletics track – where the white running tracks were marked out hastily with lime.
The next day it didn’t take long before we became part of the carnival. I was a field judge and Gareth the finishing-line photographer. The children from Bolera Palms arrived chanting in teams of Elephants, Hippos and Zebras to compete for the titles of ‘Fastest! and Loudest!’ After a sweaty morning celebrating everyone’s victories and awarding more Third Place streamers than I can count Rita had all of us helpers at the bar swigging back beers before 12!
After a couple of rounds on the house we were well acquainted with the fun Dutchies who raise funds for the school. They were in town for just a couple of weeks so it was a great stroke of luck to arrive when we did. It’s funny how days turn out in Africa. A day of ‘not much’ turns into multiple days of beers, school visits, chats with volunteers, celebrating a new friends birthday and jumping into someone else’s 4WD to head out to the local orphanage.
^ Rita’s Palm Beach in Southern Malawi
^ Bolera Palms School Athletics Carnival
^ Kirsty takes her role as line judge very seriously
^ The Dutchies who sponsor the school and Kirsty awarding third place
^ It was so much fun to be part of something other than just playing traveller
^ The guy at the front tripped at the finish line and dragged his human wheel burrow with him
^ Open Arms Orphanage where babies far two young begin their lives with the help of strangers
We knew we would return to Rita’s – there was just something about her – but we decided to break up our stay with a visit further South. We visited Liwonde National Park where although the park was mostly closed we were allowed to canoe through it’s waters – past the tens of illegal fisherman – and in the early morning light we witnessed an elephant bull swimming through the water.
Our guide took to land and began an impromptu walking safari where we stood on the same stretch of grass (at a safe distance of course) as a huge heard of 40+ elephants. Spine tingling stuff. The night before I had read the section of Teresa O’Kane’s book Safari Njema where she is nearly swallowed whole by a hippo. So when we paddled back to camp past many hippos I was more than a little nervous!
^ Sunrise paddle through Liwonde National Park
^ We paddled through open waters and reeds, with hippos honking the whole way through
^ Being the only travellers on the river watching this lone bull playing in the water, about 30-metres off our canoe, was one of the most special wildlife experiences of our visit to Africa so far
^ Amused that our canoe safari became an impromptu walking safari! No Park fees for us apparently!?
^ In Liwonde National Park in Southern Malawi on foot with elephant herds
^ Illegal fisherman do their thing where they see crocs, hippos, elephants and the occasional traveller every morning.
Onwards we roll.