MALAWI - THE OMINOUS RETURN

  We debated spending an extra night at Flat Dogs in Luangwa but, with Matt and Shannon flying back to Canada on September 27th for Trevor and Michelle's wedding, we decided that we would rather get on the road to Dar Es Salaam to be sure not to miss those flights.    So, we left Flat Dogs after our morning drive on the rough dirt road back to Chipata.  Arriving in Chipata a few hours later we decided to stop and spend the last of our Zambian Kwacha before heading to the Malawi border. that's where we saw that we had sprung another leak in our water tank.  After a few angry words, we resigned ourselves to the fact that our after market water tank isn't quite as rugged as the Land Cruiser and that we would have to spend another day somewhere trying to get it sorted out again.    After a crappy camp site, being robbed at the filling station and discovering another water leak, Chipata isn't one of our favourite places. we figured that was probably because it was so close to Malawi.   For those who haven't had the chance to read Mike and Matt's Ode to Malawi adventure, it might be worth taking the time to read it now so you can understand why Malawi was not a planned stop on our Cape To Cairo expedition.  In fact, the only reason why we were heading to Malawi on this particular day is because we did not have enough time to go all the way back to Lusaka and take the Northern Road to Tanzania instead. see "Ode to Malawi" for more details on our sordid history with the country...   So, with some significant reservations, we were on our way to Malawi.   The border crossing was straight forward (thanks again to the Carnet de Passage) and the road from the border to Lilongwe was actually quite good and we were able to cover the 100km trip in under an hour.  Driving through Malawi was like a war flashback for Mike and Matt. seeing the SS Rent-A-Car office, Ali Baba's Fast Foods and the Kiboko Camp took us right back to the city that started our infamous journey in 2002.  But, with gritted teeth we drove through the gate of the Kiboko Camp to stay for the night.   We found our usual spot close to the ablutions, set up camp, started in on some dinner and looked over the maps to plan out the next few days of push tripping to Dar.  With a long way still to drive in only a few days, we decided that the next 3 mornings would all require early starts.   The drive north was amazingly straight forward and, in some places (along Lake Malawi), actually quite beautiful.  Road blocks were easy. we ran into one road block guard that was quite fond of the Barenaked Ladies and asked us if they still did that "ten million dollar song".    We covered ground along the lake and through the mountains quickly and made it to a place on the lake close to where we planned to stay that night for lunch.  We pulled in and were welcomed by a lady that didn't really speak English and certainly did not appear to want to serve us lunch.  Since all they seemed to have was an "unmotivated" curry chicken for lunch, we decided to cut our losses and head further north for a late lunch.   Only 20 minutes or so further along the road we came to a popular beach backpacker's place called the Chitimba Beach Resort.  Lunch was slow and wrong (Cathy's western omelette sandwich arrived as a cheese and tomato wrap), but the beach and the lake view (and no one's desire to continue the drive) made the decision to stay at Chitimba for the night a pretty easy one.   We set up camp and started in on dinner while Mike and Cathy updated their journals and Matt and Shannon relaxed and cleaned-up around the truck.  Dinner was great as usual and we ended the night around the bar chatting to a Zimbabwean who ran his own exploration drilling company that was delineating a uranium ore-body in the north west corner of Malawi.  He was full of great stories about Africa, mining, the problems in Zimbabwe and riding motorbikes.  We also met a young girl from the UK who had just finished up an 8 month stint as a volunteer in Tanzania helping villages develop revenue generating ideas. the assignment sounded incredibly challenging and she seemed extremely happy that it was over and she was now a bar tender at Chitimba.   We were off the next morning with the other overlanders camping at Chitimba for the 100km drive through Karonga to the Malawi / Tanzania border.  Leaving Malawi after an unexpected pleasant 3 day stay was a good feeling.  And, getting to Tanzania was a bit of a relief because of the time schedule we needed to keep to get Matt and Shannon to Dar for their flight out.