Given today’s forecast of awful weather in Europe, particularly Scotland (poor Caro), I thought I would try to warm Murder is Everywhere readers and bloggers by writing about a hot, sunny place.
Mette and I spent New Year with friends in Malawi, on the banks of the remarkable Lake Malawi, one of two World Heritage sites in the country. I’d never been there before, so I was intrigued to find out something about it.
The temperature ranged from 20° C to 33° C (70° F to 90° F). And some thunderstorms.
All my life I have heard stories about how nice Malawians are, both from visitors to the country and from South Africans who employ the many Malawians who have come to the country in search of work. The stories were true. No matter where I went, all I encountered was great friendliness. My impression everywhere was of soft, non-aggressive people, who always were willing to help foreigners needing assistance.
As with so much of Africa, the borders of Malawi as a
country were decided upon by people who didn’t live there. In this case, Britain, which claimed the area
first as a Protectorate (British Central Africa Protectorate), and then in 1907
renamed it Nyasaland. I’m sure the
locals had absolutely no say in how their country was defined. As a colony, it was part of the British-ruled
Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.
Eventually, as the winds of change blew across the continent, the
Federation broke into three independent countries, Malawi, Zambia (once
Northern Rhodesia), and Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia).
|Typical colourful market|
Of the three, Malawi was by far the poorest, with few natural resources that could be exported. Zambia had copper and Zimbabwe was blessed with great soil for growing (and exporting) food and tobacco, and had riches in the ground, such as diamonds.
We started our travels in the capital, Lilongwe, a city of a million inhabitants that has few attractions for a visitor. Then we went to Cape Maclear, on the banks of Lake Malawi in the Lake Malawi National Park. The beautiful cape was given its name by David Livingstone in honour of a friend of his.
Lake Malawi is a remarkable place and is often regarded as
Africa’s Galapagos because of the huge number of endemic fish in the lake, mainly cichlids. These fish have been isolated for millennia and
are the focus of intensive study.
|On the water|
|African Fish Eagle fishing|
The Lake is part of the Great Rift Valley that extends from the Middle East and through Africa. It is about 550 metres (about 1800 feet) lower than the surrounding countryside. The lake is very deep (over 700 metres or about 2400 feet) and extremely clear and warm. This makes it a very popular destination for snorkelers and scuba divers. As friends will attest, I am not an eager swimmer – I find the water too wet – but I did take the plunge into Lake Malawi, albeit only for a short time. The water was almost too warm.
Other than the amazing lake, three things caught my attention
in Malawi. First was the number of
bicycles. Malawi is one of the poorest
countries in Africa, so few people can afford cars. Everywhere one goes, there are hundreds of
bikes – reminding me of The Netherlands.
Second, almost every square metre of land is used to plant corn – next to
all roads, vacant patches of land, traffic circles, backyards. It was remarkable. And third, there were hundreds of gorgeous baobabs - one of the many wonderful African trees.
Although I thoroughly enjoyed my trip, I wouldn’t regard
Malawi as a prime tourist destination – certainly not boring, but also not that
|Great Rift Valley|
|Proof that I swam|
|Large African baobab - about 12 metres (40 feet) in circumference|