Excursion to SOS Mzuzu
We took a short trip to Mzuzu and Nkata Bay, a good seven hour drive if you take the coastal route along the lake via the market town of Nkotakota. We tried sticking to the tarmacked roads, but one stretch of 33 miles had not been finished yet, it led through the wildlife/forest reserve of Nyukiand and we passed several families of baboons. Luckily, not the vandal types you get in South Africa, which are used to tourists and jump onto your car, hoping to grab your camera/food.
We picked up a couple of hitch-hikers also bound for Nkata Bay; German volunteers stationed here for a (gap) year teaching, before starting university, some of them living in very remote villages without electric or running water.
Nkata Bay was beautiful, right on the edge of the lake, we stayed in a bamboo hut on the edge of the lake. What luxury to have direct access to a swim on your doorstep, the water temperature was perfect. Tried the dug out canoe paddling challenge: two in a boat, with legs inside; it is extremely tippy and so have got various bruises as coordination and balance are essential.
The following day we drove to Mzuzu to visit SOS Children's Village there. A slightly newer village with lots of happy looking faces. We were shown round the houses and primary school. One of the SOS mothers showed us the most adorable pair of 4 month old twins, whose mother had died at their birth. Two healthy boys called Chimwemwe and Malumbo (Happiness and Graciousness) They are still looking for a sponsor including a number of other children.
This is rainy season
Last week we had a few major down pours. One could set the clock by them - 5.45pm and you would get drenched. We were caught out twice like that and had to invest in an umbrella. Now we don’t leave the house without it.
But last weekend when we were in Salima, near the lake, we were told it had not rained for 3 weeks. The guide book almost puts people off going in the rainy season and it is pretty much devoid of tourism at this time. A number of the lakeside lodges are closed during this season.
The few white people here are missionaries, aid workers or volunteers. With 90% of Malawi’s economy in agriculture this country is extremely vulnerable in times of drought, with very little else to fall back on. There are plenty of business opportunities here. But the problem is there is no money for investment. Banks don’t give loans. So there are no jobs, not much education and not much else to do but get married and have babies. 15 is the normal age to get married among the non-educated - and that is the majority.
Since 2009 there have been fuel shortages, something to do with foreign funds and border tax. All fuel has to be imported and has to come across Mozambique or Tanzania. It is the same price as in England! With Malawi’s fertile land it could easily grow bio-fuels (I haven’t quite discovered what the snag is here).
Find out more about SOS Children's work in Malawi
Although SOS Children doesn't take overseas volunteers, it is sometimes possible to visit the Children's Village where your sponsored child lives.