Big Brother’s African Brother #39: Chitimba to Nkhata Bay, Malawi

Chitimba to Nkhata Bay, Malawi

Day 39: 5 September 2002 8:00 pm

Tom and Penny are voluntarily evicted from the truck – goodbye Big Brother!

No more nominations as we have been evicted from the truck. We woke up at
5:30am to view the sunrise over Lake Malawi and then cleaned our tent. No
more camping for us, no more washing up, cooking, security duty, rushing to
get back to the truck only to hang around for people, truck food rations,
listening to Roberta’s inane comments, having showers in the dark or
enduring awful loud music.

The truck stopped at Mzuzu, but our tour leader kindly offered to drop us at
Nkhata Bay. On the way, we chatted to Amelia, who had travelled through
India and Nepal and had some excellent information.

The rest of the group were deposited outside a craft market while we
remained on the truck and were dropped at the Backpackers Connection.
Tom was amazed that we received the same amount in kitty money that had
been given to Natasha and Jason. This meant that we got more money back
than expected. We were also given a map on how to get to Backpackers and
Overlanders in Harare, so we can pick up our souvenirs. We said goodbye to
our tour leader and driver and then we were on our own at last.

I know that just because we are no longer on the truck I do not expect our
journey to be plain sailing, but I hope to be able to show the other side of
travelling independently and how it contrasts to the truck. Half of the
time that I was on the truck I didn’t feel as if I was in Africa, which
defeats the object of being here. So my mind now needs to shift back to
independent mode and to assess every situation, person and location for

Nkhata Bay is not what I expected. It did not feel welcoming. Lonely
Planet describes it as ‘the most scenic of Malawi’s lakeshore towns’. This
is rather misleading as the bays round the corner, i.e. Chikale Bay may
warrant this description but Nkhata doesn’t. We could not wander round to
Chikale Bay as there are warnings about security walking to and from the
bay. We witnessed three backpackers being escorted by three watchman and knew it
would not be safe to attempt this on our own.

I can only recommend the Backpackers Connection on two strengths – it’s
cheap (MK 400 for double with shared bath) and it has a hot shower. We were
sitting out on the bar’s veranda, where I was just about to start writing my
travelogue, when a local approached me asking questions. I instantly knew
what he wanted – to sell postcards and Tinga Tinga paintings – but he went
all round the houses for 10 minutes before he got to the point – I just
wanted to be left in peace. I made a very firm refusal and ignored him and
he eventually got the message. By this time, I needed to have a shower and
had hardly done any writing – I thought it was bad of Backpackers Connection
to allow locals to hassle their guests. Unfortunately, Tom spotted some
locals playing a local board game and asked them the rules. This was to
have repercussions for us in the evening.

We ordered dinner (allow at least an hour) and after a lovely veggie curry,
the guy that had taught Tom earlier came over and tried to sell us a
board game. We refused so he tried to sell some postcards and then demanded
MK 50 for teaching Tom the game. He kept saying we were being unfair for
not buying from him and left agitated and a little aggressive, saying he
would be back with his brother. Not wanting to be intimidated further, we
returned to our room and stayed there for the rest of the evening. I will
be relieved to leave in the morning.

We spent some time planning and pricing alternative routes down to Cape
Town. We can appreciate how the truck is able to reach the National Parks
and places difficult to get to by public transport – there are pros and cons
to both modes of travel. We need to check the situation in Zimbabwe before
committing to Harare.

Positives: Bonus kitty money to compensate us for leaving the truck.

Negatives: Nkhata Bay and Backpackers Connection was disappointing.