Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Malawi (part 2)

In short, Malawi was beautiful. As I said before, the official reason for me being there was to do a tree project, while the unofficial reasons were to visit KCB, and to have a holiday (by that stage he had been away for about 3 months, which is a long time in my books...) and to have a holiday.

I was pretty shattered after the bus trip, and the day after we got there, we rested. We were staying at a missionaries house and doing some work for them, so we got a bit of an orientation that day. I suppose I was overtired and rather emotional, but TP presented his view of religion which I intensely dislike - his rather bull-headed approach is the one that makes me shudder to be called a Christian... The following day, KCB and I, and the rest of the team drove to a remote village where the missionaries do their work, so that the rest of the team could build a water tank system thing (it slows down the water and acts as a filter for sediment, I just have no idea what it is called!). KCB and I spent the night there, and headed back to the base to do our tree project.

Only, we didn't land up doing the tree project while the rest of the team were doing water stuff, because KCB got malaria. This was possibly the scariest thing that happened during the trip (I have never ever seen someone shake so much), and one of those times where I discovered that I cared for KCB more than I thought I did (soppy moment, yes, but it Happened and was Significant, and therefore will be Included in this post). Anyway, the team came back before KCB had fully recovered, and our hosts were throwing a birthday party, so we did no further work that week, except help with the party preparations. The party was... not my cup of tea. I'm not the world's biggest social butterfly, and being completely out of my comfort zone, and really only knowing the team didn't help matters much. Anyway, the party left me with a nasty stomach bug, which kept me and two other members of the household, in bed and feeling awful for the rest of the following day.

We had aimed to do the tree project during in the next few days, and KCB hauled me onto my feet and into the forest. I learnt some important lessons that day, mainly about the importance of carrying a panga, the difference between a temperate forest and a tropical forest (read: jungle), that the forest can distort sounds that a baboon can sound remarkably like a hippo... The second day of tree sampling was much better than the first, and the third day (although physically the hardest) was the best. We had to try and find a path (it's impossible to hack your way through the jungle) to the top of the mountain, and we had heard that there was a fort there: Fort Mangochi. Where do you find a fort? At the top of a mountain... Or so we thought. We marched up to the top (or rather, KCB, Triathlete and the guide Marched, and I Tottered, feeling like I was going to vomit from exhaustion), and we carried on going, because we had set our sites on the fort and I at least was rather curious. When we eventually found it, we discovered that the ruins had been neatly signposted... Only, the signs had been covered by thick swathes of tall grass... At times the grass was so thick and tall that you could lose the person in front of you (and the path) if they were more than 2m away from you!

The rest of the week we quite relaxed - we went to the market at Chiponde, which was rather fun, and the next day we went to Monkey Bay on lake Malawi, where it was windy but beautiful. KCB and I took out a sit-on-top kayak with our snorkel gear to try and find a relatively sheltered spot where the viz wasn't too bad to see the cichlids. We did see them, eventually, but being so windy, the viz really wasn't great, and I actually had more fun paddling, watching the leguwaans and the fish eagle. We also watched a man fishing from his home-made boat - a structure made out of a single tree (which reportedly only cost less than double what we had paid to hire the kayak). We were due to leave the following morning, and after much packing (the rest of the team had been in that particular spot for about a month), we set off for Blantyre.

We took Organiser (one of the team mates) to hospital that night, to check if she had malaria... Turns out she did, and she had it badly. Over the course of the next few days, while we were travelling, she took three courses of anti-malarials, and eventually flew home from Mozambique to recover.

From Blantyre, we crossed the border to Mozambique...

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