Thursday, 23 May 2013

Birthday


About five days after arriving in Mufasa Rustic Backpackers in Monkey Bay I left it for Cape McLear. Marc, the Spanish guy who travels from Alexandria to Cape Town on a Yamaha Ténéré 600, went there a day before and came back to say he got a good deal with a place there with diving and kayaking included. So I decided to join him there for the dives the next day.

Going out for a dive in Lake Malawi
QB the current manager at Mufasa and José the night guard helped me out to get a transport to Cape McLear. They told me the best was to take one of the motorbike taxis. I showed them my big bags and told them it will probably be too much luggage, but they said no it's going to be fine, they have space to pack the bags upon. When the bike came, I saw the small space, and wondered how the driver, me, my big Travel Trekker, my backpack and my camera bag were going to fit onto it. Unfortunately nobody took a picture, because it was a sight. The helmet obviously didn't fit me and I would probably be better off without it in case of an accident.

Thus I arrived in Eco Lodge in Cape McLear before nine in the morning. I got the same deal as Marc, namely 2 dives for USD 35 each including free accommodation and kayaking for USD 10 which makes a total of USD 80 for 3 days, 2 nights, 2 dives and a half day of kayak renting. It's still mzungu prices, but it's one of the cheaper you could get.

Diviiiiiiiing, it's been a while!
At ten we went out on the small boat for Marc's second dive and my first. We didn't drive far, just next to the closest island to a dive site called English Voices because some Englishmen had discovered it. The lake offers a multitude of small sized fishes. Some are very colorful in blue and yellow. Others less, and some are just dull grey. The bottom of the lake is strewn with large boulders which are covered with fish shit. Lacford, our Divemaster, didn't brief us in any way, and he probably wouldn't have bothered asking my diving credentials if I hadn't showed him my expired temporary Rescue Diver license. He didn't ask Marc if he had ever dived before. But Watson, the front man at reception had previously asked me about it. I wouldn't recommend this particular place to any diver lacking in confidence. As long as you have your Advanced Open Water or equivalent, and know how to do a pre-dive safety check on your own you should be fine though. The diving is easy without current whatsoever.


On the way back Marc bought for MWK 800 (about CHF 2) of fish that we shared with the staff members. They provided us with nsima and veggies and grilled the fish for us and we paid for the fish. It was a perfect lunch taken on the shores of Lake Malawi.


In the afternoon, after going to town buy some food for the next day, I went out again just with Lacford and the skipper. The water was much clearer at this other dive site named Aquarium. Otherwise the fishes are the same. I spent some time going under rock passages, cutting off floaters from old fishing nets and getting a few other items out of the lake's floor.

Marc the Chef
In the evening we organized a kitchen outside of our rooms. These rooms are a bit further away from the main lodge area where the other kitchen is. The stove there doesn't work though, so we used Marc's gas stove and prepared a good hearty meal consisting of some weird sausages, sweet potatoes, beans, tomatoes all thrown together in a frying pan. We started off with a few eggs and carrots before the main course was ready. Once it was, I ate a bit and was already full. I wasn't feeling very hungry anyway, and thought it was a tad weird.

My skin was feeling unusual, somewhat like when you have a sunburn but everywhere including in the palms of the hands and under the feet. It was going on for a few days and getting a bit worse every day. I didn't sleep well and was extremely tired, more than my usual tiredness. I just wanted to sleep all the time, but it didn't help feeling rested at all. The next day I started having loose stools.

We visited the Billy Riordan Clinic here in Cape McLear which is a Irish funded trust clinic with young volunteer doctors. For a mzungu it costs either € 60, USD 80 or MWK 31'500 to get treated. So I decided I wasn't sick enough. I ate almost nothing the rest of the day except for a chocolate bar which I thought would help me get some sugar in me. Alice, the owner of the lodge advised me to drink at least two liters of water a day and rest and avoid the sun.

The Cake
On my first day here, I asked the staff if I could get a cake for my birthday on the following day. They said yes, but that it would cost MWK 3'500 instead of their usual price of MWK 4'000. I said it was too much and during the negotiation we came to a smaller cake, but still for about the same price. Very frustrating. The cook told me to wait for the boss, M. Fabiano, who was to come in later. I talked again with him and the cook and some other staff members without coming to an agreement. I said I was ready to pay MWK 1'500 for a cake. They wouldn't do it and M. Fabiano said we would talk again the next day. The next evening, Watson came to see me and told me the cake was ready. As we didn't agree on a price, I wondered what it would finally be. Watson said it would be for MWK 1'500.

Staff members (first on the left turned 20)
That day we had planned to go out kayaking with Marc, and to have lunch on the closest island. As I wasn't supposed to go into the sun too much, and rest anyway, I told Marc he should go alone. When he came back, he said it was better than diving and that he had spent an awesome day. In the evening he prepared himself some dinner. I didn't want anything as I knew I wasn't really hungry and that if I ate too much I wouldn't feel well. Mom and Dad called me on my local Malawian number and we had a little chat. After that Watson came back and told me the cake was ready. He told me another girl from the staff had her birthday today, so I told him to bring everyone over. They came in singing “Happy birthday” a few minutes later. Watson had asked me my name and age a little bit earlier, but I had misunderstood the “age” part as he didn't use that word. Or maybe I just didn't get it. Anyway, I said 23 as I thought he wanted to know the date (although that was weird, but I didn't question him). That's why, on the cake, I was 23 years old. Someone fetched some beers and cold drinks and we had ourselves a party. Later we decided to go out shortly, to a local bar in the village. I wasn't feeling good, so we went back home after not even an hour.

Medication
I slept really badly with the beers messing with my already bad in state belly. So the next morning I decided to finally go see a doctor at that clinic. The Irish doctor lady, whose name I forgot because it's Irish, told me that I had traveler's diarrhea. I got tested for Malaria and it turned out to be negative. I was relieved and at the same time a bit annoyed at myself. I can handle a diarrhea. But the skin effect didn't reassure me too much. Anyway, sometimes it's good to see a doctor... So I came back with antibiotics, painkillers (in case I feel pain) and pills against bilharzia. The latter I would have to take three months after leaving the lake area. As they are much easier and cheaper to get here, I agreed to take them now.

After that, Marc left for his adventures in Mozambique.

I will be resting a few days in this calm and beautiful place.