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Camping Sites in Malawi

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      10.01.2002 20:42
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      As to not completely miss the subject, I will start with some information on the campsite we stayed on, Kande Beach. You will however, find many well appointed, nice campsites throughout Malawi, so do take the description as an example that may be valid for other areas, too. Below I am writing about some wonderful experience we made in Malawi - something which you will also be part of, if you ever travel there... KANDE BEACH You will find many well-appointed camp-sites all along the lake shore. We stayed in a particularly delightful place - Kande Beach. Kande beach was founded by the legendary Overland-Trucker Dave (the one from Africa The Hard Way) and is still one of the favourite stops for overland trucks but there are also quite a few people travelling individually as well as Malawis and South Africans on a long weekend or a holiday. The campsite is directly on the lakefront with lots of white sandy beach and excellent swimming. There is camping, of course, underneath shades, so your temporary home doesn't get too hot, but Dave also provides dorm beds, beach chalets with (very clean and nice) communal shower/toilets, en-suite chalets and even a few two-story family-houses. For those who would like to be more active, there is a diveshop (Aquanuts) on the campsite, that offers wonderful high-altitude freshwater diving in the warm (28°C) and clear (visibility 12m+) lake Malawi. There is a rocky islet situated just 800 m from shore, which provides breeding grounds for a huge number of cichlids, cat-fish etc. Not for you, the underwater world? Then maybe you'll enjoy horseback riding. Tours, trecks for all levels of proficiency and even polo crosse training is offered. The tours take you through forest and villages (with all the kids running after you, giggeling and screeming MAHAAAJIII = horses in Tonga) and are great fun. Still not interested? Maybe you prefer sailing, windsurfing or just taking a lazy p
      addle with the canoo? No problem, everything is available. If you're hungry after all these excesses, the Soft Sand Cafe will help you stock up on the lost calories. Great meals and tasty snacks are available, as is the local banana wine, which surprisingly tastes quite good. There is also a great bar (biggest Carlsberg outlet in Malawi) where many a night is spent playing pool or table-football or just chatting, dancing, looking at the stars and getting slowly and happily drunk on Africa. COMMUNITY IN MALAWI This third part of my Malawi series contains some of the very personal experiences I made. We were in the very lucky situation to be visiting friends who have been living in Malawi for quite some time now. It was therefore much easier to get in contact with the local people - Malawis and Mzungus (generally foreigners, but mainly used for whites) - than on other trips as 'ordinary tourists'. Some of what follows may sound like pure picturesque kitsch and I frankly admit that I am probably a bit too enthusiastically positive. However, the people I met, the things I saw and the experiences I made were simply overwhelming. Malawi is a poor country, a very poor country. An average daily salary (for those who have work) is about 50p. A lot of things are also quite cheap, but some not-so-luxurious goods can also be really expensive. A 50-kg bag of cement is about £ 8 and one litre of petrol costs more than a day's wage. Hardly anybody owns a car anyway, but high petrol prices also make public transport and transporting goods (too) expensive. So, what do the Malawis do? They get together and help each other out, that's what you do! If someone's building a new house, all the friends, family and the local football team helps building. Bricks are fired on the spot, but the wood has to be got from the forest and cement bags don't develop feet and walk to the building site by themselves
      either. So a lot of carrying is required and sometimes one of the truck drivers will pick something up for you. The costs for the building materials already eat up all the savings, so there's no way that the house owner to be can pay money for any of his builders - But the next time anybody has a big job to do, he will be there and help them, too. The sense of community goes much further though. Malawi is a very rural society consisting of village communities. And while everybody knows everything within these villages, there is also an excellent support system within the community. If somebody falls ill - which is very frequent in this country with an HIV-infection rate of about 30%, that person and his family can rely on the village to support them. Everybody will give something and in the end there's enough for everyone. The Mzungus are also part of this network; if a foreigner wants to start a business, he or she will discuss the situation and the plans with the local chief. If he (it's always a 'he') thinks that there may be a positive effect for the village, e.g. jobs, he will assign some land for a nominal rent for 99 years (land is normally not sold). Within a community it is also much appreciated (and expected), that you give people a lift or carry out small transports for them if you have a car available. There is no beating about the bush - one simply asks for a favour. A "no" is accepted without a problem and a "yes" will not lead to a stream of "thank you"s either; but whenever you need help with something, all you have to do is ask for help and it will be given. CAUTION: The above is only true, if you live in one area for a while and get to know the local villagers. Otherwise, you will normally be expected to 'hire' help, i.e. pay about 30-50p. Remember that this may well be the only source of income for an entire family! I was also impressed by the wish o
      f many Europeans who live in Malawi to do something to improve the situation of the local population. The ex-pats we met were not rich by any standard, but they did have quite a bit more than the Malawis. Nevertheless, they did support projects and business ideas of 'their' village by lending them the capital to start a vegetable garden or a chicken farm. The credit is then paid back in the form of tomatoes, eggplants, eggs or meat. But even among the privileged Mzungus, everybody relies on everyone else. A lot of stuff is only available in the big cities and petrol is expensive. When we drove down to Lilongwe to pick up my sister, we were handed a bunch of shopping lists and a load of empty gas canisters to fill up. Even on the way there, we were stopped by the owner of a lodge further down the lake, who had heard that we were going to the gas plant and would we take some for him... Of course we did and on the way back, he invited us to spend the night in one of his very luxurious bungalows and the bar bill was suspiciously low, too. And we had so much fun with it! When would we again be 'real truckers' (well, ok it was just a small pick-up, but anyway) driving into the industrial area to get gas! And sometimes everything goes wrong; there was an important funeral in the village that all the staff of the campsite went to attend. And that very morning three overland trucks arrived and every one of the 60 passengers wanted lunch. So Caroline asked for help and For One Day Only - Pizza By Garlicpress in the outback of Malawi! What fun we had! And what did I learn? Helping is fun, and so is asking for help. You get to know people and they get to know you. If you've sweated with someone, and laughed, well then, it's easy to become friend. Just like that. All you need is respect for each other and an open ear and heart Yours - Garlicpress ps. Naturally some Malawis are egoistic, selfish a
      nd rude, sometimes you'll meet someone who will hassle you and there are even dangerous people there - just like anywhere else. But the people we met were without exception friendly, open and helpful.

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