We did not think it could get any better. After seven blissful days at Wesa Beach, Kilifi Kenya and six magical days at Makuzi on Lake Malawi, we could not imagine how we could find any other paradise to compare. But as fate would have it, helped on a great deal by excellent planning on James’ part, our laden vehicles trundled into Cape Maclear’s Chembe Village further south on Lake Malawi to another five fabulously different days.
Chembe is once again one of those “our kinda places”, where the local people and tourism have found this fascinating interdependency, and what appears to be a highly workable symbiotic relationship. The village itself is Malawi’s biggest fishing village, so life continues as the tourists trickle in. Men repair nets, carve fishing boats and women mostly do everything else: collect water from the sponsored water project pumps, wash their children and clothes on the Lake, set the usipa (tiny little silvery fish) out to dry on slated wooden tables, cook, sweep their homesteads and feed their babies. Children of varying ages pepper the streets playing with balls made from plastic bags and providing some fun opportunities for our children to engage. The dusty street winds along the coast with mostly rudimentary holiday “lodges” on the lakeside and the village huts and house on the other.
It was a blustery afternoon, when we arrived and so we went straight to Kayak Africa, the outfit that has the concession for Domwe and Mumbo Islands off Chembe Village. Gracious Joseph helped us to quickly move into Renee and Yurie’s (owners of Kayak Africa) house across the road so that we could settle in for the night and avoid the dust storm. Jen and Jules headed to the recommended Thomas’ eatery and the rest of us braved the wind and sand and the darkness (regular power cuts!) to Gecko Lounge where the security guard Jackson showed us how to play Bawo and we dined on some pretty decent food.
The next day we moseyed about Chembe as we had made a decision to wait for a day to go to Domwe Island as we did not want to risk being there in bad weather and wind. This gave us ample opportunity to enjoy browsing for souvenirs and soaking up the quirky village life. The following day all settled to go to Domwe, and awaiting our boat transfer, Matthew and Emma took out their bows (purchased in Zambia – remember) and began to play with the local children. The children in no time hade made their own bows and showed Matt and Emma how to make arrowheads from bottle tops! (Now prized treasures in the box along with stones from Makuzi and other natural trinkets found along the way!). It was wonderful to watch the children interacting with very little use of language – and loving it. Matt was delighted to see them again when we returned from Domwe two days later.
Domwe was another perfect part of the paradise pie. Us Jolleys and Lycetts had the island to ourselves for two whole days. (Jen and Jules had ventured off to the bright lights of the city – Blantyre) Our days were spent snorkelling, playing bawo and kayaking, and it was truly special to celebrate Emma’s seventh birthday – with a chocolate cake which had been collected and delivered from the main land by 12 year old Jamie and our host Thoko by kayak – an epic 8 kilometre round trip!
Thoko, (another) Joseph and Cadman intrigued us all by creating exquisite glasses from wine bottles at the back of the kitchen banda, while huge monitors (leguaans) waddled menacingly slowly around the baobabs nearby.
Phil and James and then later Don and I walked to the top of the island on the second day, a gruelling two hour walk up and down but with the reward of an incredible view over Lake Malawi.
As the boat left the island to take us back to Chembe, with Don and Jess having headed off with Thoko on kayaks to the mainland about half an hour before, it felt odd to be going…as this had been our own little private paradise kingdom for two days.