The first boattrip

To protect the boat against damage caused by high waves, the anchor needed to be placed in deep water. We had made a concrete block to serve as an anchor, but getting this heavyweight 150 meters off shore, proved to be not so simple.

The anchor, which must have weighted a couple of hundred kilograms, was lifted on board.

Rik and I were eager to come along since we haven’t been on a trip once since we bought this boat. With 9 guys the block was already lifted on board before all of us boarded. The first part went without a hitch and the anchor went overboard at the designated spot and an empty jerrycan was attached to function as a buoy.

Given it was our first boat trip, the guys wanted to take us a little further on the lake, and so we set sail towards Cape Maclear. We didn’t get very far, because after 500 meters or so the engine stopped working and none of the guys could get it to work again.

Aimlessly we were floating around while some of the guys were trying to figure out what’s wrong with the engine. A fisherman in a dug-out canoo passed us and he was asked to help us out. He also couldn’t help us any further.

Overview of the boat with the fisherman’s dug-out canoo on the right side of the boat.

Chakuda suddenly got the idea to use the fisherman’s peddle in order to get back to the shore. It worked, however it was terribly slow with a wooden boat with 11 passengers.

Chakuda is paddling with the houses on the beach in the background. peddelen.

Ikiton thought it was going too slow and took the fisherman’s canoo and someone’s flip-flops flips to paddle back to the beach with.

Meanwhile, on the beach some employees who didn’t come along had figured out something was wrong. We saw Charles walking up to the neighbours where he borrowed a canoo, so he could bring us some extra peddles.

Charles with an extra paddle.

Peter figured out a way, right on the moment Charles got us another paddle, to use a wooden plank as an extra paddle (we still don’t know where he suddenly got this plank from!). The plank, however, didn’t last very long… Fortunately I had decided to film seconds before it broke. The clip turned out to greatly entertain all employees later on.

Shortly after Ikiton – who paddled away using flip-flops – returned with even more extra paddles. Now the fisherman could continue with whatever he was doing. In the meantime the sun was almost setting already, but we were getting close to shore. With all those extra paddles it didn’t take long before we arrived at the beach and were received by some employees who stayed after working hours to make sure we made it back. Such an eventful first boat trip!

Chicken villa

Today we have finally finished the chicken coop. Riks grandpa had already given us money to buy chickens before we left, but we thought it wasn’t a good idea to already have chickens before we lived there. Now we have been living here for a while, except for the 1 to 2 nights we spend at the lodge to shower and use an actual toilet.

We started in the garden by measuring out the poles digging holes for them.

Then the poles needed to be cut to the right size with a panga knife, after which the bark was removed by hitting the wood with a hammer.

The poles were then anointed with timberguard – which should protect them against termites – before they were put into the ground. Beams were attached to those in order to build the foundation of the floor.

Bamboo was attached to this to make the actual floor. It hangs over the edges for 50 centimeters, to explicit instructions of Rik’s grandpa, to protect the chickens and their eggs against snakes.

Then it was time to start with the walls. While Michael and James weren’t exactly sure why they had to leave a hole in one of the walls, they closely followed our instructions.

As soon as the roof and the nestbox were finished (Ah, so there was that hole in one of the walls for!) we were almost done.

As finishing touches, a net was stretched over the opening under the roof, and the built in planter was filled with soil and strawberry plants!

Salete, a girl from the village, helped me by buy some chickens for me (if I would’ve done it myself, the price of one chicken would surely have tripled). We picked up the chickens at her house and put them in the trunk of the car. Fortunately, the drive was short, and soon we could remove the strips of fabric from their legs. The next morning there were already two little eggs waiting for us!

Now we really had to hurry with the construction of the run, so they could also roam outside, so that’s what we started o yesterday. While we were busy stretching wires across the run, we were watched by a hawk. This confirmed our belief that we really did need those wires if we didn’t want our little chickens to end up as bird food.

Today, just before lunch, we finished the run so we could let the chickens roam. Shortly after the door opened they were all outside chasing grasshoppers. We stayed for a while and watched them before we went back to the beach for lunch: it has become quite cosy in the garden.

The chief

Earlier I wrote about the boat we bought, but of which we had only paid a deposit yet. So today we went to Cape Maclear to finalize that sale. The previous owner, Isaac, had printed a contract which needed to be signed in triplicate: one for us, one for Isaac, and one copy for the chief of the village.

According to the tradition, there had to be eyewitnesses to such a transaction, so we had brought Danny with us. From Isaac’s house we walked to the house of the secretary of the chief (the head of the village was probably too busy to see us himself). Here we were put into enormous chairs that took up almost all the space in the small living room.

After everything was signed in triplicate, we paid the remaining amount and with that the deal was done: Lake of Stars is officially ours, with the approval of the chief of Cape Maclear!

Chambo fillet

Yesterday evening we had just thawed the chicken for dinner when someone walked up to our beach with two chambo in his hands – of which one was very big.

James wanted to hold the chambo for a picture.

During my time here I had not seen a chambo of this size yet, so I was willing to buy it if the price was right. The man wanted to have 2500 kwacha for the both of them, but since we were only really interested in the big one the price was 2000. We asked Charles whether this was a fair price and immediately it dropped to 1500 kwacha (about €1,77 or $2,01). Sold!

Rik showing off our ‘catch’.

This morning it was time to roll up my sleeves. Because this chambo was so big, we wanted to get filets out of it, so we could eat two different nights from it. First I had to remove the scales.

Then I cut off the meat and removed the skin. Halfway through Rik asked me how on earth I knew how to fillet a fish, but I honestly had no idea. In the end I am quite content with the fillet. The second sides went better and faster than the first (the first try resulted in two pieces, but on the second try I got one nice big piece).

I guess we will know how well I did it tonight!

Lake of Stars

Lake Malawi is also called the Lake of Stars, because at night numerous fishermen with lights on their boats go out on the water to fish. When you look at the lake at night it often twinkles because of the vast amount of fishing boats out there. However, Lake of Stars is not only a nickname of the lake, it is also the name of our boat!

Lake of stars at our beach

Roy really wanted to have a local wooden fishing boat, so Rik and I have been asking around and found one at Cape Maclear. Now that Roy was here we could finally take a look from up close, however when we first saw it there was some maintenance scheduled. Yesterday in the afternoon it was finished and we asked if he could come down with the boat to our beach. He only arrived after sunset and it had taken him 2 hours and 10 minutes to find us. Luckily we had already seen the boat in daylight, because now we had to look at it with just the torch.

After the negotiations a handwritten contract was drawn up, which says that we paid a deposit and we will complete the transaction when we transfer the papers on Monday.

Negotiations in the dark

It needs a little bit of fixing, but I am already quite fond of the boat. It was used ar tourboat for tourists, so it already has a floor and a frame for a shade.

I already know what we’ll be doing coming lazy Sunday!

Herding goats

While we have a fence around the terrain, it is not hermetically sealed. On the last few meters of the beach to the lake there is no fence, and at the entrance we have a gate. Exactly those places are also where intruders are entering: the local goat herd.

It is not a terrible thing to have some goats in the yard, if they weren’t eating the young (palm) trees or ravaging the vegetable garden. Fortunately, because there are many people here every day, the herd is spotted and chased off very soon after they enter. The one who sees them first calls out: Mbuzi! (Goats!), and then soon people jump to action and chase them away.

The neighborhood goat herd on the wrong side of the fence.

But on Sundays it’s up to us to protect the premises. Then either Rik or myself run at them while waving a stick in order to chase them away. Quite a funny sight actually. And we also have to look after our own three goats, which need to be moved to and from their shelter every day.
Here we are parttime goatherds

Repaired the African way

Sometimes things break which are not easy to replace or repair. Not easy, however, does not mean impossible, so our creativity is continuously being tested here. So far, we had the most trouble with our flip-flops. Rik had bought nice new flip-flops before we left. After 6 weeks they were already broken. I tried to take the sole apart and glue the band back, but shortly after it came loose on the other flip-flop as well. ‘Fortunately’ Joeri forgot to bring his when he returned to Belgium, so Rik could wear his instead.

In the meantime, the foam of my flip-flops ripped which caused the band between the toes to come off all the time. I tried to glue it back, however that did not do much and did not work for very long. At that time they were working a lot with strings (strips of old car tyres) on the land, which gave me the idea to repair them using those. And it worked! When the same thing happened to my other flip-flop, it was easily repaired in the same fashion.

Not long after Riks flip-flop broke again (or should I say, Joeri’s?). This time the plastic band broke between the toes, but also this we could repair with strings. Then the other slipper broke in the exact same place. Easy, we were becoming very skilled at this!

Our problems temporarily fixed with strings!

But then the band broke in a different location, which was not as easily repaired as we could not use strings here, so we had to think of another way. Rik tried to staple it in place, but this only hold for half a day. The only thing that’s holding up until this day is the nail he hammered through it.

I showed the way we repaired our flip-flops to Michael who nodded approvingly: ‘That’s repaired the African way.’

Shoprite

The beach is already quite busy. It’s not just Rik and me, there are also four young cats, three goats, a dog (+ the dog of one of the employees sometimes) and there are plans for a bunch of chicken. This time more about our dog: Shoprite.

Before the beach was habitable, Joeri went to Money Bay Beach lodge after almost every working day. At this lodge there were three dogs: Cindy, Dawg and Shoprite. Cindy and Shoprite were adopted from the SPCA and Dawg actually belongs to one of the neighbors, but prefers to hang around at the lodge. Shoprite got his name at the animal shelter due to the fact that he was found at the Shoprite. Shoprite is a supermarket, just like Walmart. So, while Shoprite is from an animal shelter, he and the owner of the lodge could not really get along. Joeri and Shoprite did get along quite well, and so the idea to adopt him was born.

Now, roughly three months later Shoprite lives on our beach. Getting him here was horrible, he really did not want to get into the car and when he was finally in it he hot very sick.. But now he’s here, he’s here to stay. If it’s up to us, he never has to go in the car again. And he never has to, as we have even found a vet who can come to us if need be.

Shoprite is not the most photogenic dog…

He follows us everywhere (until he sees we walk up to the car, then he quickly turns around and returns to the house) and he is quite the coward. He gets jealous as soon as we pet another dog or the cats, and he is scared of everyone and everything. Sometimes he tries to act tough and scare away some small children by charging them, but if they don’t run away then, he stops a couple of meters in front of them and turns around shortly after.

The employees are astonished that he plays with the cats and that they snuggle up against him sometimes. According to them this is unnatural and should they fight as Tom and Jerry.

Especially Coco is often with Shoprite
It already started when the cats were very young!

Strawberries

Yesterday we went to Four Seasons plant nursery in Lilongwe. They really have an enormous collection of plants and trees, but because we were only returning home the next day we couldn’t buy any. Then I decided to look at the collection of seeds inside the shop, however we already had the seeds of most of the vegetables. It was the only shop in Malawi where I had seen flower seeds so far, so I got some nasturtium seeds (a climber with edible leaves and flowers) twee types of protea (those flowers require some patience as it will take 4 to 5 years before it flowers for the first time) and oregano (as we are using a lot of our Italian herb mix). But I had actually hoped for fruit seeds, like strawberry or raspberry, unfortunately they did not have anything like this. A shame, because I have been looking for strawberries for a while now. They had to be somewhere, right?

Our next stop was at the hardware store and when we went back outside someone was selling strawberries! We have not even negotiated the price and bought a little box straight away.

Then in the next day we were doing some shopping together with Roy. When we were in the parking lot of old city mall we were addressed by several people, whether we wanted to change money, or whether we wanted to buy paintings, or fruits and vegetables. In an attempt to turn down the last salesman I said we already grew most vegetables ourselves, so I wasn’t interested unless they sold strawberry plants. Well, it turned out that was exactly what I should’ve said, because now a list appeared with all fruits and vegetables they were selling. If we would tell him which ones we liked, he would tell us whether he had the plant or tree for us. Eventually we decided that we were interested in the strawberry plants and some peach trees. While we were doing some groceries, he would go and fetch the plants and bring them to our car for us.

When we returned to the car he was indeed there with a box of strawberry plants and 4 young peach trees.

So that’s how shopping in Malawi can be. At first you cannot find for a long time what you are looking for and if you give up on the search it turns out that on a parking lot there is someone who has exactly what you want!

On the road

Today we went to Lilongwe again because we will have to pick up Roy (Riks uncle) from the airport tonight. This means we have spent a couple of hours in the car, but also that we’ve seen quite a bit of Malawi today.

I think that the biggest part of life in Malawi takes place near or on roads. People use the roads too to walk from one village to another, cows and their shepherds also find it easier to walk on the roads. Most of the markets are also on both sides of a road, so it makes sense that people gather around these places.

What I like to see on the road is how people are much more creative when it comes to transporting things. In the Netherlands we take a bike quite often for short distances, however I would’ve never thought that it’s possible to transport 2 pigs or 3 goats on the back of the bike. It turns out it is possible!

Cyclists also take up more space on the roads here. Some examples of things which I have seen being transported on the back of a bike today: goats, pigs, grass, a stack of firewood so big the driver could sit underneath out of the sun (convenient!), beams of 5m in length, etc. Then it’s easy to imagine a whole world of possibilities opens up if you have a car! Pickups are regularly loaded with people or goats, and today we even saw some cows in there for the first time.

It took a while before we realised there was a cow in the back of the car in front of us.

But what if people don’t have access to a bike or car? Simple, then you just carry everything on your head (like a 20kg bag of corn). At least it frees up your hands, so you can wave at those passing by.

This pictures wasn’t taken in Malawi, but in South Africa!