Travel guide: Malawi

Arriving to Malawi from Tanzania
We were arriving from Mbeya, Tanzania, as you can read in my previous post. Our destination in Malawi was Livingstonia, a small town in the mountains near the lake Malawi. Particularly we were heading to the Mushroom farm, an eco-lodge situated up in the mountains near Machemwe village. Once we crossed the border, we took the minibus (dala dala) to Karonga and then another one to Chitimba. So with all the transfers on the Tanzanian side, we changed the minibus like 8 times that day. We thought that Tanzanians are champions in putting as many people in one minivan as possible, but Malawians totally beat them. The minivan is officially suited for 11 people, but there were over 30 passengers on the board (I counted them), plus a chicken. Squeezing, sitting on each other, crazily twisted just to fit it there. Add our baggage, everyone else’s baggage and some random stuff like a ladder or a rice cooker. Cozy enough. True Malawian experience though. The locals are so friendly, they talked to us on the bus all the time. Most of the times we didn’t even see who was actually talking, just heard the voice somewhere from the crowd on the minibus. It was quite funny. What was less funny was that it was our 12th hour on the bus, and squeezing there with other 20 people, your knees stuck on your chin…well, I’ve been better in my life. What was even less funny was that it wasn’t over after we finally got off the bus in Chitimba. It was already dark, because there is one hour less in Malawi than in Tanzania and thus gets dark already at 6 pm. To get to Livingstonia and the villages in the mountains, you have to take a truck, because there is no road, just a rocky incredibly bumpy and incredibly steep path. It’s impossible to get up there during the rainy season. Luckily it was dry season when we were there. Unluckily, there are no more trucks waiting to be filled up with people after dark, so we had to hire a private one just for us two for 20 000 MKW (nearly 30 $!!!). 30 dollars for a 10 kilometres drive! I was so pissed. And this wasn’t a muzungu price, this was the normal price. But that still wasn’t the end. After 10 minutes we stopped the car because the driver wanted to help another car that got stuck there, but when he wanted to start our car again, it just wouldn’t. It wouldn’t do a sound. So we had to wait for another car to come. In the middle of rocky, steep nowhere in an absolute dark. As I said already, I’ve been better in my life.
But all the pain was actually good-because we could really appreciate what we saw after we got out of the car. Mushroom farm, the place where we were staying, was something out of this world. It looked like from a fairy tale. Beautiful and extraordinary. It is an eco, self-sustainable lodge found by two Americans. Its build in the forest high in the mountains so the views are absolutely amazing. Whether you are camping, or live in their big, safari tents, every morning when you open the zip you get a stunning view of the Lake Malawi and the surrounding landscape. Everything looks very rustic, colorful, modern hippie kinda. And the food. Oh my god. As I mentioned, they’re self-sustainable, so they grow most of the crops themselves, everything is organic and of the best quality. Enough, just see the photos! Or better-go there and see on your own. 🙂
We stayed 4 nights here and then 1 night down at the beach near Lake Malawi and 1 night in Karonga, close to Tanzanian border.
How’s Malawi? 
The people
This country is dubbed as the warm heart of Africa for a reason. Everybody is smiling, everybody is so friendly, so nice, so kind. The standart greeting in their language, Chichewa, consist of saying ‘Hi, how are you, thank you and you? Good thank you.’, – and they ask you the same when trying to speak English with you-so everybody asks you how you are, which is…nice. 🙂
When it comes to scamming, unfortunately, they do it too, but not as much as and not as obviously as in Tanzania. They wouldn’t charge you 10 times more (yes, in Tanzania the do), but just a little higher price. What they do though, is that they often start talking to you on the street, walking with you, and you’re thinking ‘wow, these people are really nice’ but then it turns out that they want you to buy something from them (like crafts), they ask you for money, or they ask for a tip for showing you something. Which lowers their credit a little bit. On the other hand, you can’t blame them; Malawi is the poorest country in the world, according to the GDP/capita. Their government is so greedy and the salaries are so low that most of them just do farming and they’re lucky if they manage to grow surplus which they can sell. Otherwise they just grow crops to feed their family and somehow manage to get by this way.
The prices
The currency is MKW-malawian kwacha. When we were there in August 2016 it was some 700 MKW for 1 USD. The currency is very volatile though, so the exchange rate changes often.
We were surprised when we found out that the prices were a lot higher than in Tanzania. Everything was more expensive-the food, the transport, maybe the accomodation was similar. You can get rice and beans in Tanzania for 1000 TSH (in street restaurants), which is like 40 cents, whereas in Malawi the same dish costs 1000 MKW, so 1,4 dollars. So along with the visa costing 75$, Malawi was quite a treat for us.
What did we do? (a guide for Nothern Malawi)
As I already said, we travelled through the northern part only. There are several things to see around Livingstonia. We started everyday from the Mushroom farm. This is what we’ve done:
Chombe plateau: great hike with stunning view on the lake Malawi, you can see even Tanzania! For me, it was definitely one of the most beautiful views ever. The hike is quite difficult, but it’s totally worth it.
Manchewe falls: located in the Manchewe village some 30 minutes from Livingstonia, it is the highest waterfall in Malawi. You can hike down to its bottom, which is also tough, but very nice in the end.
Livingstonia: we were astonished by this town. Its so remote and so high in the mountains! And its so hardly-accessible. There is no paved road (as you can read in the beginning of this post) and the only way how to get up there is to take a truck (fits 30 people), or more precisely wait till the truck fills up and then go. What’s even more astonishing, is that there is a university (!). The town itself is very nice and very different to the typical Eastern African towns. There are neat, colonial style brick houses, a pretty church and even a museum.
Chitimba beach: Chitimba is the first village you reach when you go down from the mountains. It’s situated on the shore of lake Malawi and has a very nice beach. It’s not so touristy as Nkatha bay though, so ideal for hidden, tourists-free places seekers (like us). There are two campsites right on the beach, we chose the Hakuna matata (it was way cheaper), and were more than satisfied. We swam in the lake everyday, its temperature was just perfect. The owner was a great South-African old man, who knew probably everything about Africa. We spent hours listening to him!
And yeah, I can’t forget-we tried kungu (the fly cake) there! Since Peter (my boyfriend) is a youtuber, we just couldn’t leave without trying it. This thing will get him views…!

We read about this strange Malawian treat before, but we didn’t know how it looked like; so when we were arriving to Chitimba the very first day of our stay and the street sellers were offering us these black cookies (it looks like a cookie indeed), we didn’t really care. Then someone told us it was the fly cake. So when we came to Chitimba from the Mushroom farm 5 days later, the first thing was to find this thing again and try it. But oh-it’s not that easy! The fly cake is only made when there are lake flies (more precisely swarms of lake flies), and that only happens when the weather is rainy and windy. Well, when we were there, it was 100% sunny with no sign of wind nor rain. So the mission started; we asked basically everybody in the village, passed by the street sellers stalls like 5 times that day, but nothing. They were even making fun of us, everytime they saw us, they would start yelling “no kungu!!! hahaha”. But then we met this guy, he was so nice, actually the nicest of all the locals we met…and actually one of the nicest people we EVER met. He invited us to his house for lunch the other day. And you know what? He went to another village on the other side of the lake to get the kungu for us! How generous is that?! Unfortunately his generosity made us struggle a little bit while trying the cake, because we obviously didn’t wanna say anything bad about it, but damn-it was soooooo gross. Jesus. It smelled like fish, and it’s just…well it’s pure flies. Watch how we struggle to eat it here:

But anyway. This was probably the best experience from the whole trip. When you ask me about Africa, this is the first thing that comes to my mind. Kinda sums up the whole stay; sun, joy, laughter, lightheartedness. And fly cake.
See the other vlogs from Malawi:

2 thoughts on “Travel guide: Malawi

  1. Pavlína Březinová says:

    Ahoj, zaujal mě tvůj blog, fotky na instagramu.. Já taky strašně miluji cestování a poznávání nových krajin. Mám za sebou nesčetně zemí Evropy, ale chci se podívat dál. Příští rok plánujeme s přítelem Work and Travel USA. Ale ty s přítelem cestuješ do hodně zajímavých a řekla bych nevšedních zemí! Chci se tě zeptat, jak to děláte s penězi? Četla jsem, že jsi žila někde i více měsíců, projela jsi tolik exotických zemí! Mám pocit, že za to musíte utrácet statisíce korun. Jak jste se s přítelem dostali do Afriky? A kterou zemi by jsi doporučila? Chci cestovat víc a víc, proto tě prosím o nějaké tvoje tipy. Přeju spoustu dalších cestovatelských dobrodružství a zážitků. S pozdravem, Pavlína


    • Tereza says:

      Ahoj, to mě těší, že jsem zaujala 🙂 Noo, do té Jižní Ameriky, kde jsme byli právě asi 7 měsíců jsme se dostali právě po Work and travel-v Americe jsme tvrdě makali a vydělali si, abychom mohli letět tam. V Argentině ale peníze pomalu začaly docházet, protože je tam dost draho, takže tam jsem si pak našla taky práci, normálně v kavárně (naštěstí jsem uměla španělsky…) :).
      Afrika, pravda, byla dost drahá. Letenky, víza, očkování, a i za to dobrovolničení si člověk musí platit. Ale tak nějak jsem si na to našetřila za půl roku v ČR. Cestování (busy, jídlo, ubytování) bylo potom už levný, takž zase statisíce to nebyly…:) Dostali jsme se tam přes Aiesec, dělali jsme 8 týdnů dobrovolníky, učili angličitinu…Zdraví Terka 🙂


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