Sunday Morning~Liwonde

Sunday Morning~ Liwonde Safari Camp

May 21, 2017

Hi Everyone,

We just got back from an early morning walk with Charles, our guide. The cooks are making our breakfast over the open fire while we sip our tea and wait for Charles to burn the fruit of the Sausage Tree. He’s making a salve, supposedly good for healing skin rashes, from the ash of the burned bark.  As we passed under one of these trees, Charles picked up a fruit that had fallen and told us they weigh up to ten kilos when ripe and warned us never to camp under these trees. When falling from a big height, one fruit can kill a person. He showed us the inside of the fruit and told us how the baboons eat them for the water they hold. Then he described how beneficial the ash from the hard shell is when burned and mixed with oil. Jordan asked if he could buy some to bring back to Poland for a friend. Charles is mixing up a fresh batch for him now and George is speculating about a new line of cosmetics. We’ll see how the Polish clinical trial goes.

In a few minutes we’ll leave on a boat trip down the Shire River to see what the hippos are up to on this cool and sunny Sunday morning. We arrived at the Safari Camp yesterday in time for an afternoon game drive, wanting Jordan to have his first glimpse of animal-viewing the way it should be. Because it’s end of the rainy season and there is still plenty of water around, the animals are deeper in the woods and not forced to be drinking and munching down by the river. But we managed to find impala, water buck, wart hogs, loads of birds, and finally, a large herd of elephants that Charles spotted from, I swear, two miles away. We ended up taking an extra hour for the drive just to find the elephants. Charles said he couldn’t have Jordan go without seeing  elephants on his first game drive in Africa. I love this customer service. We drank a beer while watching a magnificent sunset over the river and got back to camp well after dark. I feel like I could ride forever in that open land rover. I love the wide landscape, the cool breeze, the jostling around holding on to the seat as we drive over dirt tracks. I love not wearing a seatbelt.

Jordan arrived Thursday afternoon and was standing outside the terminal waiting for me when I pulled up in the rented RAV4. I had wanted to get to the airport when his plane landed, thinking  I’d wait for him to get his visa and get through customs, but his plane landed early and the lines short, and the whole arrival much more efficient than I anticipated. Some things work very well here. I had gotten to the Peoples Grocery Store at the designated time to meet Godknows (his actual name) who was delivering the rental car, but he was a bit late. Godknows was a street kid and through some benevolent spirit was given a second chance at life. He was able to attend school and later started a home (he doesn’t like to call it an orphanage) for street kids that has a nursery school, primary school, and vocational training. They have a couple cars they rent out for money to put toward the school. Talk about giving back! There was no paperwork; he just handed me the keys and said he’d see me on the 28th, and asked me to send him a picture of my license when I had a chance.

So I didn’t even have to find a parking space, Jordan just hopped in and we pulled out onto the one road that leads to the airport. Back to the city, I managed the Blantyre traffic fairly well and we were home hours earlier than I thought we’d be. We even had time to walk down to the Kamba Market for a little local tour, pick carrots, lettuce, sweet potatoes, and peppers from the garden, then sip a gin and tonic while grilling a filet of Malawian beef. Dinner was fresh.

Friday, I had to check on my students in the nursery, so Jordan had a tour of the hospital on the way there and looked in the nursery windows while I went in to have a chat with them. They wanted to meet my son, so came out to greet him, giggling. Photos were taken, well wishes given, recommendations offered that I take him to their home districts (everyone is so proud of the beauty of their home), then we collected George and set off for a glimpse of Mt Mulanje and a tour of the tea plantations. One of the plantations does a simple but nice tea tasting and we learned a lot! We stopped in a little shop in Thyolo where artists make and decorate homemade paper with feathers and bark and we got back to Blantyre later than we’d planned. We had to go straight to the Blantyre Sports Club for trivia night, a fundraiser for the Malawi Wildlife Association. It was mostly ex-pats, but a good cause and good fun and, having Jordan on our team, we finished respectably.

Yesterday morning Catherine came over with her son to meet my son and that visit threw off our departure to Liwonde so we didn’t have much time to explore the Zomba plateau on the way here. There’s just so much to see! It’s hard to pick and choose!

After our boat ride this morning we’ll drop George off in the town of Liwonde and he’ll take a minibus back to Blantyre. Jordan and I will head north and spend tonight at Mua Mission, the first Catholic mission in Malawi, established in 1902 by the White Fathers. There is a museum there started by Fr. Claude Bouche, a French Canadian priest who is himself an artist and wanted to preserve the tribal artistic culture in a meaningful way. They have a guest house there, so we’ll tour the place and spend the night, then try to find the 10,000 year old rock art hidden somewhere in Dedza district. I think we just wander around looking for rocks with white figures on them, but we’ll figure that out once we get to the mission. Preserving ancient artifacts is a new concept here. Hopefully tourism will grow and more of it will be protected. Not sure how this is going to go, but we’ll take one day at a time.

I doubt there’ll be internet where we’ll be tonight and there certainly isn’t any here, so this may not get posted until Monday or Tuesday.  Off to the river now!

Love to all,