Wandering and Wondering

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Mountains and Beaches

After several weeks on the road, it was nice to arrive at Lake Malawi and have nothing much to do except laze around on the beach for a few days:

Relaxing on the beach


In between sessions on the beach, we also got in a few hours at the bar and numerous games of foozball (table football) and pool. Helen and Matt managed to give Blair and I a caning in foozball, even playing with their hands behind their backs:

Foozball at Kande Beach, Lake Malawi


Soon enough, however, we were back on the road and headed towards Nyika Plateau nestled high in the mountains. The road up to the top of the plateau wasn't all that flash, so we didn't arrive until after dark. Our campsite was in a clearing at the edge of a forest, and we were the only ones there so it was a little spooky. Once we had our campfire going, however, it wasn't so bad, and the showers turned out to be the best ones we'd had in the whole of Africa (it is amazing what the regenerative powers are of a nice hot shower). The next morning we went for a walk on the plateau. We were the only people around for miles, so there was a great feeling of openness and freedom:

Nyika Plateau


Back at the campsite, Helen taught us how to cook bread on a stick over the campfire. Basically, you just prepare some dough, wrap it around a stick, and cook over the fire for 5 minutes. Then drizzle with honey and eat. Delicious!

Bread on a stick


The next morning we had a very long drive day ahead of us. Because we had spent an extra day at Kande Beach, we had extra ground to make up so we were up at 4.30am and on the road at 5am. The road heading down from the plateau was one of the bumpiest and dustiest roads of the whole trip. Whenever the truck slowed down to go over a bump (which was a lot), all the dust from behind just poured into the back of the truck. By the time we reached the bottom of the mountain, our faces were so orange with dust that we looked like Oompaloompas from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:

Oompaloompas


We crossed the border from Malawi to Tanzania sometime after lunch, but still had a long way to go. At around 9.30pm (after almost 17 hours on the road), Blair finally called it quits, and we camped in the middle of a pine forest (another somewhat spooky campsite). The next day we still had another 9 hours or so on the road before we finally reached Dar es Salaam, with Zanzibar and the promise of some time to chill out only a short 3 hour ferry ride away the following day. Our first day in Zanzibar was spent in the historic Stone Town, which is made up of lots of old stone buildings and narrow alleyways, reminding me a little of some Italian towns that I've visited:

Old building


In the afternoon I went for a wander and managed to get a little lost, but eventually found my way to the "African House" bar where we all met up to enjoy some cocktails while watching the sunset:

Cocktails at sunset


The next day we went on a spice tour and were shown where the contents of those little jars on your spice rack come from. Nutmeg, for instance, comes from this exotic looking nut:

Nutmeg


We also learned that pepper is regarded as the "King of Spices" and cardamom (a spice which I previously had never heard of, but will most definitely have to start using in my cooking) is known as the "Queen of Spices".

With our educational sightseeing out of the way, we were ready to spend some time relaxing on Zanzibar's beautiful beaches. We headed to the town of Nungwe on the north of the island where I decided to try some snorkelling. At first I didn't really like it, but after I got used to being able to breath with my head underwater it was pretty good. We travelled out to the reef on a traditional dhow sailing boat, which was an interesting experience in itself. On the way back I noticed several dhows parked up on the beach, and it reminded me of a certain famous building in Sydney:

Sydney nostalgia


The following day our short visit to Zanzibar was over and we caught the ferry back to the mainland, bound once again for the mountains. This time it was the Usambara Mountains. Our campsite was at a place called Irente View Point, and we arrived just in time to watch the sunset:

Irente View Point at Sunset


The next mountain I'll be visiting will be Kilimanjaro. Given that I've done very little exercise over the past few months, I hope I'll be fit enough to make it to the top!

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