Monday, 5 September 2016

Travel Day-Rivers and Roads

When we last left our hero, I had been escorted to my cabin through the dark of the jungle at Kutchire Lodge in Liwonde National Park and Game Reserve. We had arrive in the dark and had minimal light so although we knew it was beautiful, it wasn't until sunrise that we saw the full glory. 
This is the cabin we slept in with a stone foundation and then 3 feet of screened wall so that the moqutioes stay out but the sounds of the wildlife surround you.
This is my sleeping area. The bed was great and that is a hand wood carving on the wall.
The bathroom is all stone and I think a year/date is carved into the fret board of the instrument on the wall.
This is the path that lead pass the other cabins and to the main lodge.
This is the main lodge with an outdoor ktichen, dining area and louge.
That is a huge teak tree it is built around. 
I found the crew seated for breakfast of potatos, fire grilled toast, baked beans and scrambled eggs. The jam served was guave that was made by Silas's wife Margaret. Monkeys and baboons were cackling and calling in the trees and bushes behind us.
After breakfast we had one more goal before heading to our destination of Blantyre. Get Cathy her elephant siting. The best opportunity to do this was a river cruise on the Shire River. Excellent.
It's actually called the Hippo Lodge, an upper scale resort that has boat tours.
On the path down to the boat dock is this sign. I'm not sure that the second sentence was necessary. If you have to beware of crocodiles, why do you feel the need to swim?
They don't seem to have the problem when they warn people of hippos.
This was our launch the River Princess.
The gang loaded in except our driver Xander who is scared of water and doesn't like boats. With a little encouragement though....he joined us.
It was beautiful and relaxing with the wind blowing. Honestly, even if we hadn't seen any animals I think I would have just enjoyed the ride.
There were several fishermen out for the day in hand carved wooden boats and I had to wonder how old they were....years? Decades?
It wasn't long before we spotted our first bloat, pod, dale, herd(all proper names for a group of hippos for the trivia buffs out there). Most of the time you just saw a couple of eyes and small ears just above the surface.
But when you did get to see the whole animal, the size was amazing and they weren't afraid to bellow at you and show their teeth. There were babies to protect with this pod.
Also along the bank was this grand crocodile. As soon as we go close, he slipped from his sunbathing to the safety of the water. I noted that even such a huge predator was nervous around us.
Finally in the distance we saw elephants drinking at the river, we were hoping that we could get there in time without scaring them off. As we approached, just one was left but that was all we had hoped for and it was magnificent!
It just stood there and posed as we slowly cruised by and snapped photos.
As we turned back, we saw eagles in the trees, looking for an opportunity to swoop down for fresh fish.
And dispite all the hazzards, families still go to the river to do their laundry. As I took a few photos, I turned to Karen and said "Can you imagine if groups of tourists came pass your house wanting photos of you mowing the lawn or doing the dishes thinking how quaint it was?" Suddenly I felt really ridiculous.
It was such a lovely break but we needed to get back on the road for the 2hr drive to Blantyre.
On our first day, I called shotgun in the van. Some how, being the creatures of habit we are, that has become my regular seat. I have offered several times to others this position but they always decline. Also, I'm sure it has really helped with my migraines not to be bounced around back there but I would take my turn like everyone else. It wouldn't be my first time.
But in the meantime, I have been Christened Xander's co-pilot, and we have a lot of fun together. He has a great sense of humour and he gets sarcasm. This has often kept me sane.

Half way into our journey, the call was made to stop at Steers again for burgers for lunch. This time
though, the condiment tray had this fascinating bottle!
Xander! What is Monkey Gland sauce?!?!? He was shocked! Even he had never heard of it! I read some of the ingredients and it sounded like a sweet & sour version of HP sauce. I had to try that. It is really good! Just an unfortunate name. Once I tried it, everyone else saw that I didn't die and tried it too. We all like it and I wanted to buy a bottle. Xander and Silas tried to negociate with the staff but they weren't able to help. We are now on the hunt for Monkey Gland Sauce for me to bring home to Canada! I wonder if it's good on rat.
I also asked when we would be getting the bicycles. It looks like Wednesday and if we could get one with the "backseat". Basically, where Pearl's basket is there is a long padded platform for a passenger. I told Cathy I could take her for a ride but right now she is refusing as she has NEVER been on a bike. That's right. She has NEVER been on a bike. And she is terrified of live chickens. People are fascinating.
I looked at Xander and said the seat was open to him and he said only if he could wear my helmet!. Deal!
We then had Silas go to the exchange to get more Kwachas for us. As I was counting out some money for him, Xander looked and quietly whispered to me"Those are fifties(US dollars)" Yes, I know. I think he was shocked that I had so much money. I replied "This is why you are here to watch out for me." "I absolutely will"
After the money was exchanged we loaded up and drove into Blantyre. The first stop was the Airtel to get a portable router for internet and then the grocery store.
A router and 1G of data was $42USD and we were going to see how long that lasted the crew. I also still had data on the SIM on my phone so that would be the backup.
Next the grocery store. Seriously, if there was ever a reminder of why I'm single and live and travel on my own, it's shopping for food with 6 adults. Every single decision becomes a problem as "I don't want garlic" "I don't like fish" I don't, I don't, I don't...... I mean we have been eating VERY well for the last week with a local cook who serve us fresh food cooked between Malawian and western and it's been great. Lots of vegetables and some meat with great flavours. What do we end up with when we decide? White pasta with tomato sauce with onions, peppers, beef and OOOOOO I talked them into zuchini. White bread and butter on the side. Fine, But I think we should hire a cook again.

The BEST part of the day was arriving at Canada House and discovering that the 3 delayed bags of luggage had arrived! It actually brought me to tears over the relief of having everything we need to complete the clinics over the next 10 days. All the glasses, the tools and all of my personal stuff. I am just so grateful for it not to all have been lost after all the work and generous donations from people. I felt so guilty that I hadn't taken good care of it and it wasn't going to get to the people who it was intended. But that is all washed away now and we had a lot of work to do to get it sorted and organized to be ready for our first clinic tomorrow. Of course, as soon as I opened my first bag I found this. YUP randomly selected for additional inspection. You have to wonder if this is how it got held up in the first place.
I guess it doesn't matter now. Bryan, Karen and I set to work on the glasses while Cathy worked on the house and logistical details and Sara and Jessica worked on dinner.
The other good news is that we had electricity the whole time! We met a young lady, Janet who is a student and staying at the guest house. She was able to help Bryan put up a bed net, gave us lots of helpful hints and joined us for dinner. During dinner, we found out she is volunteering at one of the places we will be doing a clinic. She is looking for work but it is very hard as the last place she lived had a fire and her documents showing her education and training ceritficates were destroyed. She hasn't been able to replaced them so she has no proof to back up her resume. Bryan had a great idea to have her work for us as an interpreter at the eye assessment clinics while we are here. It's a win, win situation for everyone.
With the glasses organized, supplies ready for the children's centre and the internet working, we were all ready to call it an early night.
Until the 1GB of data that we purchased, was suddenly used up? Something is wrong. We'll have it looked at in the morning but we're back to the iPhone hotspot for connection for now. I'm really glad I didn't get rid of this old phone.
Tonight we settle with the sounds of the city coming through our windows. Several dogs barking and howing and sirens going by. I already miss the wild of the National Park.

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