We did not really know what to expect in Malawi. Not all travelers we talked to liked the country and the rainy season also kicked in. But on the other hand we were looking forward to the sights we picked out. Apart from the obvious lake hopping, we wanted to visit Livingstonia, Nyika NP and the Ntchisi forest. The only question remained, were we able to get there? The roads can be challenging and even impassable in the rain.
Our first little off road adventure started at Lake Malawi, heading up to Livingstonia. This little town was founded by the Scottish missionaries. They build a church high in the mountains, where there were less mosquitos carrying malaria. We managed to get up the 10 km 4×4 climb in 40 minutes, not bad at all. It actually was a beautiful drive, up the green mountain with views of the lake below. Unfortunately the church was closed and there was a meeting in the museum so we could not visit both. At that time it also started pouring. We decided to visit the nearby water falls instead, we had time to spare and didn’t want to go down in the rain anyway. After paying the admission fee four guys all aiming for a tip accompanied us to see the falls. It has to be said, without them (or at least one of them) we wouldn’t have found the cave behind the falls.
After another nice campsite by the lake, we were heading to Nyika National Park. In Tanzania we spoke to a couple who had to turn around, so we were crossing our fingers that it wouldn’t rain too much. Of course it rained all night and it still rained while we were heading towards the dirt road. But we wanted to try it anyway. The first section after Rumphi was really muddy but still manageable. After that the road got rockier which was slow going but better. After 100 km we were having a cup of tea on a beautiful campsite in Nyika NP! Mission accomplished! Nyika is of the few parks you can cycle in; the main reason we wanted to visit the park. So the next day we mountain biked 30 km up and down through the park, next to zebras, elands and roan antelopes. Not sure if we were happy or disappointed that we did not see a leopard. Although the rainy season has it’s downsides, one of the big benefits is that everything is green! Cycling through this magical landscape was an absolute highlight!
Next stop, Ntchisi forest. We kind of forgot to plan our route and just followed maps.me. The first section of the dirt road was fine, the second section not so much. We ended up on a trail that had not seen a car recently and we crawled our way through high grass and later on some steep slippery muddy hills. We were sweating and Hank turned on his A/T oil temp light as to say: ‘Guus, you bloody idiot, will you turn on low-range now!?’ Five minutes idling and a switch on the transfer case and Hank’s mood brightened up again. Okay, this is challenging but again we made it! After lunch we went on a 9 km hike and we got some gorgeous views over the valley. We had the perfect guides, the two dogs Sella and Simba of the owner walked with us the whole way. They were so sweet.
The next day we were heading to our final destination at the lake, Monkey Bay. It was raining and very foggy when we woke up. Again we had to take a dirt road down and we were definitely holding our breath at some moments, but Hank pulled us through perfectly. In Monkey Bay we had our final swim in the lake, we took the canoe out and snorkeled around a little island.
Malawi, what a country! The people are friendly, the hills are beautiful and you can buy a banana for 1 cent. What’s not to love? Wondering what our next country will bring, Zambia here we come!