The Cooler Climes of Livingstonia
The tent housed a double bed , side table, low rise storage unit, a wide rug on the floor , luggage for two and there was plenty of room to spare. The balcony’s sofa, low coffee table and comfy chair pointed in the direction of the view overlooking mountains and the valley that led down to Lake Malawi.
‘Is this ok?” Helena asked.
We hadn’t booked, so when I flippantly said “a tent will do if you don’t have a room ” (they hired them out) I expected the 2 man version that in reality is designed for midgets, not the walk-in deluxe version we were shown.
We arrived at Lukwe Eco Lodge mid morning. The planned 6.00am early start from Chitimba to avoid the sun’s blistering heat was shot down by our accommodation, who having told us they could prepare an early breakfast reneged on the agreement. After hanging around for a long long time we finally ordered only to be told that the eggs were off!! Eventually we set off accompanied by Homeboy who seemed to have grown rather fond of us and was prepared to walk the 15km to Livingstonia for the pleasure of our company. After one return to camp for a forgotten phone, a stop for water, shampoo and a chat to Elija at the teachers lodge, we finally arrived at the unpaved, steep, unshaded, all up hill road with 20 sharp bends to Livingstonia. By now it was about 9.00am, the heat haze was rising from the road, locals had sought shade to lounge under and we had joined them. The 3 – 4 hour walk was now out of the question unless we wished to be sucked dry of all bodily fluids and expire before we reached our destination so we settled down to wait for passing cars in hope. We’d been told that lifts were rare – especially on a Sunday, it was going to be a long wait – or so we thought.
Less than 15 minutes later a 4 wheel drive turned off the highway onto the road and parked by the homebrew shed. Sarah ran, threw herself on the bonnet before it drove off, spoke to the driver and suddenly we were on our way. Joseph, a Livingstonia resident, and was happy to drop us off at Lukwe for 1000 qwatcha each (2.50 dollars). Homeboy waved us goodbye with a forlorn look on his face.
After settling in, we walked the last 4km to Livingstonia via the waterfall. After the scenic route the actual town was a disappointment. The so called leafy tree lined boulevards were wide dust paths, everything was closed due to it being Sunday, and the view of 3 countries from the top obscured by mist. Still we had a good lunch provided by the owner of the newly opened accommodation (electricity still to be switched on at time of visit) before he gave us a quick tour of the place and some historical context.
Whilst wandering along the ridge we heard gospel music coming from the church. It was a regional choral competition. As the c choirs swayed,c lapped and moved in time to the numbers they belted out, onlookers threw bank notes into sun moted air over them – apparently the Malawian version of points out of ten. It started to get high spirited as entrants tried to outdo each other. Ranks broke, formations split up, go go dancing and high kicks were incorporated.
Moving on. A football match, children selling bananas, couples walking out, a photo of the commissioned church bell that took over a year to arrive then dropped on site, cracked and never used, before walking back to the palatial tent with a view before the sunset. Joseph passed us, this time driving a truck loaded with singing labourers in the back . It was all down hill so we waved them on.