06 July 2009

Truck on

We were sat relaxing at Mikadi Beach last Thursday afternoon when an overland truck jammed full of loud and obnoxious kids pulled in. The group also contained possibly the loudest Irish woman on the face of the Earth who's best mate had one of those Cybil Fawlty "machine gunning a seal" laughs. To say that our hearts sank was a bit of an understatement. We were thinking that we wouldn't be able to stand the evening in the bar in their company, let alone a fortnight squashed into a truck.

We breathed a huge sigh of relief when we found out that they weren't with our truck but a different one. Thankfully when our truck pulled in we were greeted by a really nice bunch of people.

So who's on the truck? In total there's 22 of us including the driver, Gavin, and his assistant/fixer, Summer. There's also 3 Americans (Alan, Mandy and Dan), 2 South Africans (Grant and Sue), 3 Kiwis (Jarred, Amy and Glen), 6 Aussies (Mat, Adam, Annie, V, Sam, and Adriana), 1 Italian/Australian (Mike), 1 Maltese/Australian (Nike) and 2 other Brits (Humza and Gaj - although Gaj does claim to be a Sri Lankan prince!)

After briefly meeting our travelling companions we retired to bed for an early night in preparation for a 5am start the following morning. The first 2 days on the truck were set to be the most difficult. 2 consecutive days of 12 hours on the road in order to cover the 850km to get across Tanzania and into Malawi. When we set off at 5am on Friday morning it felt a little bit like we were a bunch of Albanian refugees trying to escape from Sangate in the back of a lorry.

Part of the drive on that first day was through the Mikumi National Park. With the sides of the truck rolled up we had an excellent view of the wildlife and managed to spot elephants, giraffe, zebra, antelope and monkeys. We then made our way into the mountains to camp for the evening at a place called The Old Farmhouse near Iringa. The camp site was really good and was built around a fantastic Bedouin style tented bar. The only problem was that because of the altitude it was bloomin' freezing. We think it's quite possibly the coldest conditions we've ever camped in. Yes, it was even colder than North Devon.

After a freezing night in the tent we then had the pleasure of another 5am start (Liz is absolutely loving these early mornings) as we headed for Malawi.

Just before the boarder we had an interesting encounter at a filling station with a guy called Mr Cool (we're not sure if it's his real name) who became the unofficial black market money changer for the the truck. By using Mr Cool we managed to change our money over at a rate that was significantly better than the banks and currency exchanges. The only danger now is that we're all sat on a pile of counterfeit Malawi Kwacha.

Once over the boarder we made our way to the village of Chitimba on the shore of Lake Malawi. The lake is absolutely massive, 500km long and nearly 100km wide. Standing on the shore with it's golden yellow sand it feels more like a sea than a lake.

The following day those who were feeling fit (or stupid) enough took a 9 hour hike into the surrounding mountains to visit the Manchewe falls, a 50m high waterfall with a cave behind it. Apparently the local villagers used to use the cave to hide in when the slave traders passed through.

The next morning we hit the road again for the half day drive South down the lake to Kande Beach where we would be staying for 3 nights.

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