November 27, 2013

Day 33 (around the bend)

Woke up early to embark on a 30 kilometer hike up to the town of Livingstonia, nestled among the mountains ringing Lake Malawi.  Did you get that?  30 kilometers?  That's like, 20 miles, for those following along with American goggles.  In canvass shoes like these.  Worst blisters I can recall.

We began along the paved roads, passing children carrying bushels of wheat-ish shrubbery to school: a punishment for prior tardiness.

The flat before the 20 mile hike

Overlooking Lake Malawi

Eventually the school children thinned out, and we turned right, away from the main road, to begin our wide switchbacks up into the hills.  Along the way, we were joined by two friendly dogs, mutts of the mushroom farm around the bend.  And they were so happy to be trotting along side us.  Sniffing the ground and begging for ham sandwiches.  Which made me both glad and sad... this is the best life for a dog, roaming free and leashless in the sun-warmed dirt.  One I'll never be able to provide in a San Francisco studio.

Dwarfed by Eucalyptus

We walked beneath Eucalyptus trees, which are some of my favorite.  We stopped to refill our water atop a waterfall, dropping sharply over the cliff.


At the top, I bought and ate a Mars Bar from a local canteen.  Begging the question, on a town on top of a hill in Malawi: Are we ever really that far from familiarity?

Also, a goat with a bouffant haircut, scratching his chin on a rock.

November 14, 2013

Day 32 (to chisel some)

One of the curse/blessing trade-offs of being always-on-the-move is that you have to be up and at 'em at the crack of dawn every day.  Curse because, duh.  Blessing because it turns out that sunrises are stunning.

Pure beauty

Drove to our second Malawi campsite today.  A more local, less touristy-feeling site, after long hours of winding up and over the perimeter mountains.  

Driving through Malawian mountains

We stopped at a local market around the way where women scowled at our cameras and I bought the most rewarding avocados I've ever encountered.  Though, that may be more a product of 32 straight days of camping food than of the produce themselves.  Though the sugar snap peas I also bought certainly didn't distinguish themselves for superstar flavor.  

But I'm getting side-tracked.  Which is easy to do when you build up a month's worth of food cravings.  My hand-copy journal is riddled with notes about the things I wished I was eating along the trip.  

We arrived at our site in the mid-afternoon, and most people went straight for a dip in the lake.  

Looking left

Looking right

My tent-mate and I went straight for a wood-carving lesson at Norman's school of woodcarving, where I was assisted by self-nicknamed "Mr. Nice" and she was assisted by "Mr. Bombastic."

Norman's School of Carving

And by "assisted," I mean that they would lavish praise upon our wood-carving skills while we hacked away at a block of tree for an hour, and would then finish 90% of the actual work in the last 10 minutes. 

The facade of skilled craftsmanship

The real craftsmanship

I (sort of) made that!

Norman's youngest son out of 12 sat an elevated railing, chipping away at a hunk of wood with a hammer, as his penultimate son joined us on our log to chisel some masks.  

The penultimate son


Following the carving, Mrs. Nice and Bombastic, not wanting to adjourn the evening too early, led us down a winding path through dusky greenery, to visit the local witch doctor for individual predictions.

 Through the dusky green

Growing up with a dad who faked preposterous fortune cookie fortunes during my childhood (Hi, Dad), I don't subscribe to much spiritual hokum, as it were.  Nonetheless, I was still hoping for a prediction with some vague poetry that could be retained and applied future situations needing the weight of significance.  Unfortunately, the "prediction" consisted mostly the answers I had already given to Mr. Nice's inquiries through the course of the afternoon:
- You have a sister;
- You don't have a boyfriend;
- You like your job.

What it looked like inside the hut

What it looked like with a camera flash

But the best part was their final pitch, in which they offered the sale of any or all of the following 3 potions:
1.) Love Potion #9- For single people who want to find love.
2.) Love Potion #7- For coupled people who want their love to last.
3.) A potion for hangovers.

Clearly, people who have done their market research.