Memories of Malawi

Malawi “The warm heart of Africa”, their promotional quote is really true! The Malawians are a friendly folk and always ready with a big a smile. Although the country is very poor the happiness that radiates from the people is generous and heartwarming. It’s the country where I was born and lived during my childhood and teenage years. A happy childhood. Therefore I would like to share more of my photographs and two videos by Malawi Tourism.

Fun on the road, how do you transport a boat and a group op people – like so! Only the pick-up truck gave up, just as our car did on the way to lake Malawi from the south. We meet at a local roadside garage.

Malwi boot op autoAweb

Along the roadside coming and going to the lake you’ll find all sorts of local handicrafts and small vegetable stalls. Especially the mats, hats and creatively made cars, boats, bikes and baskets made from grass and reeds are wonderful. Here dad is teaching his son under the baobab tree.

Lake handicraftAweb

On the way to the lake shore you have to cross the Shire river. The largest river in Malawi, being the only outlet of lake Malawi and the Shire drains into the Zambezi. As a small child we had to take the barge/pontoon across (pulled by strong men!), later a large barrage was built. The barrage being able to control the water levels of Lake Malawi.  Close to this barrage is Liwonde National Park. A lovely park for large game as elephants, hippos and several antelopes but also for an abundant bird-life. I have memories of close encounters with a hippo grazing around our tent…. Yikes! Rather hear them during the night in the river hwhoo hwhoo hwhoo.

Shire river Liwonde bewerkt web

Zomba Market, what a wonderful place to wander around. Colourful and a sensation to eyes, ears and nose! You’ll find vegetables, grains, freshly slaughtered meat, clothes, beads, mattresses in fact everything but the kitchen sink.

Zomba market web

If you have a chance, do drive through the town of Zomba. There is architecturally still a lot of the old British colonial architecture to be seen here, although some rather dilapidated let your fantasy wander and dream how it was. Zomba was once the capital of British Colonial Central Africa, later the capital of Nyasaland and until 1974 of Malawi.  The photo is of  Zomba Gymkhana Club, built in 1923 and a fine example of this British colonial architecture.  The story goes that during the polo matches, between the  ‘Chukkas’ the men would climb the stairs on their horse and wander into the bar for a cooling gin n tonic.

Zomba Gymkana ClubAweb

I travelled on the old lake steamer ‘The MV Ilala‘, a ship that has plied the lake shore since 1951. What an adventure, travelling with way too many people, goats, chickens and several dugouts and other boats coming to and fro from the ship. We travelled from  Monkey Bay to Nkata Bay via Likoma island. We travelled 1st class, but even that was a faded glory to the former romantic ship trips. Never the less, the service was impeccable, it was fun and the experience not one to be missed.  The ship was originally built in Scotland, dismantled to be freighted to Mozambique – first by ship then by rail and road to Nyasaland where she was put together. Her ‘home’ is Monkey bay in the south of lake Malawi. A must do experience for travellers in Malawi, this is unique!

Ilala web

Likoma Island, is a small Malawian territory in Mozambican waters of Lake Malawi. In other words an enclave of Malawi. The fame is the St Peter’s Cathedral (as big as Winchester Cathedral in London) and the third biggest of Africa, really quite strange on the otherwise small barren island of 17km².  This became because it was made the headquarters for University Mission to Central Africa (Livingstone’s mission) in the 1880s. Livingstone being the well know East African missionary cum explorer. The well preserved cathedral is of architectural and cultural interest.

Likomo Island Anglican Cathedral Malawi_ShiftN A web

The busy beach at Nkata bay.

Nkatabay web

Mulanje, the tea district in the south of Malawi has something idyllic, it’s lush and fertile. The green fields are draped around the base of the mountain. The mountain itself is spectacular and certainly worth climbing. Thinking of going on a climbing venture? Your able to do this via several paths, with the help of porters and stay in one of the 9 mountain huts on the plateau. Organise this via the Mulanje forestry department and check out the website of the Mountain Club of Malawi. There is also this beautiful video taking you through Lujeri Tea estate and past several of the mountain huts. Enjoy it.

Mulanje is where I lived with my parents on several tea estates from my birth till my 19th, later coming back for holidays.

Mulanje Mountain and tea plantations

mulanje mountain

A few images of Mulanje: How about a yummy stick of dried-grilled mice “Koswe”?!

Gegrilde muizen Koswe

The famous swing-bridge on Lujeri Tea Estate. It does take some sure footing I can assure you! If you didn’t dare then it would mean walking or biking quite some miles around for the ‘normal’ bridge.

Ruo Swinging bridge Swinging bridge Lujeri

The tea pluckers in the fields draped around the mountain base. In rain, mist and sunshine the ‘Two and a bud’ were picked and deftly thrown into the basket on their backs. Two and a bud are the freshest leaves and depending on the season can grow from a week to two weeks, in high season they’ll call it a flush – beautiful light green fresh leaves and grown within a week. These are picked ever so swiftly and made into your lovely cuppa tea.

Mulanje thee plukkers

In the colonial days and the first years after independence there were the Indian merchants with their typical stores. Immigrants from the west coast of India and many Gujarati, there shops well stocked and often selling everything but the kitchen sink, or in fact that too! On their khondes (veranda) would be at least one tailor with his treadle Singer sewing machine. These tailors would make up a frock or shirt within a day, made exactly like the one you had as an example and the material bought inside the shop from Mr Patel. We had shops know for their colours, The ‘Red shop’ was a typical dressmaking shop, the ‘Blue shop’ for your most important groceries, a white one for fresh bread and this pink one, that was for loo’s, basins and hose-pipes.

Anglia in Indian storeMulanje mum and child

Two of the houses where we lived in, the ‘managers house’ on the tea estate were my father was currently living at the time. the first on Lauderdale, the home where my crib stood and I spent my early childhood. It’a a pen drawing made by my friend Scott Cumming, like me he also lived in Mulanje.  The second photograph is on Eldorado, an estate bought by former missionaries from the Church of Scotland. Do have a look at the lovely ‘Love Story‘ of a doctor and her husband who lived in the house before us. Eldorado is like Lauderdale in the centre of the Mulanje tea district.

lauderdale house

Eldorado huis

I have happy childhood memories, playing endlessly in the garden with my sister and other planter’s children. Eating ripe mangos with it’s juice dribbling down your chin, barking back at baboons, swimming in the estate pool, or lying under the flamboyant tree with a comic-book. We all started school at ‘Mountain View School’ with Mrs Muldoon and Mrs Scarbourough, both also planters wives. Me in the middle at 5 years. Close friendships were made in those years, that even now although we all spread our wings across the world the friendship is still there.

nurseryschool 1965

And of course there were the birthday parties with special birthday dresses. And at Christmas good old Father Christmas would come on the tractor to the club instead of with Rudlof.

1964 Malawi 1964 Malawi 1964 Malawi

To end this post, here is a lovely video from the Malawi tourism board. Gosh makes me so long for this beautiful country, my special home country…

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5 responses to “Memories of Malawi

  1. hia. when did you live in mulanje? i was there from about 1980 – 84 and also used to go to mountain view school and remember father christmas coming on the tractor.

    • I left in 79, but came back regularly for holidays. You’ll probably know my parents Bert and Anneke Velthuis. Your surname does ring a bell. Live on TRF?

  2. yes, i do know them. my parents (David and Susan) were very good friends.

    are you parents still living in Ibiza?

    • Ahhh, yes I do know now! Bert and Anneke are both very well and still living on Ibiza. I think your parents and mine still write or email with each other. And we have shared memories.

  3. shared memories indeed and very fond ones.

    i’m trying to track down where i used to live on Lujeri on google maps but am struggling. any pointers? we used to live near to the Harrison’s – the house that is now the guest house.

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