In the morning we experienced the view of the enormous Lake Malawi with its dramatic, hilly islands. Our overnight accommodation, the Mgoza Lodge, was located just feet from the beach, and we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast as we watched fishermen repair their nets before heading out on their dugouts. We also watched with deepest respect, the local women – many carrying babies on their backs while holding hands with toddlers – bringing their wash and dirty dishes, balanced in large buckets on their heads, to the banks of the lake. With five or six children per family, it’s no wonder the median age in Melawi is in the teens!
We took a walk around the village where everyone greeted us kindly, and one young man took us into his backyard and explained how the family bought freshly caught fish and dried it to resell in Lilongwe. I was filled with gratitude for being able to have this experience as well as more than a little shame…there was more “stuff” in my suitcase than these villagers would own in a lifetime. The young man, with excellent English, had dropped out of school because his family could no longer afford the modest fees. Yet he asked for nothing in return for his kindness, and everyone in the village was the same. They came up to us, smiled, shook hands and practiced their English, which they begin studying in fourth grade.
Another long drive, the last 15 kilometers on a rocky dirt road where we passed some 20 villages with dozens of kids running to the road to greet us with waves and smiles, brought us to the boat crossing to Mvuu Camp in Liwonde National Park where we met McCloud, who would be our guide for the next three days. A sunset ride in the well-worn wooden motor boat included viewing of crocodiles, hippos, waterbucks and beautiful birds like cormorants, horn-bills and African eagles.