We had to cover 600kms to get to our campsite in Iringa, passing through Mikumi National Park and Baobab Valley. To avoid traffic in Dar es Salaam we were on the road at 4am, watching the world go by and dawn break. It was another beautiful and vibrant sunrise; warming the bark on the trees, gently licking the tips of the grass and softening harsh man-made environments with its pale morning glow. The sunrises and sunsets are exactly the hot bold hues I was expecting to see in Africa.
Baobab Valley was really quite spectacular and seemed to stretch for miles; massive expanses of these thick trunked, grey-toned trees with spindly branches. Even out of the valley, these trees appeared as part of the townscape with housing built around them, and people setting up market stalls underneath them.
We arrived at The Old Farm House camp in Kisolanza with an hour of daylight to spare. For a few US dollars I upgraded to a cosy room minus en suite in the converted, thatched-roof stable block. We all had one of the luxurious hot steamy showers The Old Farm House is famous for and after dinner, headed to the bar for two of the equally famous Hot Chocolate Wild Africas – a delicious mix of hot choc and Amarula! Why didn’t I think of this before?!
The next day was a 500km journey, over the border of Tanzania and into Malawi, where the visa is free. We are now officially out of East Africa and in Central Africa, gaining an hour because of the Central European time zone. Malawi has a population of 1mm, exporting primarily tobacco and maize crops. There is also a large rubber industry – the rubber trees were being harvested as we drove past, horizontal black rings around their trunks exposing the inner substance.
Known as the ‘warm heart of Africa’ Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa and our guide told us 70% have chronic malnutrition. The local food eaten at most meals is cassavah, from a stringy weed-like plant, because it is cheap and readily available. As we drove along the road past houses and their fields of crop, many had several tombstones outside. Perhaps this is the way they want to bury their dead but I don’t recall seeing this anywhere else on the trip so far.
Soon we were driving next to Lake Malawi, which at 29,600sq m covers over 20% of the country and is the second deepest lake in Africa. It looks more like an open ocean than a lake!
After 1100km over the last two days I was relieved to get to Chitimba Camp at sunset, located on the western beach of Lake Malawi and chose a simple beach hut to sleep in.
The bar was engraved with the names of all the overland tour companies who stop by, likely made by the people from the craft market just outside the camp gates. I found myself haggling for an engraved wooden Big 5 souvenir to take home!