Easter Trek: Part 2

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The next morning we woke up with the sun, went swimming, and had breakfast.

A fisherman offering his catch to Will (he also told Will that Ruarwe was 2000 kilometers away)

Our humble abodes (Sophie and I stayed in the green tent, and I was hilariously hopeless in helping her put it up and take it down)

We left our little beach around 7:30 and began walking, figuring we'd arrive in Ruarwe around lunch time.

We had to cross lots of rickety bridges that were about twenty feet above the water

Beach and "lunch" break (or finishing the only food we had left - bread and butter)

Some time around mid-afternoon, it began to get really hilly and extremely hot

Thanks for the hat, Mom!

Oink oink

Around 3:30, after about six hours of walking, and an hour with no water and no sign of civilization, morale was extremely low. Every person we passed earlier seemed to think we were a wildly different distance to Ruarwe from the person before - some said 15 kilometers, or 6 hours, or 3 hours, or 95 kilometers, or 12 hours. Basically, we had no idea where we were with no food or water. I suggested asking the next person we saw if they had a boat but the others doubted we would be so lucky.

Finally, at 4 or so, we saw a tiny village just uphill from the walking path. Will took our empty, 2-liter water bottle and ran up the hill. Five minutes later, he came down the hill with the bottle still empty, but with a group of young men walking behind him. "We don't have water," one of the men said, "but we have Fanta and Coke!" We all cheered like little kids and the man led us to a wooden structure further down the hill with a roof but no walls. He told us he was planning to open a lodge there - the bar was already built. We realized then we were not the first mzungus to beg for food and shelter in this little hillside village. The men offered for us to stay there for the night, and said they would cook us rice and chicken for dinner. We drank two sodas each and devoured packets of biscuits and started discussing our options. Sophie wanted to stay and start walking again the next morning, but Will and I were keen on looking into the boat option. Since this was a fishing village, of course there were canoes, and Will asked if one or two of the men would be willing to row us to Ruarwe.

"Yes," the leader said, his eyes wide open with the opportunity for a profit, "but we would ask for something in exchange."

When we asked how much, two of the men stepped aside and whispered to each other for a few minutes. They came back to us announced a price at 2,500 kwacha - twenty dollars between the four of us for a three-hour canoe ride. Of course we agreed, and they practically shouted with joy. Everyone was happy.

Bex and Will

We got into two dug-out canoes - skinny wooden boats used for fishing. Our strapping young fishermen rowed us for about twenty minutes to a village further along the shore. We then moved into a bigger boat that held the four of us, our cruise directors, and all of our bags.

A tight squeeze

The ride was less than comfortable. Within minutes we were sopping wet from the water splashing into the boat. We were sitting in six inches of water, as were our bags, with all our clothes and electronics in them. (Luckily, I was holding my camera, which was in its case.) Our butts fell asleep and when the sun went down we were freezing cold. We did not believe the men when they said it would take two and a half hours to row to Ruarwe, but in fact it took three. As we kept rowing past the lake shore on what seemed to be an endless boat trip, we realized just how far we still would have had to walk. (Later we looked on a map - we had walked 15 kilometers, exactly halfway.) All I could think of was that at that very moment, my family was around the dinner table at my Uncle Jeff and Aunt Fran's house, drinking wine and eating Easter Ham.

When we saw the lights of the lodge, I swear I've never seen a group of people so happy. Unfortunately, all of our clothes were soaking wet when we got there (except Sophie, who had put her clothes in a dry bag...smart girl). My pajamas were on top of my bag and were only slightly damp compared to everything else, so I wore those to dinner. We went to bed extremely early, woke up on the cheerful side of the bed, and spent the day sunning, swimming, and reading. It was well-deserved and much-needed.

Sophie after jumping twenty feet

Everything we brought, drying (my phone was destroyed, but luckily I can buy a new one for about ten dollars)

The Zulunkhuni River Lodge (formerly and aptly named "Wherearewe")

Scrabble at happy hour

The next morning we headed home on the Ilala, a ferry that runs from the top to the bottom of Lake Malawi.

Bye bye, Wherearewe. You were better to us than you'll ever know.

The Ilala

Alive and well, somehow

Thanks for reading! As always, you can see the rest of my pictures here.


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