I am back! I feel so relaxed and happy to have added MALAWI to the list of countries I have been to. I had mentioned that I will be going on a road trip from Nairobi, Kenya and go through Tanzania for the LAKE OF STARS FESTIVAL held annually in Mangochi, Malawi. I have to say, I have never been on a road trip that lasted more than 10 hours at a time. This was a new experience for me and I am so happy to share with you this experiences with you. I made new friends from Kenya on the road ; Joe, Douglass, Njeri, Phillis, Judy and Chero. We had our ups and downs but I miss them already. Have I said that I missed writing to you guys? I did and it will be so hard keeping this blog post short because there is so much to say.
To kick us off is the packing for Malawi post. I will take you through the items I packed, what I actually needed and did not carry, and what I carried that I did not need. There are so many lessons to learn from my mistakes and a lot to carry home from the little I did right.
Light Clothing: Traveling in a car for a whole day means that there is a lot of sitting and if the car does not have good air conditioning, then you will sweat a lot. Pack a lot of light and comfortable clothing that does not restrict you. Avoid black clothes and clothes that need a lot of belting up. I would recommend, very light trousers or tights or a comfortable dress that allows leg movement. I learnt the hard way when I wore a black dress by Nectar Bridal, as beautiful as it was, did not help much with the heat when we were crossing the insanely beautiful Tanzania.
Quick Fact: Tanzania is the 13th largest country in Africa. It stretches over 947,303 square kilometers .You will take more than 24 hours on road just to get to the Tanzania – Malawi border so make the most of the road trip. There is so much to see because Tanzania has a diverse landscape. The country has both the highest ( top of Mt Kilimanjaro) and lowest (bottom of Lake Tanganyika ) points in Africa. If you find baobab trees intriguing, be ready to take lots of images since you will see so many on the road. If you use the Ngorongoro route, you are most likely to go through the Mikumi National Park. We saw giraffes, antelopes, wildebeests and monkeys all grazing right next to the road. Be careful not to hit any animals because there is a huge penalty roughly, 2,000 dollars for every animal you hit.
Shawl/ Jumper: These help with the cold during the night especially after midnight. And just in case the car breaks down or you need to stop for food or a bathroom break, then you need to be well covered to avoid getting a cold.
Small Bag : As much as you have packed a lot in your suitcase, you need to have a smaller bag that will hold some toiletries (wet wipes, lotion, toilet paper) , your identification documents because in Malawi and Tanzania, they check your passport on every stop, especially if the car you are traveling in, has a foreign number plate. You can also keep cash and passport in this bag to keep it safe since you will always have this bag with you. Be very careful of the currency exchange agents at the borders. Some of them are thieves posing as currency exchange agents.
Flats : Leave the heels in the city. Unless you plan on having a series of photo shoots like I did, pack as many flats as possible. On the road, you need a lot of comfortable sneakers or flats that you can just slip on and off. A lot of the people I traveled with had swollen feet every time we spent more than 8 hours on the road. This happened even thought they had flats on. Take care of your back by wearing comfortable shoes on long journeys. Flats also came in handy on the beach during the Lake Of Stars Festival. Imagine partying on a beach full of course sand and having to walk from one stage to another, stretched over some distance. Yes! It was really hard walking through it , so most times, I opted to walk bare feet just hoping that no one left a broken a beer bottle on the ground.
Bikini / Swim Suit: Lake Malawi is the third largest lake in Africa and its over 580 Kilometers long. On our journey through Malawi, we used a route that was right next to the shores of Lake Malawi. The view was amazing especially during sunrise and sunset. When we got to our destination, swimming in the Lake was always on my agenda. It was so much fun. Why have so much water and not enjoy it? I remember I told you a while back, that I cannot swim not even to save my life, well ever since, I have been taking some classes and I finally learnt how to float on my back in the fresh waters in Malawi. I am super proud of myself.
Medication: Going for long journeys, no matter how much fun, could come with its own side effects. Be sure to carry painkillers and ointments in case your body starts to hurt due to the many hours spent seated. The environmental change can cause migraines so carry your favorite medication. Do not forget medication for stomach upsets. There is so much to eat on the way and you would be tempted to eat in random roadside stalls in the spirit of adventure so you need to prepare for stamach upsets. In Tanzania we ate ” coconut chappatti” and “chips mayai”. Malawi had amazing food. I tried their famous “Sobo” juice, Nsima, Nkhosa, Chiwaya and Chambo. I am now salivating.mmmmhhhh.. I carried antimalarial drugs that I did not need. From what I read online, there a lot of mosquitoes in Malawi but I did not experience them.Maybe we were just lucky.
Electronics : For me, I have to carry a laptop, camera, blow drier and phone chargers. I have to do this because of work and also because I feel so uncomfortable when my phone is off. Since this is a road trip, make sure your electronics are not put on the carrier or in the boot of the van or car. You can do as I did, put them in my leg room in the van. Make sure your windows are closed when leaving the car to protect your valuables.
Gifts: thinking about it now, I made a lot of new friends from all over the world at the festival and I had nothing “Kenyan” with me to give them just to motivate them to visit our country as well. I now wish I had carried, a Kenyan flag wrist band or a key holder. This is definitely something I will remember to do next year or on any trip I take from now on.
Photography by : Khalifa Louie and (me) Reina Kimeu
I had missed you so much. I hope you enjoyed reading my first article on the Road trip to Malawi series. There will be more coming your way. Have a wonderful day.
Love, Reina Kimeu.