Cheers to the weekend! Buckle up, because it’s been an eventful few days!!
Friday began with a quick trip to the bank and shoprite for some snacks for the road before we headed off to Cape MAclear. The bus ride was a bit comical as we looked somewhat like a clown car packed with Azungus and action packers. As usual, our fearless Laz got us through the 4 hour drive with “No Problems!” (With a little help from CT’s fabulous playlist)
Our arrival to Annie’s Lodge was announced by shrieks of delight as we saw our lavish rooms. King sized beds and walk in showers, oh my! Our host, Peter, greeted us with an offer for a sunset cruise and fresh fish for dinner.
We loaded the whole crew onto the “Shanana Malawi” and headed off into the beautiful clear blue water. Our captain, Isaac, showed off some tricks with his pet eagle, Livingston, and then stopped to show us a fishing boat that was filled to the brim with what we would soon be eating for dinner. We paused just before the sunset to take a dip- some were even brave enough to take the plunge in their clothes! Calla, who is quite timid around open water, and Ashlea who is a bit fearful of heights were both in the “When in Africa” spirit and made the jump from the high dive as the whole boat cheered them on. The evening concluded with a sunset that can’t even be described in words and a dinner of the Chambo fish we had seen earlier that was absolutely superb.
Saturday’s adventures started bright and early so that we could enjoy every second of our little slice of paradise. Some headed out to shop and find the famous tailor, Billy, that can make anything out of your choice of his brilliant chitenje fabrics. As with any typical beach town, there were curios, carvings and souvenirs at every corner. A lot of us checked items off of our lists of desired items to bring home.
We came back to a delicious breakfast spread out on the lawn overlooking the beach that included bacon! This was honestly a highlight for many of us. As always the staff was so kind and so helpful. One thing I have noticed in our time here is how genuinely nice the people have been. There is no sense of urgency, no rush, and no reason to stress. This attitude is something I truly intend to bring back home with me.
Once breakfast was concluded we all hopped into our “swimming costumes” as Paulina called them and got on the boat with captain Isaac. Little did we know that the day was going to be filled with some incredible adventures.
Our first stop was a secluded beach on the island across the lake for some amazing snorkeling. After somewhat gracefully sliding off the rocks into the water, Isaac began to feed the fish bread crumbs. Instantly the fish schooled around us in a frenzy that provided us with some of the most spectacular snorkeling I’ve ever experienced. Lake Malawi is home to over 100 species of freshwater fish, and I swear we saw nearly all of them!
The rest of the cruise included more snorkeling and a bit of a history lesson. We stopped at an 800 year old Baobab tree which was home to Malawi’s first primary school. It’s large branches and towering height were a common land mark/meeting spot for Malawians for many years. It took 12 of us with arms stretched wide to surround the beautiful piece of history. We also passed a historic mango tree which was a place for those avoiding the slave trade to take cover on their escape route. Isaac’s incredible knowledge of the area clearly showed how proud he is of his country and his village. It was such a beautiful and humbling experience for all of us as we took turns laying a hand on this massive piece of history.
The rest of the day and evening were filled with relaxation on the hammocks, by the pool and under the shade of the trees. Several of us swam out to a floating dock and enjoyed the afternoon sun. Dinner was delicious as usual and was laid out on the lawn overlooking the water.
After dinner, several of us decided to venture down the beach a ways. We stumbled upon an drum performance that boasted banana pancakes and a bonfire on the beach! After sitting around the fire for a bit, things got interesting. Four drums were pulled out and passed around as each of us tried our hand at drumming to the beat. The locals sang songs in Chichewa and in English as we tried to keep our hands moving with the beat- not an easy task we quickly learned!
As we walked back, the view of the stars could only be described as otherworldly. We all had an “oh my gosh, we’re in Africa” moment as we thought about how lucky we are to have this incredible experience. After only two weeks we have already seen nearly 800 patients and done outreach in 6 locations. We’ve met some incredible people along the way and learned a ton in such a short span. We are all so excited to see what week 3 in Lilongwe has to offer.