Our sixth evening at Zanzibar was spent on an overnight ferry back to Dar es Salaam on the mainland of Tanzania. While our non-resident ferry tickets cost twenty times what the locals paid, our group was given private, air conditioned quarters where we each had a comfortable sleeping mat. As we disembarked the next morning, we shuffled through the steerage class compartment strewn with trash, smelling of vomit and resounding with the wailing of a dozen unhappy babies. The extra expense was worth every dime.
Originally, our time on the Absolute Africa truck and with our Kiwi buddies was to end once we came back from Zanzibar. We had two weeks left in Africa, with only Victoria Falls left on our must see list. We weren’t looking forward to spending the last days of our trip bogged down with the logistics of transportation, food and accommodation in that part of Africa, so we decided to stay on the truck for another week and split up in Zambia before they went further south into Zimbabwe. And since the group was camping and doing group meals twice a day, it was also cheaper for us to stay on the truck as long as possible.
After the Zanzibar ferry we spent the next two days travelling through southern Tanzania, crossing into the small country of Malawi on the afternoon of the second long day in the truck. Our campsite was just along the beach of Lake Malawi. The lake is over 600 km long, the opposite shore is rarely visible across even the narrow parts, and the steady waves make it seem more of a freshwater sea than a lake. Unfortunately, most parks of the lake are known to harbor bilharzia—a parasite that enters through the skin and attacks the liver. Several guys on our truck did go swimming in the lake, having known friends that successfully treated bilharzia with a week-long course of antibiotics. We didn’t risk it.
The next morning we moved further south along the “coast” of Lake Malawi to a wonderful campsite at Kande Beach. We spent the last few hours of the drive stopping at a number of villages in search of a pig to buy and roast for dinner the next night. While Cam and Dean were being led from one empty pen to another, most of the Kiwis got off the truck and introduced about fifty kids to the rugby ball. The game quickly deteriorated into a giggling mass of feet, heads and elbows swarming around the mzungu.
The afternoon’s pig hunt was a bust, so those who were up for it (not me) set out at 6:00 the following morning in the truck to pick up a roasting pig at another village that, as the local guide said, was ten minutes up the road and another twenty minutes on foot. While I slept in, showered, relaxed on the beach and checked out the curio market, my fellow travellers walked for nearly four hours without breakfast or even water and did not come back with a pig. Luckily there was another Absolute Africa truck at the camp, and they had found a pig (paying a very dear $45 for it). Our truck contributed six chickens to roast on the spit, and we combined the meat and the sides for one big feast.
The other twist to that night’s party was the dress code. Earlier in the week we all drew names and went shopping at a used clothing market on the way to Kande Beach. Some of the outfits were more atrocious than the others. All the guys were subjected to dresses or skirts, and most of the ladies donned polyester prints from the ‘70s. Jo, the bride to be in February after returning to New Zealand, fittingly wore a white mini-dress accompanied by a flowered veil and bouquet that Karen put together. As usual, Alley took the most abuse, having to endure the evening with his black jockey shorts clearly visible through a pink slip he had to wear.
The bulk of our time on Kande Beach was spent hanging around the beach, playing volleyball, reading, shooting pool at the bar and relaxing. We were nearing the end of our time in Africa, so Abi turned her attentions to souvenir shopping and her favorite full-contact sport—haggling about prices. One evening our group walked to a local village for a traditional meal of beans and rice, chicken bones with trace bits of meat, spinach and manioc (edible Silly Putty). After dinner, some of the youngsters put on a little song and dance show. While it was billed as traditional dancing, most of the moves appeared to have come from MTV Africa.
One last Malawi memory. After dinner on our first night at Kande Beach, I slipped away from the group and climbed a tree near Abi’s and my tent. I waiting among the branches wile Abi took her shower, and refined my plan of attack. I snapped a small branch from the tree and held that in my right hand and grabbed a leafy limb with my left. As Abi passed beneath me, I dropped the branch so it just grazed her backside. As she spun around, I shook the other limb above her head and let out my best leopard growl! She spun around again, darted a few feet to the left and gasped, “Oh s__t!” (This appears to be my wife’s favored expression while under attack by wild animal—see Capetown entry for baboon encounter.) My ensuing eruption of laughter let her know that she wasn’t in danger.
Two long travel days followed: on the first we crossed into Zambia and on the second we camped just outside of Lusaka, the capitol of Zambia. Our last evening with the truck full of Kiwis featured another game of Men v. Women in The Weakest Link (the ladies won in a sudden death tiebreaker). The group sent off the Yanks in style with a cake and a stuffed kiwi bird with an “Aw yeah, cheers mate” sign slung around its neck—we had given them the business about their slang throughout the tour. The truck drove into Lusaka the next morning, and we said our final goodbyes over breakfast.