Beach Chamber Lodge Malawi to Unyamwanga Tanzania

I got woken up early, 5:30am by about 100 people gathering by the Lake near the hotel. I really don’t know what they were doing, but eventually it ended up as just clothes washing. I had to prepare for the border crossing. Get out by border crossing clothes (vest with lots of pockets to hold all the things). US dollars, all my Malawi currency. I am meant to have a copy of my drivers license and passport as well, so I dragged out the printer and plugged it into the 12v inverter to print extra copies of both. There was no power because it was Sunday. Why is there no power on a Sunday? Because on Sunday they do maintenance on the power network in Malawi, as Sunday pays time and a half.

I got going, weaving through all the people at the market up the road, and having a group of local kids chase after me. It ws 46km to the border. I knew when I was close because a couple of kms out the roads are jammed with trucks parked at the sides. I went through Immigration fairly easily, then it was handing over the TIP. There was a problem with this, because among the many mistakes customs did on the form when I entered Malawi, they put the exit as the same border post as I entered on. This required bureaucratic finagling, which they didn’t seemed to fussed about, but took another 30 minutes. Then I could leave. So I queued behind two trucks at the gate, and eventually after having my name written in yet another big book, I officially left Malawi. Except I didn’t.  The exit gate and road was not big enough for two trucks, so the line I was in sat stationary for 30 minutes until there was room to leave.

Then the Tanzanian side. Immigration first. They accepted by vax certificate with no problems (some people had problems in the past). Then I had to pay $50USD for the visa in USD. Of course they are really picky about the notes. I don’t want this one, its got a tiny tear in it, I don’t like this one its too old. You have to carry another currency with you just to pay for these visas, and that US currency has to be in pristine condition.

The it was customs for the TIP (temporary Import Permit). I handed over the registration, then its this long process of the person entering it in the computer, while interrupted every minute by someone else wanting some other piece of paperwork. It took about 30 minutes or so, then it was off to the Bank ATM to get some Tanzanian Shillings to pay the 57,000 fee (about $A35).

Fee paid, trudge back to the TIP guy to get it approved and stamped and I was free to go to the third party insurance guy up the road to get insurance. I have found the insurance for East Africa confusing. I should have COMESA insurance, but I could never figure out how to get it. So much stuffing around and confusion I go back to the insurance guy to get third-party insurance for about $A75. It is now 4pm (lost an hour to time zones crossing borders). They can’t do the insurance because their internet is hopelessly slow, so they write me a letter, and say they will Whatsapp me the receipt tomorrow (I hope this works!). So I have picked the closed wild camp (in fact any camp), and its 80km away, and it gets dark in about two hours. I make it to the wild camp next to a river near Unyamwanga just before dark. Its close to a village, but it has good reviews on iOverlander, and seems quite enough. Its pretty high though, 1300m.

So I did 120km today and a long border crossing, always unpredictable.

My printer, used many times as a printer or scanner for some piece of paperwork that is required at a border
The 30minute wait to leave Malawi because the road is not big enough for two trucks to pass.
Getting a Tanzania sim
The only ATM in town, on the back of a truck. The guard said it had been there for 4 years.
Wild camp on the edge of Unyamwanga, next to the river. It was close to the village, but actually quiet and isolated.




Kings Highway, to the Mushroom Farm to Beach Chamber Lodge

I packed  up but not completely at Kings Highway, because I had to get started, and I had problems at Ngala Beach. So I tried to start, and the cranking battery is flat. I think this is because I use the battery charger to charge the cranking battery, and then use the DC-DC converter to charge the storage batteries. I think the charger just doesn’t charge often enough and the DC-DC charger eventually flattens the cranking battery. So I try charging the cranking battery, but the charger keeps cutting out at too low a voltage. I try connecting to the storage battery, but that doesn’t work. So I drag out the folding solar panel, drag it out to the least shady section and run a long cable back. Its cloudy so I will not get much power. The solar panel puts 18V at about 3amps and in about 20 minutes I am started.

So its about 2km down the road to the turn-off. Initially I thinks its not right, the road is so narrow, but its right, its a narrow zig-zag road up the escarpment. It probably takes me more than an hour in first gear to get the 10km up the road. It is precipitous at times, cliffs above the road and cliffs below. I get to the Mushroom farm at around 1pm. The Mushroom Farm would look perfect in Willunga South Australia. Its hippy central. Yoga on the cliff, hot massages, Veggie burgers, and several backpackers. I decide its another excuse to eat out, so I order myself a Veggie Burger for lunch. It is an excellent burger. I camp on one of the camping areas right on the top of the escarpment.

After lunch I walk 3km to the Waterfall. I get close and a guy who just happens to be walking down the road offers to guide me. We settle on 2,000Kw ($3), and we turns of a little track that runs between the houses and in 2 minutes we are at the waterfall. Its pretty good waterfall considering its the dry season. I thank him and head back to camp.

Next day I wake up at 5:30am (I go to bed too early..). I have a really good sunrise looking over Lake Malawi way below me. I get packed up but I am ready for another starting problem. However Clancy starts first time, probably because I have not been using the DC-DC charger (no power).  Then its down the hill, hoping again I don’t meet anyone coming the other way, because there is no room to pass.

I get to the M1 and head north. A couple of police stops and one military stop, and I get to Karonga. I find a supermarket, but the only thing worth buying is a loaf of bread. I then walk around and find the central market, and get all sorts of vegetable delights. I get some potatoes, peas (!) and bananas.  Then its 5km up the road to Beach Chamber Lodge. Its a bit run down. They allow me to plug into one of the rooms (which has non-working plumbing) for power and I park on the beach in front of the Lodge. Its costs me 5,000Kw (about $A5).

Crawling up the zig-zag 4wd track to the Mushroom Farm
Camped on the cliff edge at the Mushroom Farm
The waterfall near the Mushroom Farm
Hippy Heaven, the Mushroom Farm, perched on the edge of a cliff



Camped at Beach Chamber
Sunrise looking down onto Lake Malawi
My Veggie haul at Karonga markets



Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve to Kings Highway at Florence Bay

I woke up early to see if I could see anymore animals at Vwaza, but alas the Hippos were already in the water, and I could not see anything else. I  heard the Hippos during the night, but I don’t know if they were close or not.  I had breakfast and headed off. It was about 30km of dirt road back to the bitumen. Eventually made it to the M1 that headed north. I got pulled over at an immigration checkpoint where I had to show my passport, the first time since crossing into Malawi. The it was a long decent off the plateau.  The road down was windy, many potholes, lots of broken down trucks. Difficult overtaking of very slow trucks on corners.

Around 12 noon I got to Kings Highway camp, back on Lake Malawi. It is a very nice camp, with the best ablution block I have seen in Africa. I am staying here two nights.

My Aldi ramps, used many times on this trip levelling Clancy
Camped at Kings Highway
Looking down to the beach at Kings Highway
A fishing canoe at dawn on Lake Malawi
A local walks past at dawn on Lake Malawi


Ngala Beach to Mzuzu to Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

I got packed up at Ngala Beach by 9:00am, which I thought was impressive considering I had been there 8 days and had completely spread everything out. So I started Clancy, drove up to the restaurant to pay Dan and Trish what I owed, said my goodbyes, and went to drive off. The car wouldn’t start. It took two hours and a jump-start from Dan to finally get going. My suspicion after all this, is that the battery terminal has not tight and clean enough. The next few days while show whether I am correct.

So at 11am I headed north towards Mzuzu, getting there at around 3:00pm. I went to the Shoprite, the first one since Chimoio in Mozambique. Somehow Dan and bought me more Pearl Barley in Mzuzu, but I could not see it for sale anywhere. A bit more searching and it was 4:30pm so I headed to Macondo Camp, about 5km north-west of central Mzuzu.

It was cool overnight. Mzuzu is at 1300m so it has much milder weather than near Lake Malawi. In the morning it was 16C, which for Africa weather adapted me is freezing….. I headed of to a couple more supermarkets looking for the elusive pearly barley, but no luck. So I tried a couple of servos to see if they would take a credit card, finally on the way out of town I found a third one that would. I got a minimal 30l. When I was at Ngala Beach talking to my neighbors, they told me fuel is cheaper in Tanzania, so I only want enough to get out of Malawi. I have to leave Malawi by Sunday 24th July, as that is when my insurance and TIP expires.

So north out of Mzuzu, three police stops, where gradually they taught me how to pronounce Vwaza.  The I turned west of the M1 and made it to  Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve. It cost me 27,000Kw, camping and entrance. They are not really set up for camping, you just camp in front of a Chalet, and use the toilet and shower. I can see hippos already.

Camped with the Hippos
Enough Monkeys?


Ngala Beach

I think I have been in Malawi too long. I get up in the morning ands it 21C, and I think its cold. At sunset it gets down to 23C and I think its cold. Adelaide at the same time is having maximums of 14C.

I have been at Ngala for 6 days, I have ten days left on my TIP (temporary import permit), so I think I will stay here for at least a few more days. I have the mozzie net pretty well set up. The shadecloth extensions help, and as well I pile up boxes to block the holes.

The last two nights had an overland truck visiting. There were 18 Spanish people who were spending 25 days driving around Africa being paid for by a rich Google employee. They were nice enough, but it was all a bit of a shock, as the previous 4 days it has just been me. There is one other overlander couple staying now, so things are quiet again.

Dan who runs Ngala with Trish made a 150km (one way) shopping run into Mzuzu and got me some supplies as well. He most importantly got me some more Pearl Barley which I am starting to run out of. It was most appreciated.

I have been up the 400m to Ngala village a couple of times to buy bread. I went today and met Issac, a boy of maybe ten, who spoke really good English. He helped me find a couple of things. So on the way back to the camp he followed and asked if he could have money for books. I though this was a pretty good ask, so I gave him 2000Kw or about $A3. Now another overlander had told me that the daily average wage in Malawi was 1800Kw. So on a whim, I thought later, I had given this ten year old a days wages for an adult. Like giving a random kid in Australia $A200.

Spread out and relaxed, sunset at camp Ngala Beach
The monkeys that occasionally invade
An angry crab, that got lost near my camp
The beach chair put out every day
Supplies brought by Dan
The bread shop opens in Ngala every few days
Issac with his friend
Ngala working using a slingshot with rocks on the Monkeys

Cape MacClear to Nkhotakota to Ngala Beach Camp

Finally after 7 nights at Fat Monkeys at Cape MacClear I got moving again. It was 259km to the next decent campsite, so I was on the road before 9am. I managed to get out of Fat Monkeys’, but the village tracks are confusing, and I have no idea if I went the right way. It was 20km down to Monkey Bay where I picked up some supplies I knew I could get at one of the shops. Then it was of along the semi potholed road to meet up with the M5 heading north.

I was aiming for Salima, which had supermarkets, from which I hoped to top up my supplies. I found the supermarket, from the vast array (not) I got some canned baked beans, canned tuna and very surprisingly canned blueberries, plus a 5l container of water. Outside I found a seller selling some very nice apples, and from someone else I got a big bunch of bananas from. I also found the ATM and got another enormous wad of money out of, being about $A150. I tried about 3 service stations to buy diesel with a credit card, with no luck, but at the 4th I managed to buy 30l with a credit card.

Then onwards north. At around 4pm I got to Nkhotakota pottery, highly rated on iOverlander, but their camping was full. Now its 4:15pm and dark is less than an hour away. I head back to the highway looking for Fish Bay, I come across a sign to Nkhotakota Safari lodge, that also might be Fish Bay, so I head down. My GPS sends me down a side track, but local kids tell me I am wrong. I decide to take their advice. I get about 200m from Nkhotakota Safari, and there are 100’s  people milling about the road into the Lodge. This concerns me, because I think it is some sort of protest or demonstration, that I don’t want to be involved in. I speak to a couple of people standing around, and they sort of convey that they will let me in. The guy at some sort of temporary gate waves me over and lowers the gate. I gingerly squeeze amongst all these people, and I emerge into – a football game. The guy at the gate was probably charging people.

I arrive at Nkhotakota Safari lodge, and I get a campsite in their small camping area on the beach. They have no other guests. Next morning I leave at 7:30am, and go to pay the 6,600 Kw for camping (about $A10) . I give them 8,000Kw, but they have no change. I point out that they have this huge lodge but they cannot give me 1,400Kw change (about $A2). Eventually even though there are about 8 people working at this lodge they manage to scrape together 1,000Kw change.

I head into Nkhotakota town and stop at the local supermarket but they don’t have much to choose from. Then up the road I find a bakery and get some bread rolls for 900Kw ($A1.50)

More shops should combine bakery and fishing….

Then it was on the road heading north again. The road was narrow with broken edges. I often had to leave the bitumen to let trucks pass, carefully picking the spot to get off the road. It rained as well for a few minutes. I got to the turnoff to Ngala Beach and made myself at home, and one of the best campsites I have stayed at in Africa.

There are lots and lots of bicycles in Malawi
Roadside food stall
There are mobile phone airtime sales booths in every village
Lots of bicycles carry passengers
Dried Fish for sale
Camped at Ngala Beach






Cape MacClear – Lake Malawi

I got Clancy carefully out of the campsite I had at Mufasa Eco Lodge. It took a 10 point turn to get out. One of the camp workers names Sunday asked me if I come back next year can I bring a bicycle like mine with me for him. This bicycle that I bought from Big W in Australia for $A80, being the cheapest bike I could buy. I have had so many people want this bike, from Policemen at roadside stops, to lots of Malawi and Mozambique people.

I went and paid for my campsite and got talking to two South Africans Mike and Rick who where driving their 1956 (!) Land Rover to London.  While having a long chat, a couple of young female Irish backpackers came over and asked if anyone was going to Cape MacClear, and so I volunteered to take them. It was only a 20km drive to Cape MacClear. I had decided to stay at “Fat Monkey’s”, mostly because they had good reviews on iOverlander, and because they offered power. I had really struggled to get enough solar at Mufasa, the days were too cloudy. The two Irish girls decided that Fat Monkey’s was too expensive, so they headed down the beach for cheaper digs. I am camped under a tree, with  Lake Malawi about 4m away.

Camped at Fat Monkeys
Street in Chembe, the village next door
Fish drying racks Chembe
Newly made mud bricks Chembe
Kids fishing in a dugout canoe, good 50,000 year old technology





Monkey Bay – Lake Malawi

I have been here (Mufasa Eco Lodge) for two days so far, and I probably will stay some more days. Its only costing me $A5 a day.  I am eventually going to drive north to Cape Maclear, but so far its pretty nice here. I can ride my bike to town, which is only a kilometre away. After 3 attempts at the ATM machine in town, I managed to get some money out. When I was waiting at one of the ATM attempts a Malawi man Patrick offered money exchange with USD.  That’s the reason to carry USD with you, its great emergency money. In the end I didn’t need it , but it was comforting because I was down to only about $A10.

I have shifted Clancy out from under the tree, because I need more sunlight for the solar panels. I am getting too used to the weather. It was cloudy and overcast this morning and 19C, and I thought it was freezing. Its warmed up now to 24C, with some patchy blue sky.

I have a flat tyre, but I have it jacked up so I might do that today or tomorrow.

Camped by Lake Malawi
My $A100 from the ATM. Each note is worth about $A3
Hot Chips from a wood fire for lunch
Washing day on Lake Malawi




Mwanza border Malawi to Monkey Bay (Lake Malawi)

I woke up in Malawi, in a hotel room. Very strange, I had been sleeping in Clancy for almost two months. So firstly I went to leave, but one of the staff said what about breakfast, its free with the room. This was a bonus – cooked breakfast! I should note that I was the only person staying in the hotel. I got Clancy organised, added reflectors, got my paperwork ready for the police stops.

These reflectors have been sitting in a box for 3 years waiting for the country that requires reflectors to be fitted – Malawi
Clancy in the hotel car park, notice all the other cars

I drove through the first town, thought about stopped at the servo, but didn’t thinking there would be more diesel available everywhere (big mistake). I arrived at a Police stop where I had to turn north, and asked the Police where I could buy a sim card. They pointed me up the road and I parked and found a sim seller who set up my sim and got me all organised with internet access.

My sim seller setting up my phone

Then onwards north with diminishing levels of diesel.  I rolled in almost empty at a service station near the intersection of the M1 and M6. However they would only take cash, and so I used almost al of my cash for a mere 10l of diesel. I wondered what to do, when I found a Puma service station that would take a credit card about 150m away, so my fuel problems were solved. I still had one problem though – no cash.

Onwards towards Monkey Bay. The Malawi roads were pretty good, but the road to Monkey Bay had more pot-holes. Not Mozambique level of pot-holes, just some. I wanted to head to Cape Maclear, but I had to stop at the only bank I could find at Monkey Bay. I get to the ATM at Monkey Bay (the only one for 100km), and its out of order. I decide I will have to stay in Monkey Bay and go to the bank when its open tomorrow. I head for Mufasa Eco Lodge, which is right on Lake Malawi. With some pruning with the Aldi reciprocating saw I clear a path so Clancy can sit parked right next to the Lake.

Monkey Bay or bust!
Camped on Lake Malawi Monkey Bay
View out of the door of Clancy Monkey Bay





Rio Nahamacambe Mozambique to Mwanza border Malawi

I have two rules for Africa. 1. Don’t cross borders at the end of the day, cross a border early in the day, many less hassles. 2. Don’t drive at night in Africa.

So today I broke both rules.

I left my wild camp near Rio Nahamacambe and got going about 8am.  The N7 the day before was mostly pot-hole free, but it got worse as it progressed. I had one obstacle ahead. iOverlander said there was a checkpoint 50km ahead that checked your road tax. So I got every bit of paperwork out in preparation for that. However when I got there, no-one was there. It was a Saturday morning. About 100m further on was another checkpoint, this time military, but they were not interested in me.

There are Charcoal sellers almost everywhere in Mozambique
Crossing the Zambesi river on the new bridge near Tete

I was going to stop in Tete, at the Shoprite supermarket. I drove past a Shoprite that was closed on the outskirts of Tete, and about 500m on I got stopped at another police checkpoint. This policeman told me I couldn’t go that way because the bridge had been cut across the Zambesi. So I turned around and took the highway out of town which crosses the Zambesi on a new bridge. I thought I would backtrack into Tete from the other side of the river. However that’s when I found the collapsed bridge. The northern part of Tete was not accessible from the N7.

Lots of Bicycle riders in this part of Mozambique


Mozambique village under a Baobab


A typical Mozambique Village
Some Mozambique shops
Mozambique cart
Crashed Bus and trailer near the Malawi border Mozambique

So Shoprite was out of the question. So I continued on about 70km from the Malawi border. At around 4pm I was seriously looking for places to camp. iOverlander showed nothing. It was just too populated, there was village after village. I looked at google maps. It showed a hotel at Zobue the border town on the Mozambique side. Sure I thought I could park in their car park and stay there. Not surprisingly I arrived in Zobue with a main street choked with trucks, and no hotel in sight. So I am at the border post getting overwhelmed with fixers, money changers and people selling reflectors required in Malawi.  I had no choice I had to cross the border at dusk. I knew the border post was open until 9m. So I get through the Mozambique side pretty easy, and shake off the fixers. Its a 4km drive through no-mans land until the Malawi side.

I arrive at the Malawi post. Of course, as is true of most African land borders there are dozens of trucks packed everywhere. I park up the end and I am surrounded by maybe 8 people, fixers, sim sellers and money changers. The money changer I wanted so I got rid of all my Mozambique currency for Malawi Kwacha. I didn’t want a sim seller, because I am much better of getting a sim from a seller in a town who can activate the sim and load it up for me. Also I didn’t want a fixer, but they are much harder to shake. It turned out I had to present to a medical tent to show my vaccine passport (that no-one ever scanned, faking one would be easy). I filled in another form, showed my passport. Then I drove to the immigration building (fixers in tow), where despite having an e-visa, I filled in another form. Then with fixers in tow, I went to the area to get a TIP (Temporary Import Permit). I got the permit noted that my name was spelt wrong (doesn’t matter they said) paid for it in USD and most of my Malawi Kwacha, that I had got from the money exchanger.  After all this its 7pm at night. I now have to find an insurance broker to give me road insurance. I visit the insurance office – closed. Someone says they will ring them, and a few minutes later a helpful english speaking man gets me to hand over $A50 for 30 days road insurance. This takes half an hour or so. I ask him if he knows of anywhere to stay, and he says he is going home, and I can follow him and he will show me a hotel down the road. So its nearly 8pm dark and in Africa and I am driving down the road, not sure I am following the right car. He leads me to a Hotel, and I am very grateful.

I ask the hotel if I can park in the carpark overnight. Sure they say $A30 to stay in the car park $A40 to sleep in a room. I am convinced and pay for a room. I am asleep fairly soon, after breaking all my African rules, its been a long tiring day.