The week following Liwonde was a fairly busy one. Realising how little time we had left we all put our heads down to get everything done. Tuesday brought an unideal pitch practise, being given a topic, then 30 seconds to think about it before speaking for a minute and a half. My topic was rice and I learned that it’s only good for eating, not pitching. Thursday was both Valentine’s Day and Thoughtful Thursday and love was certainly present throughout the house. I hopped out of my shower – or bucket – that night to find a list taller than me stuck to the door with what everyone loves about me which was way too cute and something I was not prepared for at all. Dinner was a mixture of pizza and burgers and everyone ate on the floor in the lounge room after the collectors came back, eating the mouth watering western food faster than our stomachs allowed. It turned into movie night and a few mattresses made an appearance on the floor while the rest of us sat back in our comfortable plastic chairs.
Friday was an early wake up as we did a house clean before setting off for our 5-7 hour drive (can never have a specific time estimate in Africa) to head to Lake Malawi. I woke up feeling a little worse for wear, experiencing what I think was some mild food poisoning from our Indian lunch the day before. The timing was perfect, hitting me one hour before we were to step off. It was fairly ironic, considering getting sick was something I’d been dreading since deciding to go away at all, and it couldn’t have hit me at a worse time. Gastro Stop became my lifesaver and I’m not quite sure what memories I would’ve come home with if I didn’t have that to keep me safe. We also encountered our first flat tyre, which we discovered to be shredded upon stopping the convoy to fix the situation. We had a spare which didn’t even fit the sizing, and used a jack sitting atop a few books in order to lift up the car properly. It felt so classically African, topped off by the fact that we ended up keeping just one wheel on that side while the other side had two. A few people took charge and started the process while the rest of us sought shade under the car boots, struggling in the heat and longing for the remainder of the car ride to be over.
6 long hours later we jumped out of the vans and could see the lake. A few steps from the car park had us sitting on the deck overlooking the makeshift beach stretched before the endless expanse of lake. I made myself at home on the couch, with the gastro stop still in effect but just feeling exhausted. I watched as my new family sprinted down the sore excuse for sand and jumped into the water, a few careful to keep their Carlsbergs above the surface as they settled in for the evening.
I pushed on, through dinner and a couple of rounds of pool before heading to bed, enjoying a private room to myself for the first time in a few weeks, which was a bit of a shock to the system but a nice change.
We were slow to rise the next morning, each enjoying the chance to sleep in and not get woken up by everyone frantically preparing for the day ahead. It was a morning without stress and I had my first taste of the water, a warm but ultimately refreshing experience. It felt like a pool for the lack of waves but with a stunning outlook, making it all the more relaxed. I finally felt as though I’d achieved my much needed weekend where I could switch off and do nothing, without the threat of wild animals or bugs.
Most of the group set off for a boat cruise, touring around the islands surrounding Cape Maclear, while a few of us stayed back and read in the hammocks, making the most of our day to do nothing. It was unbelievably quiet once they’d all left, and we couldn’t help but bask in the silence, feeling somewhat disappointed upon their arrival when the noise levels immediately jumped back up and it was as though nothing had changed. Deep down I of course loved having them back, my extroverted tendencies feeling satisfied, but I hadn’t realised how good it was to have some quiet time to myself.
After dinner we made our way down the road to a bar where we were promised a group of drummers to perform for us. We sat around the fire and a few of us (mainly me) danced around to the beat of the drums accompanied by a few Carlsbergs. I went for a swim on our way home with whoever was keen, unable to stay away from the warm water despite the parasite, Bilharzia, that I knew we would probably get. Continuing our walk until we hit the questionably safe jetty we walked to the end and lay on our backs, taking in the endless stars that we don’t see from being so close to the city in Australia. I didn’t want to leave.
Unfortunately we did have to leave, so the next morning we woke up to pack our belongings and enjoy our last breakfast with a view. The heat was a struggle that day, and more than one jumped back into the lake to cool down before the long car ride home. We crammed 28 people into the two healthy vans, packing the tyre-less one with excess belongings and only five people who would enjoy a very comfortable drive home. That night brought a big storm that we successfully beat home, cutting the power out just after dinner. This was something we were becoming less surprised by every time and I don’t think I’ve valued my phone torch as much as I have on this trip.