Planning a trip around Lake Malawi





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  1. #1
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    Default Planning a trip around Lake Malawi

    We are in the process of looking at suitable places to travel to for 2013 and Malawi is top of the list.

    Especially around Lake Malawi!

    Any information would be much appreciated!

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    Quote Originally Posted by piri View Post
    We are in the process of looking at suitable places to travel to for 2013 and Malawi is top of the list.

    Especially around Lake Malawi!

    Any information would be much appreciated!
    Hi Piri,

    Couple of places not to miss: Nyika Plateau, Liwonde National Park for the birding and swimming elephants, Cape Maclear, Likoma Island, Mt Mulanje for the hiking (but beware the Chiperone wind and sudden onset of rains, very dangerous), Zomba Plateau, NkhotaKhota Game Reserve for the forests, and Bua River for one of the nicest camping areas in the country.

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    Hi piri,

    Great destination.

    I would however skip the Nyika Plateau. It is a dreadful trip from Rumphi northwards. And then all the way back the same way.

    Rather keep on going past Rumphi to Livingstonia. Excellent road, beautiful scenery, quaint places to stay. A lost world, almost.

    Read here for more detail: http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...ad.php?t=89632.
    Johnie
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    Quote Originally Posted by JJJ View Post
    I would however skip the Nyika Plateau. It is a dreadful trip from Rumphi northwards. And then all the way back the same way. Rather keep on going past Rumphi to Livingstonia. Excellent road, beautiful scenery, quaint places to stay. A lost world, almost.[/URL].
    JJJ, we'll have to agree to disagree (and I know that Lisa - Itchyfeet - who worked on the Nyika will agree): to me, the Nyika Plateau is one of the most gorgeous places in Africa. Fantastic birding and botanising, the vistas down into the Luangwa Valley to the west, and to Lake Malawi to the east, are extraordinary, the hiking is sublime, there's lovely small stream trout fishing, and there's the added bonus of some great wildlife sightings, including elephant, a chance of lion, and an excellent chance of leopard on night drives. I would go back there in the blink of an eye.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Weaver View Post
    JJJ, we'll have to agree to disagree (and I know that Lisa - Itchyfeet - who worked on the Nyika will agree): to me, the Nyika Plateau is one of the most gorgeous places in Africa.
    OK, I've just read your trip report - I'm afraid you can't do the Nyika justice in a one night stay. It definitely is not worth schlepping up there for just one night, it is a destination in itself, and, as you mention, make sure to take along the winter woollies, it gets below freezing some nights. I would say the Nyika is worth a minimum of three nights. On our first visit, we spent nearly two weeks there, including hiking most of the way to Livingstonia and back, camping in the valleys as we went. The forest birding (and the grassland birding) is exceptional.
    My second visit I was only there for two nights, but I luckily flew in and out in a chopper, which took the pain out of the drive in.

    Here's a piece I wrote for Out There magazine about hiking the Nyika:

    THE lightning storm hit with terrifying speed.

    We were hiking along in golden sunlight, then a sharp, cold breeze rose from the Zambian lowlands below. In just a few minutes, velvet black thunderheads came rolling up to envelop the Nyika Plateau.

    Our guide, Richard Nyirenda, hustled us off the high, knife-edge ridge we were traversing to a minimalist rock overhang shelter below as huge bolts of lightning split the darkening sky, the earth shook and we smelt the ozone smell of electricity on the wind.

    I had double reason to be worried: In my backpack was a carbon fibre trout rod, a mobile lightning conductor. We had recently been in the Inyanga National Park in Zimbabwe, where we heard a dreadful tale of a fisherman fried by lightning as he lifted his carbon rod for a back cast.

    So as we sheltered, I gingerly removed the rod and tossed it as far out of our overhang as possible. The storm grew with Wagnerian intensity, then there was one last brilliant blue-white bolt of light.

    We were bathed in brilliant sunlight, and creeping out, stood in a field filled with zebra, roan antelope and eland, lifting their heads in relief at the passing of the storm.

    Sir Laurens van der Post did this walk in June, 1949. He described it in "Venture to the Interior", a fine book about Africa:

    "I wish I could describe the effect that view had on me, but I will say little more than that it seemed to me miraculous. It was so unlike anything else. It was deep in the heart of Africa and filled with the animals of Africa, and yet it was covered with the grasses, the flowers and colours of Europe. Yet it was unlike any other colour I have ever seen: I expect, basically, it was a tawny gold, the gold of the leopard's rather than the lion's skin, but this gold was shot through with undertones of a deep blood red and a shadowy purple."

    This was the landscape we hiked through as we began a perilous descent to the North Rumphi River, our camp for the night. We walked in small shuffling steps, trying to keep our footing on game paths which streamed water, rutted dirt turned into treacherous mud slides by the curtains of rain.

    The grasslands were an Impressionist painting of golds, yellows, greens and purples. Clusters of brilliant red disas, white and pink proteas, deep blue irises and magenta everlastings, helichrysums, were dotted among the herds of antelope and zebra. We staggered down to the river, which was swollen and roaring in full flood. There was a tree down across the river, and we balanced our way across to a beautiful grassy glade in a bend on the river.

    Richard fished some waterlogged driftwood from the middle of the river, and in a process I still don't understand, managed to get a small, but roaring fire going.

    Then we went fishing.

    I had my delicate little three weight lightning conductor, he cut a long branch from a riverside tree. I was fishing with wispy little flies on immaculately balanced and very expensive line and reel. He had a two metre length of tatty nylon with a bedraggled number six Mrs Simpson on the end.

    Richard caught 10 fish, I caught none.

    We feasted royally that night on the little rainbows, and passed out early, exhausted by a pretty tough 20km hike.

    At dawn we set out to contour the slopes of Kalabwe and Nyamkhowa Peaks, passing above the Mwenembwe Forest, a beautiful tract of evergreen montane forest, where we could hear, but never saw, the elusive bar tailed trogon. As we walked, troops of Samango monkeys flashed through the treetops. In a clearing we spotted a red forest duiker, then a blue duiker. We came across fresh elephant and buffalo spoor, then a sounder of seven or eight bushpigs burst from the bush, scaring the out of us.

    We kept a good lookout for leopard -- the Nyika Plateau is one of the best places in southern Africa to spot them -- but they are best seen at night with a spotlight.

    Vincenza, an Italian backpacker who was carrying on to Livingstonia with Richard, asked about the possibility of lion, but Richard reckoned the only lions were on the Zambian side and they seldom, if ever came up to the high Nyika.

    We made camp that second night on the edge of the Mwenembwe Forest, in a clearing which stood on the edge of a cliff with stupendous views across to Livingstonia and beyond to Lake Malawi. In the morning, Richard and Vincenza carried on to Livingstonia, a swine of a walk. We presented Richard with a pair of Cape Union Mart socks: He was hiking in leather army boots with no socks. His feet were raw.

    Liz and I turned back, taking a different route via the Dembo River.

    Then the mist came down, and one moment we were following a game path on a flat table top, the next we were staring into an abyss. The Nyika is a bewitching place with staggering surprises around each corner. And there are many corners.

    With a good map and compass it is hard to get really lost, unless you start descending into the brachystegia woodlands below. If you encounter a thorn tree, you are too low.

    Once you reach the high ground, the pine forest surrounding Chelinda -- planted on the advice of Sir Laurens van der Post, and which is totally useless as it is too far from the markets -- stands out like an ugly, albeit green, scar.

    There are no laid out trails, other than the meanders around the main camp: You choose a contour and follow the game paths, steering clear of the sticky, boggy dambos at the bottom of the slopes.

    The route we followed was unstructured, although we had two objectives: Vincenza and Richard had to get to Livingstonia, and we wanted some fishing. You could spend two weeks walking the Nyika, two months, heading out in any direction.

    But there are three established loops: For trout anglers, follow the North Rumphi and Dembo River valleys for three nights or longer. This is a relatively gentle route with plenty of fishing stops, and shortish distances every day.

    Then there is the four day Jalawe, Chipome and Lower Mondwe Rivers and Nganda Mountain. This route heads slightly down off the plateau into the basin separating the main plateau and the northern boundary mountain ridges of Mpanda and Kawozga. The route winds through grasslands and brachystegia woodland, crossing several swimmable streams. Buffalo, elephant and probably lion live here.

    The finest trail to do is the five day, or longer one -- you can spend as long as you like out there. This duplicates the four day trail, then carries on into the Mpanda and Kawozga ridges, rated as the wildest and most spectacular ridge walk in Malawi.

    This is some of the grandest hiking in Africa. It's a sin to write about it. I feel guilty.

    At the end of it all, there's the lodge, one of the finest places to be at the end of a tough hike. The lodge attendant, Happy Kachage, had spotted us stumbling down the hill, and when we reached Chelinda, he had a roaring fire going in our bedroom and the donkey boiler cranked up full for a steaming bath to ease our muscles.

    That evening we lolled in front of the fire sipping cold Carlsberg "Greens" and Bond 7 ("Licensed to Thrill") whisky, pondering the words of Sir Laurens:

    "(The Nyika) looked in its colours, its shape and its isolation a contented, serene and deeply fulfilled land. It seemed a place which, without human interference, had made its own contract with life, struck its own balance with necessity and nature. Beyond that I cannot go."

    Not much has changed.

  6. #6
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    As Tony says Nyika is a quite magical place for all sorts of reasons. At around 2500m it's often compared to the Scottish highlands with endless rolling hills and big dramatic skies. It's certainly not like anywhere else on the African continent. But it is about 5 hours from Mzuzu so definitely not a good idea for an overnight stop.

    I'm told by our replacements up there that that leopard sightings are getting ever more frequent, they have one that visits their stoep on a regular basis. There is also a fine male who spends a lots of time around the campsite and that most visitors see. The elephants are very shy but if you go at the right time of year you will see big herds of eland (200+) and lots of roan and zebra all of which gather around Chelinda as they usually spend the night in the pine plantation. We used to creep to the window at night and watch them all grazing in the moonlight just feet away from us. But one creaky floor board and there's be a stampede! Over the last year they have even had several wild dog sightings. It is a perfect place for them so everyone is hopeful they'll stick around.

    (Thanks for posting your article Tony - I hadn't seen this)

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    Hi Tony, hi Piri
    We hope do that during this year (end july ??) but what are the last news of Malawi and fuel crisis? Even with two tanks and one or two jerrycans, it's not obvious to drive to Nyika... .
    We plan coming from Mozambique (Milange?) and after heading Zambia through ?
    jean michel

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    Posted on the Hub yesterday, hope its true.
    http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/sub-saharan-africa/info-on-fuel-crisis-malawi-64053

    "Ok, entered malawi yesterday. Some thing to help you get along:

    Money:
    Exchange rate:
    1USD = 248
    1 eur = 320
    => there was a devalutaion last week of the kwacha! So don't get screwed at the border when changing money.
    Largest bill is 500 kwacha (=2USD), so you carry quite a pack of paper

    Visa: free
    Temp import document = 5000 (car/motor) or enter with a carnet (free)

    Gasoline: a lot has changed since the president died last month. Gasoline is now available for 490 kwacha/liter (yes, very expensive). Some filling stations state 390/liter, but I only've put fuel at the first station.

    The customs didn't bother me about the jerrycan I was carrying."
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Weaver View Post
    I'm afraid you can't do the Nyika justice in a one night stay. It definitely is not worth schlepping up there for just one night, it is a destination in itself
    and by itchyfeet

    But it is about 5 hours from Mzuzu so definitely not a good idea for an overnight stop.
    Hi Tony & itchyfeet,

    I think the above sums it up.

    That and the fact that by then, all we had been doing for the previous 6 days were driving, pitching camp, eat, sleep and drive again: Pietersburg, Musina, Manica, Vila Ulungue, Lilongwe, Mzuzu - not recommended.

    Then on day 7 that stretch from Rumphi to Salima. All we wanted to do by then, was sit.

    But I must admit, we "sat" very well at Nyika .
    Johnie
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    Tagging on to the above ,how do we get to finding out about camping in nyika, (also planning a Malawi/Mozambiquetrip over December )

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by metior View Post
    Tagging on to the above ,how do we get to finding out about camping in nyika, (also planning a Malawi/Mozambiquetrip over December )
    You can just pitch up, but be warned, it gets freezing at night at Chelinda. You may want to ask about what they charge for the cottages at Chelinda, nice roaring fires at night. If you're into hiking, take a backpacking tent along, fantastic hiking on the plateau.

  12. #12
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    All accommodation at Chelinda (including camping) is run by Wilderness Safaris - if you google them you'll get contact info for prices/booking. But they won't turn you away from camping if you just turn up. It's too far from anywhere else!

    Accommodation is pretty pricey (last time I asked the lodge was $400+ pppn for example). Chalets are cheaper but people all seem to pay different prices. I think this is because whilst rack rate will be pretty expensive they will do deals. See what they'll offer you. It will be very quiet in December (except for Xmas). Camping won't be too cold in December but it will almost certainly be quite wet.

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