Our main holiday destination was Nkwichi Lodge, a wilderness lodge on the shores of Lake Nyassa.
After an early night at Cobue, we boarded our boat the “Miss Nkwichi” that was to take us to the lodge. (the boat has arrived the evening before to be ready for our 8am departure). The lodge can only be reached by boat which is a treat.The journey took us south toward Metangula, and was easy going on the lake when we are so used to being on the sea. Slowly slowly we moved toward our resting place, giving us time to appreciate the forest scenery on the shore and the rocky scenery just off the shore. Cormorants gather on the rocks cutting a fine shape in the turquoise of the water and sky.
I was looking for signs of the Nkwichi buildings because it seems what most people have to say about arriving here is that they never knew anything existed inside the trees until they were there. I was almost their next victim of this cunning subterfuge but right at the last minute spotted a yellow thatch roof. I felt so proud of my great eyesight until I was told the reason I could see it was because it was new and the thatch hadn’t had time to turn brown and blend in.
We arrived at the jetty where the staff were already waiting to greet us. It was kind of like arriving at someone’s home and being welcomed with open arms. First impressions last and so did the first actions of the people of Nkwichi because for our entire stay there they were just as friendly and welcoming.

For two days we lazed, lounged and did nothing more than swim, enjoy our “house” set amongst the trees, and eat. Breakfast we had at our house, nothing like a lazy start to the day, enjoying coffee and slowly getting up for the day. For lunch we could choose where we wanted to eat, be it on the beach or on the platform overlooking the lake, the location was always a perfect accompaniament. Dinner we enjoyed together with other guests and our hosts. This usually followed sundowner drinks around a fire on the beach, my favourite part of the day.

The highlights of a stay full of great memories would be the christmas carols sung to us around the fire on Christmas Eve. The choir is made up of young boys and girls, and some men and women from the Anglican church in a nearby village. It was a real gift for us to see such warmth and enjoyment in the singing. Having a bath full of bubbles in the outside bath while the rain fell through the tree canopy above.  A visit to the Nkwichi working farm, where they grow their own vegetables as well as teaching representatives from surrounding villages better farming practices, and paper recycling. Encouraging to see such committment to helping the community. Christmas dinner with loads of great food (they did a splendid job of catering for us vegetarians!) and pulling crackers filled with African beaded keyrings, nice touch. Walking on the beach without lifting my feet just to hear the sqeechy noise of the white sand, after all this is why the lodge is called “Nkwichi”, because of the sound of the sand underfoot!

We were very sad to leave, but that is the thing about treats, they don’t last forever, nor are they everyday occurrences. As in arriving to a warm welcome we left with a warm farewell, the staff lined up on the jetty waving until we could no longer see them, giving us one final perfect memory, and a lasting impression of how perfect Nkwichi is.

 Thank you Patrick and staff!!

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For a change of scenery and an excuse to go away for holiday, we decided to head off to Niassa Province, and Lago Niassa in particular, for our year end adventure.

Car packed, (some) reservations made we headed for the hills of Lichinga and then Cobue, a far stretch away from Nampula. We split the drive over two days. The first day we drove nine hours to get to Mandimba, the town on the border with Malawi. There we spent the night in the Massinga Accommodation which consisted of a small round bungalow in the back yard and a basic restaurant. Entertainment was free as we watched an endless ant stream of “helpers” carry stock that had just arrived when the truck got stuck in the mud out front. Two beers or an hour later and we could still make out the strange shapes of people with boxes on their heads bent over in the pouring rain. What Massinga lacked in luxury was made up for by the staff. Our waiter impressed us hugely when he was able to accommodate us on our vegetarian meal request and organised a delicious meal of leafy greens and tomato relish with nsima.

Day two was far more exciting as we drove through virgin territory (for both of us). From Mandimba to Lichinga took two and a half hours but it felt like we had crossed over into a totally different country. The road was tarred and wound its way around and over hills. There is plenty of farming going on here (mainly maize and tobacco) and the villages are very different to what we are used to in Nampula Province, they are large and ordered with brick huts lined up neatly next to one another, overlooking the hills. Lichinga itself promises to be a very pretty little city in the right season, there are Jacarandas lining the roads which must look spectacular in October. Arriving in the city we drive through a mini pine forest which adds a special touch but it is small and the outskirts busy and dusty and so after a short stop at the supermarket and drive by buying of bread, we carried on to Metangula and Cobue.

on road between Cuamba and Malema

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

view of lake Nyassa

Carrying on up and up the hills we eventually arrived at the top and looked down on Metangulo and our first view of the lake. From this distance it could be a small harbour town anywhere in the world with its pretty bays and buildings peeping out on the green hills. Up close many of these buildings are semi ruins and the town is quiet but there is evidence of houses being fixed and Metangulo seems a chilled place to be but as it was only just after lunch time, we decided to go ahead to Cobue and get the journey over with.

We were very lucky that President Guebeza had visited Cobue only the day before and so the roads were new and with no or little traffic, in perfect condition. (plenty of people had warned us that the roads here were bad so we felt especially lucky). Just after Metangulo we passed through some very pretty villages with pergolas set up to train blinding pink bouganvilleas and passion plants. Then the villages stopped and we wound our way through woody wilderness, completely alone until finally spotting the lake again before a particularly steep descent. And then we were in Cobue, the furthest point in the north west of Mozambique, the far corner of the country, the end of the road, literally.

Cobue is a small town right on the shores of the lake. There isn’t much here except the road down to the lake, the ruins of an old church which the guidebook tells me is Catholic and others working here say was Anglican, and a small immigration office in case you’re going to Malawi, which we were, but more on that later. We spent the night in Cobue right at the water’s edge at a relatively new local run place called Khanga Beach. This included very basic grass huts with bed and table, a communal long drop toilet and separate shower but was well run with personal touches. Having drinks in the evening at the main bar area, the owner sat down with us to discuss what we would like for dinner and the meal we got was fabulous. In the morning there was heated water waiting in buckets by the shower and coffee afterwards. Just the day before our arrival the president and his ‘men’ stayed at this very place so we felt honoured. The only problem we had at Khanga was the lake flies slipping through our mosquito net, actually dropping through and landing on our skin, not a very nice sensation, until the lights went out at around 10 (and we put a sheet over the top of the net). All in all, Cobue was a very pleasant surprise.

I made a mission today of finding some Peaceful Sleep aerosol repellent. The shop I usually get from was out of stock and Shoprite hasn’t had it for ages. After a couple more unsuccessful attempts I had a brainwave and made my way over to the ‘malaria shop’. This is a small shop close to Shoprite that stocks all things to prevent malaria, nets, repellent, citronella candles and then things like protective work clothing (don’t ask why, it just is). So, the first thing I see walking in the door is shelves of repellent. Not only do they have the Peaceful Sleep aerosol but they have the Tabard one too. Most things have the price written on a label on the shelf below but the aerosols not. Asking the assistant, he flippantly tells me that Tabard is 180Mtn and Peaceful Sleep is 230Mtn. I say flippantly because such declarations have their own health hazard, choking by shock. I know that in other shops, when they have it, this same Peaceful Sleep costs about 75-85 Mtn, how can they, the people who are there to help people prevent malaria, honestly charge such a huge, ridiculous amount?
No wonder their shelves are full? Not many people here can afford to buy anything at their prices.

And so, tail between legs I went back to Shoprite, and bought the Tabard cream for 115Mtn.

It’s the time of year again when there are people coming and going, collecting their money and bonus and arranging their leave. The office is busy trying to tie up all ends now that the end of the year has come.

It has been a busy year, an important year for Fresh and for the Topuito Project. An investor fell in love with the isles and signed on, and with more money coming in, the camp at Larde has grown twofold, trucks are on their way up from Maputo, staff and volunteers have been recruited, most starting early 2009, some have already begun and most significantly, wood has been bought!

Closing December 22nd until January 5th, the people of Fresh will need a break as they have worked hard the whole year with many putting in so many extra hours they almost forgot they had another life called home.

Of course with all the good this year there have been the usual share of setbacks from delayed CPI approval to problems with new boat engines delivered pre-broken to KPMG delaying the investment with unfortunate mistakes.

Now with the rainy season that has finally arrived comes a season, albeit brief, or rest. We all need it, next year is going to be full steam ahead…..

Thank you to all the people in Fresh who have helped us achieve so much this year.

buzz and islanderThey arrived a few months ago and have already settled into the house as if they had been here all along and now I can’t think of home without Buzz and Islander, gifts from Brett and Elsa who have travelled to Chimoio after working in Moma.