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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!!

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.

It has always been a name on a map, a place that might be nice to visit someday but actually going to the Gile Reserve made me think, “why haven’t I done this before?”

As part of their Anchor Site program, the Mozambican Ministry of Tourism (FUTUR) and the IFC (International Finance Corporation), are looking for investors in the Gile Anchor Site which includes two islands of the Primeras and Secundas Archipelago. The idea behind this anchor site is to set up a couple of lodges or resorts on the two islands, Casuarina Island and Epidendron Island, with the option of later developing some sort of lodge or resort on a concession in the reserve. The investment in the island resorts will help pay for some of the restoration and preservation costs of the reserve. The eventual idea would be to have an opportunity to offer a combination package to guests, to spend time on one of two beautiful remote islands and then visit an off the beaten track wilderness area.

So, being interested, we went to have a look. But first we needed to see what it all looked like from above and chartered a plane to take us over the reserve and then the islands. The Gile Reserve from above is simply amazing. Almost the entire area is covered in forest and even now in the dry season it all looks so green. There are a couple of inselberg formations which have their own forest ecologies growing on them. The two rivers bordering the reserve, the Molocue and the Mulela, are surrounded by lush riverine forest.

The next day, we drove three hours out of Nampula to see what the view was like from the other side, the ground. Arriving in Gile Town in the evening we spent some time getting to know some of the people from IGF, a French NGO working to conserve the Reserve. After a couple of beers we reached lights out time (the town generator goes off at 10pm) and settled into bed at the pensao, which was clean and quite pleasant. (I always expect the worst so was happily surprised)

The next morning we set off for the actual reserve. Once we entered the gates, it was like the other Mozambique ceased to exist, the one where there is always a village in sight or cassava fields. Here there was us and the forest. The reserve is made up of Miombo woodlands and there are a few open grassland dambos but on this first day we saw only forest. And beautiful forest it is, with a few varieties of orchids visible on the trees, slashes of light shining green throught the trees and a sense of quiet immersion with the nature surrounding us.

In one day we manage to drive the ‘road’ traversing the reserve, stopping briefly outside Malema before driving on the outskirts to get to the main camp at Mualama where we spent the night. The next day we have time for a quick (3 hour) jaunt to find the inselbergs and a quick climb up one to see the view – this is the ideal spot for a lodge with views over the reserve forests, feeling like one of the gods atop Mount Olympus. Unfortunately we can also see smoke from the fires that poachers in the reserve make to trap animals then leave them to burn without control. This is one of the first tasks of the IGF, to control the poaching and fire problems.

There is so much more I could say about Gile but here there isn’t enough space. It may have been work that took us there but I think I got more pleasure out of it than anything else. A thanks to the IGF and the Reserve Manager who hosted us and I look forward to seeing their progress in keeping this pristine piece of wilderness alive.