Last Stop Chinteche

The trip is almost over and the ride up to the northern town of Chinteche is both exciting and melancholy as a result.
We’re heading up what I call the coastal highway and its not long before we see vendors selling Chambo, the delicious smoked tilapia, caught fresh from Lake Malawi. I can’t wait to see the lake itself and its not long before we’re riding alongside its sandy beaches and rolling waves. California without the bad air. For awhile, you can see the hills of Mozambique in the distance.
Alibe samples the Chambo

Alibe samples the Chambo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We left Lilongwe later than we should have so we’re riding in the dusk/dark for the last hour and a half. It gets dark In Malawi by 6pm at this time of year which seems odd to a Canadian programmed for long summer evenings. Alibe can’t drive very fast because the frequent towns are full of people at dusk. It all looks so exciting but we’ve got places to go. There are also lots of people walking or cycling along the highway and all the drivers slow down and yield to them, so different from Uganda, the Warm Heart at work.

The morning comes quickly to the sound of waves along the beach and fishermen pulling in their nets. Most accommodation up here is by the magnificent lake and it seems a bit like paradise. You can stay in a western style resort for $200 a night or B&B at an “African” resort for $25. I always choose the latter because of the “extras”…the staff’s kids hang around and talk to you, “real” i.e. local food, no tourists, and the beach is used as a walkway and so a great place to chat with local folks. Our room also came with its own gecko who politely left after gentle prodding with our empty water bottle.

The day is another great one and we hook up with Allan and Laban at the Chinteche office and visit a number of water projects that CPAR is working on with UNICEF. The WASH program either rehabilitates old broken down water points or sets up new ‘systems” in villages or at schools. The basics are the same as in Tanzania…a well, improved latrines, handwash stations, education and local ownership. At Chilala School, Head Master Gilbert Kuanda is an enthusiastic host as he reveals an additional benefit…a huge garden irrigated by runoff from the well.

Rhoda points out the papaya at Chilala School

Rhoda points out the papaya at Chilala School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The day ends too soon at Msindu waterpoint. The well has been broken for 10 years and today it will pump water again. The villagers all chip in to help the engineer and water committee replace the broken rods. At about 4:30, committee chairman Alec Phiri and his group pump out the first gushes of clean water.

Water flows again at Msindu

Water flows again at Msindu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

87 year old village elder Mtanda Mula is there to join in the celebration.

Village elder Mtanda joins the celebration

Village elder Mtanda joins the celebration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Even better, local merchants have been educated to stock well parts so that future problems can be fixed immediately.

Alec, Mtanda & Allan make the water flow at Msindu

Alec, Mtanda & Allan make the water flow at Msindu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our last day is spent visiting community groups or CBO’s that were created to help the Malawian government respond to the AIDS crisis. We return to Tawonga CBO that two years ago was just starting out and operating a day care for orphans from under a lean to. Today, Tawonga (“thank you” in Tonga language) has raised funds and completed a nursery building and a community centre.
Outside Tawonga CBO

Outside Tawonga CBO

I can’t imagine another group of volunteers anywhere doing what Tawonga does as past chair Judith Sauli walks me through a chart of sub-committees…a youth group and garden, adult literacy, nursery, elder home care, orphan care, communal farm.
Judith Sauli and the volunteer masterplan
 
The morning goes quickly as each group sings, dances and presents.
Tawonga youth group drama on domestic violence

Tawonga youth group drama on domestic violence

In the afternoon, we make the long walk through a former swamp to Tawonga’s farm that provides food and income for its various programs.
Walking back from the farm, "its just over there"

Walking back from the farm, "its just over there"

I get to know youth leader Dave Banda. He’s 20, his parents died of AIDS and he’s raising his 2 younger brothers. He admits that he’ll never go to school again and that his role is to make sure his siblings get the chance.
Dave Banda, an inspiring youth

Dave Banda, an inspiring youth

I’ve met so many people like Dave and Judith in Africa and that I become infuriated when I hear people talk about Africa “failing” whatever that is supposed to mean. The truth is, we’ve failed Africa and individuals like Dave and that’s a whole other story.
The ride back to Lilongwe is an odd one. For the first three hours, I don’t want to leave Chinteche and my eyes don’t leave the road. I take about 50 pictures of I’m not sure what.

Holding on to Chinteche...bridge without a railing

  Holding on to Chinteche…bridge without a railing

When we hit Salima the southernmost beach town though, I can’t wait to get to Lilongwe. Alibe and Joseph our great travelling companions for the past 3 days valiantly try to coax me to a chambo dinner. I opt for a bag of Malawi nuts.

Our flight home leaves at 2:30am, the trip is over, I’m resigned to the reality.

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