Thursday, 29 August 2013

Nyika National Park

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to score a seat in the Go Bananaz safari car to Nyika. Luckily the guys who run Go Bananaz are good friends of mine and I could go and just chip in fuel and food costs. Result! It pays to be friends with these guys at last!

Nyika is one of the national parks in Northern Malawi. Based about 100km from Rumphi, a small town located about 65km from where I live in Mzuzu. Nyika is the largest national park in Malawi and is also the oldest. It is accessed by a dirt road that really is 4WD only. At points the road is very loose and and very steep and you would need a driver that is confident with 4WD. Luckily Puncque had driven the road over 100 times and knew it well. We made it in a little over an hour from Rumphi where as normally it would be at least 2.5 hours.
Terrible to see the deforestation. 

Once you arrive at the park gate, Chilenda Campsite is another 60km inside. We all got residents rate as we all live in Malawi and the game viewing started as soon as we drove away from the park gate. Nyika is a beautiful park with, what is said, the highest concentration of leopards in Southern Africa. The rolling hills, the scenery and the peace make it the ideal place to get away from it all.

We drove slowly to the campsite, eyes peeled for spotting roan antelopes, impalas and zebras. Stopping en route to pose at the Zambia border (no immigration post here so no new stamp :( ), allowing Bjorn to take a piss, we went leopard spotting before arriving at the camp at dark. It was all hands on deck with people putting up tents, chopping veg and boiling water. It was bliss, we had the campsite to ourselves. So following a few drinks around the campfire I retired to be lulled to sleep to the sound of distant hyenas (or possibly Gareth's singing).

View from Chosi point

Next morning, I awoke to Gareth's delightful tones as he attempted to light a fire and cursed at the wood, the matches, the distant impalas. Luckily on of the campsite attendants put him out of his misery, and by the time I had showered (hot water showers, at a campsite!), there was coffee ready. Result. After a hearty breakfast, we went off for some more exploring. After a spell driving on the air strip, spotting some more impalas and seeing the devastating effects of logging, we returned to the campsite for some nsima and usipa and after packing up the car again we headed off on our last drive of the day. At this point we passed the dam en route to Chosi point. Here we were greeted with a beautiful panoramic view over Nyika National Park. At this point, the vastness of this place hit me. We had just barely scratched the surface of this amazing place. At no point did we encounter other visitors to the park and our only human interactions were with park employees. True bliss.
"I'm on top of the world"

>Travel information< It is impossible to get to Nyika national park on public transport. You need to have a 4 wheel drive or go with a safari company. From my experience, the park is vast and if you want a chance of seeing wildlife, as opposed to just admiring the beautiful views, you would need a good map or guide. I can highly recommend the guys at Go Bananaz (check out their Facebook page) safaris, as people who will not only show you the amazing sights but who you will have fun with also.

Costs: As I am a resident, I had a discounted rate of MK3,000. Camping at Chilenda camp is $15 per night which includes camp attendants who will light fires for hot showers, do your washing up and light your campfire for you.
Once you are there, there are options for mountain biking, horse riding or further game drives, including night drives to try spot leopards.

Goodbye Nyika

Friday, 9 August 2013

Returning to Malawi, and the questions it brings.

From my last post, most of you will see that I was very conflicted with my time at home. Unfortunately that feeling did not disappear when I returned to Malawi. I think this comes from moving constantly, never being in the same place for more that a year and constantly feeling "unsettled". For the past 3 years, I have spent 7 months in Ireland, one year in Australia, one year in Malawi, 3 months in South America and 1 month in Malaysia and Singapore, and so the question begins, "Where do I belong?"

I arrived back in Mzuzu and felt really out of sorts. I felt like I had missed out on lots of fun and now was on the periphery of the group (totally in my head). It got me to thinking about belonging somewhere, feeling like you have somewhere, somewhere surrounded by friends, where you can call someone and just randomly meet, somewhere where you can have a life. To me that place, for the longest of time, was Dublin. It's where most of my friends live, somewhere I can catch up with someone over a quiet drink on a Tuesday night, or go out for dinner with a group of girls for a mid week early bird special that involves wine and way too much chatting. But, after leaving Dublin 3 years ago, where is that place for me now?

Home in Galway has not been that place for a long time. I go there to visit family, and as I stated in my previous post, get bored very easily. I no longer have good friends there, I feel like I don't belong in the community, heck people don't even know I exist. The amount of times over the 4 weeks I was home that I heard "I didn't know you had an older child" was beyond belief. While this place, and more especially the village of "Happy Valley", will always be home, it is not somewhere I feel comfortable, somewhere I feel like I can spend a few weeks without being bored and wanting to get away, not somewhere I want to spend my younger years. (Sorry Mam).

And then I come back to Malawi and the problem intensifies. Here I have good friends, a decent social life and people who mean a lot to me here but cannot see myself here long term. I don't know whether it's the job I'm in, the fact that my tolerance (or more specifically intolerance) for laziness causes my blood pressure to sky rocket or the fact that it is so far from my friends in Ireland who know me. Luckily, in my evening of doubt, my evening of me lying in bed wondering what on earth I am doing with my life, I got a lovely text from the amazing Alice telling me how glad she was I was back and giving me a little pep talk via our free text messages.

Right now, I feel settled back in Malawi. I've eaten at A1 numerous times and had Jay (the owner) hug me and say "Welcome back", I've been to Nkhata Bay and had a cold green on Chikale beach and some Gold Label with Alice, I've cooked chilli for 13 friends and chicken pot pie for 5, I'm planning to visit Vwaza Marsh National Park soon and I have a smile on my face again. Who knows where my life will take me, or even, where I want to go next but, for now, Malawi is where I am and I'm happy to be here.