Who could have guessed a 4th of July without fireworks would end up as one of the best ever? This year I spent the holiday on the shores of Lake Malawi at Matema Beach, where the lake borders the Mbeya region.
The trek getting there is crazy! The last time we went we had to change buses three times- each one getting a bit worse than the previous. This time there were enough of us to rent our own dala for the last half of the trip. We were all quite excited about this until we hit our first bump in the road.
After about 30 minutes on the road, our driver was held back at a regulation road block for the equivalent of driving with expired tags. This took another 30 minutes to take care of.
Then not long after we turned from paved roads onto the mix of dirt and large gravel common for rural roads, we got a flat tire. The driver immediately took the tire and hopped a ride on a passing truck back to the closest town about 30min away….3 hours later he returned! After all this, we still arrived about one hour quicker than public transportation!
Matema is a popular vacation spot for PCVs in my area because it’s basically village beside a beach. This means it is super cheap. Seriously, if you are ever traveling through a country with PC, find the volunteers. No one knows better how to travel cheaply and get the most bang for a buck! Village restaurants sell basically two things: rice & beans and chipsi myai (a tasty fried egg and potato meal that I’ll post the recipe for later). We stay at a nice Lutheran Center with rooms holding two bunk beds. If you cannot take another meal of village fare, you can get some of the best pizza in TZ at the Lutheran Center’s restaurant.
Swimming in sedentary water like a lake is not recommended due to schisto, a disease from snails. But we know many who have swam here and not gotten it. Plus, it’s curable by pill so worth a few days of swimming fun.
We were able to work in a few American pastimes including our version of baseball- beach wiffle ball. To play the batter hits from the beach and then has to swim the bases. It’s quite fun; I highly recommend!
The big highlight of the trip was hiking to a waterfall. I was again surprised by the difference in what a “hike” means here. Hiking back home means basically following a nice worn path through a forest. The biggest fear is running out of drinking water. Here hiking means that plus some death defying factors. The biggest fear is being able to hold on to your drinking water while scaling large boulders and leap frogging rocks across a raging stream.
Ok, I am exaggerating….but just a little! At one point, I seriously lost my footing and was hanging from a root. There was not a path, just little notches in the rock. Our guide had to take and place my feet where it needed to go. Couple times he even had to brace his own foot on the rock for us to step on!
Then when I got to the bottom I was still a bit freaked so he got on his hands and knees for me to step on his back and lower me to ground level. No joke! I really did not need that much help, but I still appreciated it! The waterfall was definitely worth the scare. I had never gotten to swim in one before so it was amazing.
On the way back from the hike, some of the gang were able to buy half a pig off a villager. They then built a pit at the beach for it to cook in. So we even got bbq on the day of the 4th. Though call me crazy, but I have never attended a BBQ in Kentucky where we all stood around the pig sharing utility knives to cut off meat!