During the night Santa seemed to have located us and filled our sleeping bag bags we had left attached to the fly sheet. Gavin received a new pair of flip-flops. I am so pleased that Santa correctly guessed his shoe size and I received a couple of very interesting books which Santa must have found in an obscure bookshop in Mzuzu.
Christmas morning we attended the local Bandwe Presbyterian Mission Church. I had been told that the service was from 8-9. When we eventually found it, at 10 past 8, I realised that the start was at some time between 8 and 9 so we were not late at all. All during the service more parishioners drifted in and the congregation increased in size at least 10 fold from when the service first started. Although we had been told that the service was in English it was still quite difficult to follow as the pastor often became quite excited and kept lapsing into Chichewa and shouting. Luckily the gentleman next to us would attempt to interpret for us. My concentration was also interrupted by the very noisy baby in the next pew breast feeding and burping, the dog which took great interest in the altar and in the pastor’s leg and the numerous cell phones ringing at regular intervals. The service was held in a large new church, very close to the old church. The Pastor informed us that old church had been built in the honour of Mrs Somebody’s (yes he did say Mrs Somebody) memory, he also explained that Mrs Somebody was the wife of the Missionary and had died soon after giving birth to her son who also died.
Initially the singing had been rather weak but as the numbers of singers swelled and everyone got into the swing of things it was magnificent and during the final hymn (I did my best to keep up with the Chichewa not having a clue what I was singing) drums were taken up from underneath the pews. At the end of the service Gavin was slightly taken aback when we were asked to come to the front to introduce ourselves, but we were made to feel very welcome and were asked to sign the visitors book.
There was anther white lady at the service, from Scotland, who gave us some background information on Mrs Somebody, whose name was Mrs Martin. She was friends with one of Mrs Martin’s daughters, now 80 years old living in Scotland, and they had set up a foundation to provide funds for the girls schools in the area. The original idea had been Mrs Martin’s in the twenties. She also explained how her friend had returned to Bandwe when she was 60 and learned for the first time that she had a baby brother who was stillborn, no one had thought to tell her. Apparently Mrs Martin died soon afterwards of black water fever.
Back at the campsite we set about roasting our chicken. Gavin did the manly thing and looked after the fire while I tended to the chicken. After the usual problems of fires not starting etc we sat down to Christmas lunch in true Bowley fashion, rather late. I had been a bit worried about how the chicken had been stored so ensured that it was well and truly cooked- it certainly was, it was falling off the bone, but still very succulent. This was quite good because we did not really have a good knife to carve it with. The potje performed fantastically- the spuds were roasted, the carrots sweet and soft and onions juicy. But we noticed a massive change to our appetites. Normally the two of us would polish off a bird with stacks of potatoes and vegetables. This time we were full and there was still half a chicken left.
Boxing Day was spent lazing around, catching up on laundry, baking bread in the potje and swimming in Lake Malawi.
In the campsite were some more overlanders in a 4 wheel drive truck. It has taken them 14 months to get this far from Austria, and they took a ferry from Genoa to Tunis. It is quite funny, now when we talk to other overlanders, we all know the same people up and down the continent. The other thing is that overlanders seem to have a very different view of the countries they visit, compared to backpackers, people who are working for NGO’s or other tourists. We often have to keep some of our opinions to ourselves but with other overlanders we can freely discuss the problems and frustrations we have had making our way through Africa.
Malawi has been very refreshing compared to Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania in terms of far fewer people demanding money etc from us. Although one man did ask us to buy his corn on the cob (for about 5 times the usual price) because he was hungry, when we suggested that he might want to eat the corn on the cob himself he just looked blankly at us. Also in Malawi the towns are well organised and clean, the countryside is lush and full of carefully tended crops (although we are here during the rainy season). Even the driving is considerably better with fewer lorry wrecks by the wayside.
Further down the coast of Lake Malawi we stopped at Senga Bay for a few days. This is more of a town than the other places we have visited so there are many more people around. Yesterday I walked through the fishing village right on the beach negotiating my way through the drying nets and men either repairing them, sleeping or talking on their cell phones. Behind the beach are rows and rows of fish drying racks- the smell is really quite overpowering!
From here we head to Lilongwe and then on to Zambia.