Mid-Semester Break in Malawi
Post by Kiri Coakley from Northeastern University
About a month into the semester, local student protests caused UB to close down for a few weeks while kinks in the registration process were straightened out and students were given their government allowances.
The first weekend saw about half of our program heading up north to Letlhakane for a camping trip, and the next all fourteen CIEE students found ourselves in Kanye experiencing a village homestay. Interspersed among these trips were CIEE Setswana language classes, teaching us the basic essentials necessary to politely interact with Batswana.
After the University officially stated that they would be reopening March 6, the students in our program decided that the week before university classes resumed was ideal for travel. Two students planned a backpacking trip through South Africa, seven more a road-trip over to Namibia and the final five including myself rushed to arrange a vacation in Malawi.
Bethel, a cab driver popular with students in our program, drove us over the border and to the Johannesburg airport where we boarded a plane to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. From there a local woman named K ferried us across the country in her van to the tip of the Nankumba Peninsula jutting into the southernmost part of Lake Malawi where we stayed for the week in a small town called Cape Maclear.
Hike in the national park for the best view of Cape Maclear.
Our home for the week, The Funky Cichlid, was situated directly on the beach. Before arriving there we drove past a hill that K told us was the best hike in the area, since it offers a clear view of the whole bay.
Most of the week was spent on the beach right outside the backpackers, but two of us took a few days to get Open Water Dive certified with PADI Scuba Divemaster Rob. The pace of living was even slower than in Gaborone, with the whole town having an island vibe despite being off-season for tourists.
Beach-side accommodations at The Funky Cichlid.
Starting with Funky, there is a several kilometer-long strip of restaurants and housing lodges that we explored most afternoons and evenings. Favorite finds among our group were the pizza at Gecko Lounge, triple-decker sandwiches at Fat Monkey and cheesy fries at Funky. Traditional Malawian foods such as fish curry and rice or nsema, a maize porridge much like Botswana’s pap, were readily available at most places alongside Italian staples such as pasta Bolognese.
Grabbing dinner and drinks at Gecko Lounge.
One of many identical stray dogs on the beach.
One of the highlights of the week included a sunset cruise across the bay to Otter’s Point and then around Thumbi Island, on which we were able to feed eagles and talk to the local boat crew about their favorite pastimes in Cape Maclear.
Group picture (featuring sunburns) on Thumbi Island.
Nine days and hours of traveling later we found ourselves back in Gaborone with sand in our backpacks and collective excitement for continuing university classes the day after our return.