Camping At The Mushroom Fram, Livingstonia, Malawi

Mellow Malawi

| Malawi

Mike and I easily slipped into our roles as one takes the passports and the other our carnet de passages and started the procedures. I just love how in Africa you can just hand over the passports without the actual owner being there, sometimes they ask to point out the person in the passport, and normally being the only white people at the border, it is not hard to spot either one of us in the seas of local people. This system makes our border crossings more efficient and we are normally completed within an hour. Sure enough this wasn’t anything different. We were back on our bikes and heading for Mushroom Farm. I spotted a poster at the border, as I read “COLD Beer, HOT showers, on TOP of the world, HOME cooked meals” I knew we had to visit this promised land.

Leaving the border behind us, we drove parallel to Lake Malawi. As the mountains on the right of us, rose up out of the ground forcing the road to cut closer and closer to the lake to it eventually sandwiched us between. The views were just breath taking, but the heat kept us rolling forward just to give us a little relief from the breeze.

We stopped at a tiny village for a bottle of water and an ice cold coke. The first hole in the wall supermarket only had juice cold, he sent us next door where he knew a lady sold only cold coke. Glulping down the coke, I couldn’t help but think this would make the perfect coke advert. Two dusty, sweaty bikers in bum fuck nowhere getting relief from the sweet taste of coke, as the perfect amount of condensation rolled down the edge of the glass bottle. Strapping down the new bottle of water, I drank the remaining drops from the old bottle. I looked about me, trying to find a place to put the used plastic bottle. While doing so, I noticed a lady holding out her hand with her left hand touching her elbow. This is the very polite way to either ask or offer something. I quickly realized she was asking for the bottle. Handing it to her, a smile lit up her face and I felt good I was giving her something to recycle or most likely to sell for a few cents, but that few cents would go a long way in her family.
A few kilometers later, we reached our turn off to Mushroom farm. Following what started out as a sandy road but quickly turned into dried up riverbed! We found ourselves navigating around huge boulders and tight corners, climbing virtually straight up. Within the short 10 km we rose up to 1000m above lake Malawi. When we finally arrived at our destination, we were taken back by the view. Mushroom Farm was hanging on the cliffs edges with a few scattered huts and camping sites also just tethering on the edge. Like always, we planned only to spend one night, but we couldn’t help ourselves we decided to stay two and on our day off we would take a walk up to the village.

Because of the remote location, there weren’t to many guests, so we got chatting to the owners and the Dutch couple which were working there as managers. They recommended our next guesthouse in the town of Mzuzu called Mzoozoozoo. With a wave goodbye, we rode back down the steep road, passing a couple on two old Royal Enfield’s. Stopped at the bottom, we discover the lady is from Australia and her husband is from Germany. They rode down the west coast of Africa but shipped their bikes from Ghana to Namibia with two guys, both called Tony. This is really a funny coincidence as I have been speaking to a Tony off and on since I was in Turkey andI am due to finally meet this guy in Lilongwe! The happy couple gave us some tips to where to stay in Malawi but due to the heat we had to get back on the road.

We arrived into Mzuzu quite early, but that was ok, I wanted to find some shoes and we had to pick up some new drugs from the pharmacy. We rode around the town, asking everyone where Mzoozoozoo backpackers was, despite Mushroom Farm telling us that everyone knows where it is we discover, that this was no true at all. After an hour of searching up and down, following different people’s directions we thought it was about time to stop, have something to eat and drink before trying again. After the usual Malawi dish of chicken and chips for lunch, we got back on our bikes. This time we saw a bunch of overlanders in 4×4 and motorcycles at the petrol station. We asked them where have they come from and where are they heading, but their replies were really distant and disinterested. However, we did discover they would have no idea where the backpackers was. Then a trinket tout came up to me “Where are you from?” he asks “New Zealand” I replied, “ah, Kiroa Mate” laughing I asked “Do you know where MzoozooZOO is?” He quickly gave us directions and which we followed and found it within a few seconds. It was so stupid. It was down the only street we hadn’t searched!

Rolling through the gates of Mzoozoozoo, we instantly fell in love with the place, there was a usual car rotting in one corner of the garden, in another was a caravan and under a tree was an old Goldwing. An elder guy rambled out of the main house and introduced himself as Ray. We were instantly taken to a place where we could set up our tent while we sip on a cold beer. I wondered how long we would end up stuck at this laid-back guesthouse. That afternoon, we completed our chores in town and we re-tied the rubber around Mike’s broken suspension. He knows he should also do a layer of copper wire to help hold it into place but we are just too lazy to go to those lengths so we just re-wrap the old rubber knowing we probably have to do this again shortly.

It seems Mzoozoozoo is the place for all expats when passing through drop in for lunch or just a coffee to chat and catch up with all the gossip, because I got to meet a fallow Kiwi who now lives here and runs a popular overland truck stop on the coast of Lake Malawi. We would have dropped in there, but we are a bit tired of the overland truck stops and people that like to party on them. A little bit later over a beer we got talking to Ray, he took us out to show us his 1979 Goldwing. He also travels around Africa but more slowly than us and in better style! He gives us more suggestions for Malawi and a hot tip for our next destination.

That night, Mzoozoozoo took off and a party was in full swing. The owners of Mushroom Farm turned up and it was a great night. But the strange thing was, we got to meet the actual owner of Mzoozoozoo and it turns out hes only here in Malawi for 3 months per year and the entire time he is here he is drunk from the time he wakes up to the time he goes to bed. He was starting to scare a group of girls who were just backpacking around, but the owners of Mushroom Farm came to their rescue. But you could see these girls would be checking out tomorrow. It was a pity because you could tell Gerald (the owner of Mzoozoozoo) was just trying to be friendly and nothing would come of it.

Mike and I rose early, knowing full well we should leave today. We have just seen the bad side to an expat life and I sure as hell didn’t want to slip into that. So we wave goodbye to our new friends (the ones who were up and about that is) and headed for the shores of Lake Malawi.

We arrived at Tony’s place on the shores of Lake Malawi, as we walked into the restaurant area looking for someone to help us, we find him asleep spread awkardly over two chairs. He woke to our voices and we were able to check in and order some lunch. We ended up staying for four nights due to the weather closing in and lucky for us we were the only guests in the entire place except for the last night! Over those four days, we got to know Tony (the owner) quite well and pretty much only ate chicken and chips or soup for the entire time! After four days, we decided to make the long 400km ride to Lilongwe despite the weather just to change our diet!

We got lucky, the day was overcast and threatened to rain but we only felt a few drops. We arrived into the small capital without a hitch and found our guesthouse easily. It was one recommended to us, but on arrival, we could see that there were only kids bumming around running the place and the lack of water saw us only having one shower over our entire stay there. I have to say it was disappointing but it didn’t really matter, as I was there to meet Tony. The guy who I have been in consistent email contact for almost a year now. Just recently, Tony has also been invited to become a Jupiter Traveller. We spent the day chatting about or journeys and plans for the future. He had been in Lilongwe for over a month now desperately trying to sell his motorcycle. He had a few nibbles but nothing serious. I heard from him a few weeks later and found out he managed to sell his bike and he headed off to Australia to work and save some money for his next adventure.

We couldn’t stand to stay at this guesthouse a day longer, the very next day we took off south to Mozambique hoping to arrive at the border that day and cross over. It wasn’t the perfect ending to a country but we did really need to get a move on as we had friends and family arriving in South Africa and we had to be in Johannesburg to meet them!