Adventures in Africa

Chapter 16 - Malawi II: Decadence in Cape Mclear

The woman who sits behind us gives me my wallet. While sitting it slipped from my pocket down on the bus' floor. We're so lucky that an honest woman sits behind us! It could have easily ended differently! We're very grateful and give her a generous tip. Africa should have many more honest people like her! The bus is progressing slowly and is stopping at every station. On the road we stop once for a police check (the policemen, seeing our heavy bags, don't force us to bring it down for inspection).We buy excellent chips with salad in one of the stops. We decide that Malawi is justifiably famous for its great chips.

The distance between Blantyre and Monkey Bay is 290 km and only after 9 hours, at 15 we arrive at last to Monkey Bay. We don't have a lot of time until the fast begins, and we still need to catch a lift to Cape Mclear, a small village on the lake shore, some 18km away. This is why we are so happy to be offered a lift by a group of white diving instructors who have just finished drinking some beer in a nearby bar. The dive instructors load on their 4WD Land Rover a box of cold beers and some blocks of ice. They explain to us that there is no electricity in Cape Mclear. We get on the vehicle and hope to reach our destination well before 16.

But not so fast.

The diving instructors get outside of the dirt road to enjoy the ride on the sand dunes. All of them are consuming beer without a break, even the driver who has in one hand the beer and in the other - the wheel. We think this is kind of dangerous, these people look a bit drunk. We hope to arrive soon.

But not so soon.

The driver suddenly stops on the dune and invites us for a "smoke break". We kindly say "No, thank you" and impatiently wait while the marijuana is being smoked. It takes ages till we are back "en route". Will our next stop be Cape Mclear, which is already less than 9 km ahead of us?

Not at all.

10 minutes after the "smoke break" the dive instructors feel very romantic and decide to have a "sunset pause". They look at the sun which is going down, and Tali and I start to think that we will not have enough time to prepare ourselves for the fast (i.e. eat well, and more important - drink enough liquids). At last we are on the way again, but the driver decides to play a new game - He drives while his eyes are closed, and the man who is sitting next to him is giving him instructions. In this moment I start to think that we should get down of this vehicle, but then we arrive to Cape Mclear and this awful drive is over.

We rush to rent a bungalow in "The Gap" and send somebody to buy mineral water for us. We don't care that he charges us triple price, he just sees that we are pressed and takes advantage of it. The restaurant nearby is closed and we are forced to cook for ourselves noodles. We eat what we think is inadequate quantity of food and drink all the mineral water we have, which is surely not enough, but we don't have any other choice - the fast has already begun. Now we have plenty of time to relax. We think about our lift with these crazy dive instructors. We are also told that it's very dangerous to smoke and dive in the same day. Apparently these instructors haven't heard about it. They dive and teach during the day and smoke and party during the night... And they work for the international and well respected PADI dive association! What a shame...

In the morning, a 7 years old boy called Peter offers us to wash our clothes. We tell him that tomorrow we may take his offer. He warns us seriously "Make sure that you don't give your laundry to somebody else, because I was the first one!". That little boy knows what he is saying. Later on during the day other people offer us the same offer, but we remain loyal to Peter and give him the laundry the next day.

We get other offers as well. One "beach boy" proposes that he will make a braai for us. A braai means a fish BBQ served with chips and salads. He promises us that the braai will be on "as much as you can" basis, and to make a fire and play drum music as well. In the evening he arranges everything that he promised, except the quantity of the fish. When we tell him that we want more fish he replies angrily- "you ate enough fish"...

Cape Mclear - The beach.

Roxi the beach raster-man rents to us a traditional canoe made of one tree log, fins and masks. We plan to row to the small island in the lake and snorkel there. The tropical fish are really beautiful. I've never thought that there exist such colorful fish in fresh water. When we saw the locals rowing their boats it looked so easy... but we discover that it's quite a difficult task. The canoe is extremely heavy. If you want to turn, you have to do it really carefully. You have to stop turning before the turn is completed, cause the canoe continues to turn due to inertia. The canoe is also very sensitive to side-winds. You can progress either with or against the wind, or exactly vertically to it. Any other direction is impossible because the wind will turn your canoe vertically to its direction.

We like to go to "The pizza place" where there is a stone oven, and nice pizzas. One night, around midnight, we feel like having a pizza. The pizza place is already closed for an hour or so, but the owner is there. We ask him if we can have a pizza, and for an extra of an American quarter he opens everything for us...

Cape Mclear is a small village and there is only one main street where you walk several times daily. One morning we see a guy with whom we were talking yesterday. We greet him and ask him how he is. He looks at us slowly, trying to focus his red brilliant eyes, and then says sssslllloooowwwwlllly to us "I feel detached today". We ask him "why" and he replies "I had a bbbbiiiigggg party yesterday night!".

Cape Mclearr - Main street.

We meet a British guy with whom we were talking for at least half an hour last night in the Beach Bar. Yes, he was a bit drank, and smoked grass, but still we were amazed to see that he doesn't remember yesterday's night talk, nor recognizes us...

Drug parties are a vital part of the decadence atmosphere in Cape Mclear. Already in the first day there we saw an alarming sign in "The Gap" restaurant (see picture). Cheerful women offer to bake for us "banana cakes with bang" or to sell us "space cookies". Little children ask us if we want to buy "Makhuk-Mastul" which translates from Hebrew to something like "erased and high because of drugs".

The sign in "The Gap" restaurant.

The climax in our opinion is the "Beach Bar". The place was recently opened by the new owner, Monroe, a South African white guy. High because of alcohol and drugs he tells us his life story. He starts with saying "I lllloooovvvveeeeee shooting". We understand that his father is a very wealthy lawyer in South Africa who owns several private game parks. The father taught his son how to shoot, and by the age of 11, Monroe has already killed all the big 5 (Elephant, black rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard) in his fatherĘs parks. As a teenager he disappointed his father's wishes to be a lawyer, and wanted to become a policeman. At the age of 18 he became a policeman in the homicide department in Johannesburg. In case you don't know, Johannesburg is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Every hour or so, somebody is murdered there. Monroe tells us with brilliant eyes (from excitement or drugs? we wonder) about the shooting fights he participated in, in the streets of Johannesburg. He tells us that he killed 6 murderers. He used to have 6 life-insurance policies, as his future was clear. It was not a question of "if" but of "when" he will be shot. That indeed happened, but he was lucky not to be killed. After half a year lying in the hospital he recovered from most of his injuries and was classified "partly handicapped". He retired from the police, got 1,000,000US$ from the insurance companies (a real fortune in African standards) and went to Malawi to live his "second life". As money wasn't an issue anymore, fun took place as the target in life. Monroe bought the "Beach Bar" in Cape Mclear and started to promote the night life on the beach. At around midnight, when the other places close down, the night in the "Beach Bar" is only starting. Yes, you guessed right, it's drug party time! With plenty of money (to bribe the policemen and judges) and a father who is a lawyer (if bribing doesn't work properly), who is afraid from the law system in Malawi???

It's time to leave Africa. We return to the capital Lilongwe (a full day drive) where we buy some artifacts just in the morning of the flight to Nairobi. Amongst the nicest pieces we buy is an overwhelming big "chief chair" which weights 14 kg. A chief chair is a wooden chair which was originally carved for the chief of the tribe. It is surprisingly comfortable.

In the airport we discover that we have 60 kg of baggage, 20 kg above the 2*20 kg allowance. The (woman) clerk demands 300 US$ surcharge. It's a fortune. A nice Israeli who is behind us in the queue offers to take from us 5 kg, as he has only 15kg. We still have 15 extra kg, amongst which is the 14kg chief chair. We tell the clerk that we will send the chair by post, and that she will check us in. She tells us that it's impossible to send such a heavy weight from the post office in the airport. We tell her that we will manage. Reluctantly she checks us in. We go to the post office and discover that she's right. We decide to sneak the chair into the airplane. We make a detour in order that the clerk will not see us going to the second floor with the chair. We get on the bus to the airplane as fast as possible, not waiting for the nice Israeli guy. On the airplane, we put the chair behind the last row of seats and sit down, hoping for good. The Israeli guy gets on board 10 minutes later all excited. He tells us that the clerk, who from the beginning suspected us, went to the second floor to see if we were still with the chair. As she didn't see us she asked him about us. Of course he pretended to know nothing...

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Last modified: Sat Jun 19th 21:35:00 IST 1999