Malawi is about the same size as Pennsylvania but it stretches 840 km from north to south. It would take about three days to drive the distance. The country is divided into regions, Blantyre resting in the southern region and the capital, Lilongwe, is in the central region. When our friend from home, Jackson, decided to come visit, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to travel to the northern region.
The north is less densely populated and more remote, yet it contains some of the most beautiful spots in Malawi. Nyika Plateau, the Viphya forests, picturesque lake ports such as Nkhata Bay, historic Livingstonia, and several large national parks are some of the highlights. Because we only had six days, we couldn’t see everything, but did get a feel for the region, its landscape, and people.
Jackson’s flight was on time and his luggage arrived! This was a small miracle considering our personal experiences with Ethiopian Airlines’ luggage handling. It meant that Sandy, Kevin, Jackson, and I had plenty of time to drive the two hours from Lilongwe to Nchisi Forest Lodge and start our week long trip. We were driving in Pierce, our replacement for Baxter – a large Isuzu Bighorn 4×4.
The drive was beautiful and smooth as we sped along the tarmac road through fields and small trading centers. After an hour or so, we turned onto a red mud rutted road and dipped and slid the last forty five minutes to the lodge. The drive, while challenging, was beautiful as it wound through picturesque villages and rolling hills. The road took us higher and higher along ridges and then through valleys. Children pointed and shouted “azungu” as we passed, waving wildly.
Eventually we made it to the edge of an expansive forest blanketing several mountains. The lodge was tucked in the trees, offering a view of the escarpment and all the way to Lake Malawi. The lodge itself was built in 1914 and was the residence of District Commissioner John Canyon. It is beautifully appointed with small details that make it luxurious yet homey.
After our long drive, we enjoyed a beer on the khonde and then walked a short way to watch the sunset from the other side of the hill.
The best part of the stay was dinner. Lit by lanterns, candles, and fires in fireplaces, we had a beautiful family style dinner of macadamia nut crusted chicken, fresh vegetables, and sweet potato gratin. The dessert was made from fresh local berries.
As we had after dinner drinks on the porch, we watched a thunderstorm roll in across the valley, the lightening illuminating the landscape. We fell asleep to pouring rain and woke up to mist and drizzle.