Kande Beach, Malawi: (Day 7) Dec-17-2013

Dawnk-yuh-val, which means thank you in Danish.  A word I just learned from Debby.  Yesterday was an amazing day.  We had spent the entire day at Kande Beach, Malawi.  Breakfast was served at 8:00am, a delightful change of pace compared to the typical 5:30am serving time.  Unfortunately I was up at 5:00 anyways.  Breakfast was extra delightful as we had eggs in addition to the cereal and bread--I ate mine sunny side up.

A Small Island in Lake Malawi at Kande Beach, Malawi
After breakfast  I went snorkeling with 5 others in our group.  I was given a mask, snorkel, and flippers--which left my skin raw and which I'm sure will be very painful once they start to scab over.  We were shuttled to a small island just over 800m from shore.  This 1/2 mile trip was provided via an inflatable raft with an engine on the back.  We had to walk out a good 200 feet into the water as the beach was incredibly shallow.  After this shallow introduction to the water the depth dropped significantly.  We were dropped at the island and then left there with no clear directions on where to go, not to go, or when/where to meet up.

As is typical for me when I snorkeling I panic a bit when first in the water.  The restricted breathing replicates the horrible sensation of having an asthma attack.  Coupled with the leaky goggles, poorly fitting flippers, and crashing waters against the rocky island entering my snorkel, my experience was an intense one.  I calmed myself down busing some self-reassuring techniques.  I decided I would at least swim around the island, while others had decided to jump off the cliffs on the island.  It took a bit more time than I had anticipated to swim around--the current and waves were much more intense on the far side of the island.  Haha, "Far Side of the Island"--I imagine this would be the resulting album if Dave Gilmore and Jimmy Buffet formed a band, maybe the "Pink Parrots".  Ha, if you are not laughing to that then there is something supper seriously wrong with you.

I saw some colorful fish, small mind you, but still interesting to view.  Given it is a freshwater lake I had not formed too many expectations.  I would say it was worth it, simply for the experience just to get in the water, but not for the viewing.  For only $15 for as long as we wanted, it was quite a bargain.  I have never seen so much fish poop in my life.  I actually thought they were white worms, until Sophia educated me proper!  After circling the island I was ready to call it a quits.  I would have had to wait at least another 45 minutes for the raft to return as he was currently taking the Aussie family of 4 SCUBA diving.  I decided to swim back to shore.  800m, which is exactly 1/2 a mile.  What I did NOT take into account was the cross current.  Having taken this into account I would have realized the total distance required to swim in-order to return to shore was actually closer to 1000m.  I swam back and mid-way lost a fin...I  told you they didn't fit well, right?  I waited for the fin to surface, but after 30 second of treading water it hadn't surfaced.  I decided to abandon it figuring it would be washed to shore...eventually.  Swimming with one fin made things incredibly difficult due to the asymmetrical nature of kicking with my foot and my fin.  All in all I made it back to shore ~30? minutes after leaving the island.  I was proud of myself as this was, by far, the longest and farthest I have swam, without breaks, and with no life jacket.  Oh yeah, had I mentioned that we signed no releases, received no life preserves, nor were we provided with any information other than, "get in the raft" and "ok, jump out now".

Playing Dutch Yahtzee at Kande Beach, Malawi
Once back at shore I played some Yahtzee and ate some lunch.  Afterwards I went into the village, which required me to leave the gated premises of the Kande Beach Lodge.  I had asked for Goerge and waited at his cousin's 'stand' for him to return with the custom item I had purchased for Kelly.  It was nice to have watched him make it from scratch, cutting, chiseling, sanding, polishing, etc.  He then taught me a game called, "The Boa Game" which is a popular game around the area.  The game was very similar to Mancala--a game I bought from the discovery store in Beachwood place when I was young.  It's a fun game, I'll teach anyone who wants to learn when I'm back 'home'.

Bao Game, Kande Beach, Malawi
He beat me 2 out of 3 games.  Afterwards I told him I wasn't interested in purchasing the game and he didn't push it.  I noticed he was wearing the same shirt and shorts as the day before and that he had fractured his large toenail on his right foot.  We sat on the ground in his village playing the game and there were a few chickens nearby...other passersby stopped to say hello and then continued walking.  This beach is visited relatively often by overland trucks, but the village is set back a mile or so from the lodges.  Most people don't leave the gated premises so the villagers have limited interactions with the tourists.  When we were sitting on the ground I noticed his pants were torn in the crotch and I felt very bad.

Many people in Malawi have asked for 'trade' and not just money in exchange for their products.  They ask for old shirts, socks, etc..

George Holding a Key-chain He Had Made for Me, Kande Beach, Malawi
I socialized a bit more with some of the people on my tour as well as a couple people from the overland truck that had just arrived, from Acacia tours.  So far on my journey I've met an Intrepid Tour, G Adventure Tour, and an Acacia Tour.  I had looked into all three of these tours.  Nomad spent one extra night in the Serengeti, was a few days longer, and had a few shorter days of driving.  Also, Nomad ensured their trucks had no more than 18 passengers, while the others had up to 24.  These are the reasons for my choosing Nomad.  However it seems the people on the other tours were younger, more outgoing, and less "by the books".  An Aussie girl from the Acacia Tour was telling us how they took a cab while in Nairobi and went to a local fish market and ate there.  I know our guide would advise us to stay at our hotel and eat there and everyone in our tour (the sheeple) would eagerly comply.  Last night when Debby, Vincent, and I went out to the village for a local house party one of the Aussie mothers (the one I DO like) had said, "why go out there, it is just a bother when you have a bar here".  She clearly doesn't grasp the idea of 'living' and 'experiencing' the African culture.

Sailing in Lake Malawi, Kande Beach, Malawi
Anyways,  from 3-4:30 I went sailing with Cara.  No one else had wanted to get up from their hammocks and I was happy she had agreed to come along.  Sailing alone could get a bit boring.  I rented a catamaran for $10/hr and took it out.  It was a lot of fun, though the boat was a low quality one and the rudders didn't function at 100% (I would say 70%, which was good enough).  I taught her how to sail and she caught on quickly.  We talked about the others on the trip and we both agreed how our trip is a bit 'to scheduled and formal" and that we both had wanted a bit more adventure.  We sailed as far as a mile out from shore and then headed back in--which was a bit difficult with the current wind conditions.

Cooking BBQ Chicken, Kande Beach, Malawi
Once back at shore I showered and got ready for the evening.  Talked with my mother for an hour and had BBQ chicken for dinner.  Debbie had been invited to a local bar that evening by one of the villagers she had purchased a game from.  She invited a few of us to join in, only I agreed.  After talking with Kelly for 20 minutes or so, I grabbed a beer, changed into short-sleeves and applied some bug-spray.  By 8:45pm we were on the way out of the gated area and into the village.

We were led by the same guy that showed us around the village the previous day.  All three of us, Vincent, Debbie, and myself, were a bit uncertain as to how our night would unfold.  We walked for about 15 minutes through brush and a narrow path in the dark until we arrived at a house party.

NOW LET ME SAY THIS!  If I had witnessed anything even close to this scene in America I would be backstopping faster than I have in my life and I would NEVER look back.  Imagine a broken-down house with an unlit yard and 3 large blaring speakers on the ground close to the patio.  There was a D.J. playing Rap music and half a dozen young men dancing in the center of a crowd.  One of the guys we walked with had said there were between 100 and 150 there.  There were anywhere from 40-60 children and I would guess 70% of the crowd was under 24 (~90% under 30).

The purpose of the party was to help raise money for an upcoming wedding.  The wedding was on Dec-21-2013.  People paid 100 Kwacha ($0.25) to request a song and once it was played only they could dance on the dance-floor, but they were able to invite anyone they wanted.  A couple of people had put in some money for us to dance with the children so the three of us (VERY white people) were dancing in the middle of a circle comprised of ~100 local African Villagers.  We were accompanied with quite a few dozen children of all ages...some as small as 3 years old.  Most were fighting over who could hold our hands while we danced.  I had kids, boys and girls, climbing on my back and grabbing my hands and arms to dance with me.  It was amazing to see how happy/excited they were to see us.  After one of the songs I had given a small boy a high-five and then another 10 kids close by had come up to me giving me high-fives.

One thing I noticed immediately while walking up to the house was the overwhelming smell of body odor.  Some older guys (18-24 yrs old) were dancing with their shirts off and jumping all over the place.  There were two guys who were sagging their pants, a few more were sporting afro-picks.  Many had their shirts off and I was temped to follow suit--it was hot--but I kept it on.  After about an hour of dancing with the children and talking with some of the local guys we left.  We walked to the beach with some drums and played the drums along the waterfront for a while.  The others had ordered some local beers, but I was dosing off and went to bed around 10:45.  I passed out right away.

I had noticed that many of the young adults (mostly boys) were keeping the children in line.  It was very dark and I couldn't make out any of the faces from a distance farther than 5 feet.  It was quite the experience, possibly the best one on my trip so far.  Debbie had agreed.

Standing Next to a Hand Carved Malawi Chair in Kande Beach, Malawi