My name is Blake Reynolds, and for the next few weeks I will be travelling to Malawi as part of the Canadian Co-operative Association's Management Coaching Program!

Thanks for stopping by as I prepare for, travel to, experience and finally bid farewell to the 'Warm Heart of Africa'!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Our trip to Lake Malawi

Eye Openers
On Saturday, Erin and I decided to travel east to Lake Malawi, just outside of the town of Salima.  It was an interesting start as the driver picked up his friend to come along with us, but we’ve learned to ‘go with the flow’ and it was nice to have another person sitting in the back of the car who could point out little points of interest.
I have to say the drive was a real eye-opener.  As 85% of the population live in rural areas, it was very humbling to see the dichotomy between rural and urban living, especially after spending the first week in the centre of Lilongwe.  Cows, goats and chickens are common either at markets or crossing the street, and there was no shortage of tomatoes and maize (corn).

One thing that I found very interesting is the use of bicycles.  Not as personal transportation but as a business venture.  Our driver Daniel pointed out that many town residents will buy a bike, place what looks like a reinforced bike rack on the back, add some padding and ‘presto!’ bike-taxi.  We even saw one passenger on the back calmly reading his paper while the driver peddled away!  It was an hour-and-a-half drive, but it was really worth it.

Lake Malawi
When we asked to be taken to Lake Malawi, we really didn’t know beyond that we'd see "the lake".  We were actually taken to a Sunbird resort, and since we were staying at a Sunbird hotel in Lilongwe were given full access to the grounds.
The beach was very nice.  It's so big in fact, that from the shore it’s difficult to tell that the body of water in front of you is actually a lake.  Even along the beach it was common see fishermen with their dug-out canoes fishing Chombo.  One fisherman brought is catch right up the beach and into the hotel kitchen....fresh.
The one downside is the water itself.  Even though we saw Americans and locals splashing in the waves, Erin and I were good little Canadians and stayed on the beach as we were told not to go swimming in the lake by our doctors.  It was relaxing nonetheless and I was a bit tired as we headed back into town.
Now, all week I have seen large catches of chombo tied too, and hanging off the wipers of mini-buses, so I wasn’t completely surprised when our driver and his friend began tying the fish they had bought to the mirrors of their little Toyota!  I guess it beat bringing them IN the car…

Wrapping up the evening with MUSCCO
We finished off the evening catching up with Laurie, who had spent the first week in Uganda and will be spending the upcoming week in city southern of Blantyre.  We went out for dinner with Sylvester and Dickson from MUSCCO.  It was an informal dinner and it was very easy to chat with the two of them, and was great to listen to their stories and insight into Malawi.  Those two men are so important to the SACCO movement and because of that the economic recovery of the country.  With the government having limited resources to aid its citizens, SACCOs and co-operatives allow Malawians to begin taking control of their savings and own their own future.
Dickson, Laurie, Erin and Sylvester
 Until Next Time,


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