Last weekend, I went up to the infamous (at least here in Malawi) Cape Maclear. It was great to get away from the city (once again!) to be able to hit up a little bit of sun and fun. I was also given the chance to go and do the Mulanje Cross over... But, I was questioning the chances that I might have to get up to Cape Maclear, before I leave.
In addition.... it is crunch time! I know it seems strange to consider the fact that I am actually in school while I am here in Malawi... but the end of the semester is just around the corner. That means that my clinical rotation is finishing up (just two more days!). I have a clinical note due this week. I have a concept map that I need to present during the week of December 5th. I have a rough draft of my manuscript (... aka... my new "research project" which is a manuscript, that often feels like I am writing prose, on establishing inter-institutional global health nursing research collaborations) due on monday. I have faculty interviews to do. I have a visa run to Zambia to do. it is crunch time, my friends. but, the bonus... I'm in Malawi. And, crunch time in Montreal (from what I remember) is much more stressful than crunch time in Malawi.
SO..... Cape Maclear. land of the freshwater ocean. land of rasafarian Malawians. epic tourist destination. Beautiful opportunities to just relax on the beach, soak up sun, and people watch. I chose cape Maclear over Mulanje for a few reasons: a) I've never been there, but I have been to Mulanje. b) i was offered a lift by a local ex-pat. c) i argued that in the heat of the day, I could escape under a tree and get some work done (HA! that was all of about 2 hours...).
so, we got some diving in. Diving in lake Malawi is NOT like diving in the ocean. One thing that is neat, is that the fresh water (obviously.... or not...) does not grow coral. So the rock formations are very easily viewed, as are items such as a sunken ferry. Since lake Malawi is part of the great rift valley, the rock formations plunge deep into the water, giving you the feeling that you could go down and down and down and down and.... you get the point. It seems unending. In addition, at least 1000 different species of Cichilid fish, which are as brightly coloured as any fish in the ocean. My favourite... there are a lot of points when you are swimming, and you turn around to see 100's of fish following you. They tend to like the current that you create with your fins. One of my favourite things... seeing the mouth brooders... The mother will actually suck dozens of the little fish into her mouth, when she senses danger. I've never dived at elevation, or in fresh water before. So... lots of fun, and a great experince. Here is a nice description of Diving in Lake Malawi.
we also got some kayaking and open water swimming in. It is HOT in Cape Maclear. but you don't really notice it, because you can jump in and out of the water. On sunday morning, we rented some kayaks and some snorkle gear, and paddled out to Thumbi Island, where we jumped in for a little bit of snorkling. Since I was LOVING being in the water, and I have not had a decent ability to go for a swim lately, I decided to get a little open water swimming in... And, it was GLORIOUS. so smooth, so fresh, and not scary at all. Except for the HUGE hills that surround cape Maclear, this area would be *ideal* for a triathlon. Xterra, anyone? but, after all the activity in the sun... joke was on me. You see, I have fairly olive skin, and I *rarely* burn. However, that does not mean that I don't burn. if you spend hours on your stomach, in a lake, and on top of a lake, close to the equator, with no sun block... you will burn. even if you have olive skin. not it wasn't terrible. just bad enough to be annoying, and itchy for a few days.
I had such a lovely time up in Cape Maclear. But, to tell you the truth, it made me realize what a GEM Likoma Island is. Now, I just realized that I have not done a good post on LIkoma. However, Cape Maclear is touristy... And, that is not all that bad of a thing, since it brings a diversity of accommodation, of food choices, of activity choices. but... it also brings lots of people, dirtier beaches, more hassling for tours and souvenirs. On Likoma... there is none of those negative things... It might take *forever* to get there, if you don't want to (or cant afford to) fly.
oh yes... and, to dispel any rumours of the ability to swim in africa. You can do it. The chances of dying from a water-borne infectious disease is slim. Yes. there is a chance. but... nothing that is not preventable or treatable.
finally. I am all of a sudden discovering that every day, I am becoming more and more sad about leaving this amazing place. I am not going to lie... I think that Malawi is one of the best countries I have ever visited. There are certainly struggles on the occasion, and it is not that I don't look forward to being back in Canada. But, one of the things that happens when you go back to Canada... you have a hard time knowing when exactly you can come back to this beautiful continent. and that makes me sad. it makes me dread the heart ache. There are great things in Canada (um... like a certain fellow. like friends. like my bikes.), which I look forward too. But, I can't describe what my heart feels to be here. It's kinda impossible. 1 month and 2 days. that is all that remains. it is SO short, which is surprizing, for a place where time moves forward with little regard from people... it passes so quickly.