Lake Malawi

Trip is over… Beast is Broken!

And a frustrating end to the trip it is…

If there’s a bright side… it would have been a thousand times worse if the Beast had broken down in Tanzania with Flash Dancer in tow, somewhere on the long stretches of road with miles of nothing – including no cell comms.

The gods of travel work in mysterious ways:

Rich and Sten would not have been able to summon help from nearby friendly Malawians on the other side of the border. Flash Dancer was already safely stowed at Carlsberg Depot.

They have gotten to know the little towns of Malawi and what can be done, albeit a bit primitive by Western standards. But it is MUCH more primitive in Tanzania!

Richmond Reports:

July 29:

We are flying home tomorrow.  Taxiing to Lilongwe now. We will spend the night there and catch the flight at 08:00.

We expect to be in Cape Town by 17:00 tomorrow.

Cruiser has serious gearbox problems that will take some weeks to repair / replace.

Then return to drive it back. Never rains ……

This photo of Lilongwe is courtesy of TripAdvisor

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Back in Mzuzu… Problems, problems.

Then the Beast’s gearbox and clutch broke…

Richmond Reports:

July 28: Breakdown in Chitimba. Gearbox / clutch problem.
Spent last night at campsite Hakuna Matata on the lake beach with Robbie and Di.
R,D & T left early for SA. Sten and I trying to arrange a tow to Mzuzu Toyota, 135km away over a dog of a mountain.

View from Hakuna Matata Beach (photo: . Clemens, TripAdvisor)

View from Hakuna Matata Beach (photo: . Clemens, TripAdvisor)

View from Hakuna Matata Beach (photo: . Clemens R, TripAdvisor)

View from Hakuna Matata Beach (photo: . Clemens R, TripAdvisor)

July 28:  

Beast made it to Mzuzu Toyota at lockup and is first in line for servicing tomorrow. Helluva trip.


Tired, frustrated and in Mzuzu.  It took the whole day to get it to the local Toyota dealer  I will find out what’s what in the morning, but it doesn’t look good.  Tertius is here at Mzooizoozoo as well and heads for Lilongwe in the morning.

Sten and I must just wait…

The land rover towing us blew a head gasket going up the mountain. And that was after an hour delay at a police checkpoint as Wisdom the driver caused an accident in Livingstonia last week. In the open air beside the road he made a declaration, acknowledged guilt, was handed a 20 000 kwacha fine and once I paid it we could proceed.

So, there we were perched on the edge of the road 800m up the escarpment tied together by a tow rope but immobile with trucks and buses struggling up and careening down the other side on a narrow track of a road with cliff on one side and a steep drop off on the other.

Sten and I amused ourselves playing chess until we convinced a passing meat delivery truck to take us the rest of the way. We are overnighting at Mzooizoozoo where Sten and I stayed on the way up two weeks ago. Sten was relieved to recover his toilet bag that he left last time.

Tertius is here also and leaves for Lilongwe and his flight back tomorrow.  Sten and I will have to wait the outcome of Toyota’s prognosis.

From Chitimba Beach Lodge to Mzuzu took a whole day.

From Chitimba Beach Lodge to Mzuzu took a whole day.

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Tanzanian Border Problems

Long and frustrating saga for the guys… Tertius was to stay another night at Mikoma Lodge and fly out of Mzuzu to get his ongoing flights to Indonesia for his work there… Sten and Rich were headed for the Tanzanian border, Flash Dancer in tow.

And this is how it turned out… Hope you’re keeping up. 🙂

First a brief note from Richmond, all is on track:

Mikoma lodge is nothing to write home about. A local MP owns it so the style is lesser Bloem- baroque.  We are repairing vehicle, dolly and FD at the moment in Karonga then Sten and I will head north while Tertius stays another night and heads south. From what I understand from Robbie they won’t be going to Tanzania but will head for home in a day or so. The lines are bad so comms are not great. More later if I can.

Later… powerlines catch the mast

The three of us with beast and FD are in Karonga – in the heat with Paul a local mechanic and Robert is arranger and various assorted interested parties studiously examining the workings of Beast’s marvelous engine. Final conclusion not arrived at but looking good after replacing a broken pipe on the turbo, the oil filter, air filter and oil. Two wheels are off the dolly and being repaired across the main road under a tree..

Coming into the siding where Paul operates, Flash Dancer took out the overhead power lines. The timber pole snapped off at the base as well and crashed down on another pole. Fortunately the two cables I caught were insulated.  Behind the trailer two heavy duty bare cables came down to ground. Everyone scattered pronto and the Central Business District went dead. Much loud talk and excitement.  Escom folk arrived an hour later to say there have been complaints.

I said “I’m not surprised with such shoddy work allowing lines to be so low.”

FD was off the trailer at the time so stands only marginally higher than Beast.  They looked, asked a few more questions, shrugged their shoulders and left. I’m trying to hurry up the repairs to be away before they collect their wits and return.

Sten and I hope to be in Tanzania later today. Tertius is heading south tomorrow.

Sten reported from the Tanzania border:

Rich and i are at the Tanzanian border post. Same old Africa, now insurance and export documents are required for the boat, the trailer and the vehicle, a new challenge at every corner. This was not previously a requirement.

We had some trouble in Karonga this morning, on our way to have the car checked out and to fix two of the dolly wheels, a low electrical wire got caught on the boats mast and we practically pulled over an electrical pole. We managed to get away from that by some miracle and spent the next three hours having the tyres fixed and the car worked on. We then parted ways with Tertius.

At the Malawian side of the Songwe border we had to wait for half an hour because trucks were blocking the single lane road out of Malawi. I am now waiting for Richmond in the car while he sorts out the vehicle papers.

Songwe Border  (image credit FourSquare)

Songwe Border
(image credit FourSquare)

Songwe Border  (image credit FourSquare)

Songwe Border
(image credit FourSquare)

Later… Sudden change of plans!

Sten’s quick update....Problems problems, we got turned away at the Tanzanian border post, now on our way to leave the boat along with trailer at the Carlsberg depot in Karonga and then hotfoot it back to Cape Town.

Busy Carlsbeg Depot

Busy Carlsbeg Depot

So they got back in Karonga, Flash Dancer is back in the depot and  all THREE guys are headed back to South Africa. Comms are off again, so it’s not clear whether they are returning via Zim or Moz. But Tertius still has a deadline to get his flights out of SA to Indonesia, so I guess they will take the fastest – and known – route.

This is Africa… 🙂

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Mission Accomplished! Lake Malawi Sailed from End-to-End

Sten Reports:

We feel great! Mission accomplished – Lake Malawi sailed from end-to-end.

Tanzanian mountains at the northern point.  (Photo Credit: Sten van Aardt)

Tanzanian mountains at the northern point.
(Photo Credit: Sten van Aardt)

We made the northern most point yesterday before noon and started sailing back immediately.We got back to about 25kms north of Mikoma. We spent the night in a shallow bay circled by reeds, aiming for a quiet last night on the lake without a swarm of locals. We still ended up having regular visitors on their dugout canoes, none of whom could speak English.

At one time there was an older man with what looked like his two sons all on their own canoes just circling our boat watching us while we were cooking dinner. The man’s only conversation with us was the word yes and that was his reply to everything we said. They stayed and watched us from at least 15 – 20 minutes. Needless to say we felt a little bit awkward.

Seemed like he took his two kids for an outing and taught them a few things like the fiberglass dingy which they have apparently never seen before to which we just hear him say “plastic” in English between the words of his native tongue.

We ended up arriving at Mikoma before 10 am after scouting the coastline from Karonga to see if we could maybe find a slipway. We actually did find one, but like all things in deepest Africa, it was very rundown and the concrete was falling to pieces. So we decided to just stick through with the original plan and get the boat out at Mikoma Beach.

We actually managed to have the boat out of the water and in the carpark before 1.00pm. During the whole process we had a group of approximately 30 kids appreciatively watching us. It was a lengthy process as the car kept getting stuck in the loose sand, so we had to edge our way forward piece by piece with the winch.

Eventually we used a nearby truck as anchor point for the winch and got it over the very narrow bridge and through the sand.

We were all exhausted and took a break to have some lunch and a cold coke. After that we got straight back into the work with fixing a few things on the boat that had broken and sorting out the kit for the boat and the trip back home.

Rich and I will hopefully leave for Kipili tomorrow and then we will head back to Hermanus together. Tertius is making his way back to Indonesia on his own. He is going to fly out from Mzuzu tomorrow and onward to catch his flights.

Unfortunately I couldn’t get any more photos of this leg or the pull-out as my phone was flat, but Tertius and Richmond got some shots on their GoPros and cameras. Tertius also got some shots of some of our spectators yesterday. They’ll send as soon as they can.

North Malawi Landscape

The north is characterised by its great highlands. Forming a forested spine up from Central Malawi, the Viphya Highlands is an undulating plateau rising to 6000ft (1800m) although some peaks stretch a further 1000ft (300m) higher.

On the borders with Zambia and with Tanzania, in the north, other significant ranges include the Malingu Mountains and the Misuku Hills rising to over 7000ft (2100m) and 6500ft (2000m) respectively. But the most magnificent of all is the Nyika Plateau, towering to no less than 8000ft (2500m). The rolling landscapes of the centre of the plateau are described as whalebacks but the edges of this granite core are scarp-like especially where, in the north-east, it forms the edge of the Great Rift Valley.

The most northerly lake shore town of note is Karonga, an important archaeological centre and now home to a museum that tells the history of this area back to pre-historic times. The skeletal remains of the Malawisaurus dinosaur have been unearthed nearby, as have been the oldest human remains in the country. 

More at

Malawisaurus dixeyi

Artist’s impression of the Malawisaurus

Artist’s impression of the Malawisaurus

The reconstructed skeleton of Malawisaurus in Karonga Museum

The reconstructed skeleton of Malawisaurus in Karonga Museum (photo credit :




Era: Mesozoic
Period: Early Cretaceous
Stage: Aptian
Age: 125-112 million years ago

Vital Stats:

Est. Max. Length: 9 meters
Est. Max. Height: ?
Est. Max. Weight: 5 tons
Diet: Herbivorous

It has been given a roar factor of 3/10. (I did not know lizards could roar, but things were different 120 million years ago, I guess!)



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Karonga to Kipili

Next steps:

Robbie should arrive in Mikoma by Saturday night, and will meet up with the Expedition Team tomorrow evening on their return from Matema area.

The second vehicle will escort them to Kipili on Monday. Good to have a second vehicle in case of breakdowns. The roads should be tarred and in good nick all the way except for the last 80km into Kipili. The boat will be parked safely with friends at a resort on Lake Tanganyika in readiness for the next Part of the Africa Great Lakes Sailing Expedition in 2016.

Road trip Karonga to Kipili to drop off the Boat and the Beast

Road trip Karonga, Malawi to Kipili, Tanzania to drop off the boat


Lake Tanganyika shore (photo credit: Hill Bird Panoramio)

Lake Tanganyika shore (photo credit: Hill Bird Panoramio)

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Matema, Tanzania

No reports from the guys yet about their round trip to Matema at the top of the Lake, but I thought this snippet describing the attractions of Matema Beach View was a tad disturbing… I hope the guy know about the mozzies and took some mosquito wire.

This really makes you want to rush out there and spend a long vacation…

About Matema Beach View Lutheran Centre

Matema Beach View Lutheran Centre
is a Hotel for guests who like to rest, relax and enjoy the swimming in the lake like fish or to make some tours. Also it is a centre for seminars and meetings.

The guesthouses are African-thatched cottages, all situated on the beach. They are made of bamboo, wood and bricks. The windows have mosquito wire; therefore you will always enjoy a nice lake breeze. The lakeside windows are provided with shutters to prevent heavy wind. Sometimes the lake can be very rough with strong high waves. You might imagine you are staying at the seaside. The lake is long and deep (700m).

It is known there is Bilharzias in the Lake Malawi, but not everywhere. In order to live the parasite needs to live in snails; these snails only live in shallow, warm, muddy waters. Anywhere with a rocky shore like at Ikombe and where the water gets deep quickly like at Matema you will not find the Bilharzias parasites.

But there are plenty of mosquitoes. Therefore you need Malaria Prophylaxis
. All guest beds are supplied with intact mosquito nets. The staff controls them regularly. If you become sick you can get immediately treatment at the Matema Lutheran Hospital just near by the hotel.

In Matema there is no post office and no bank. The closets bank is in Kyela (distance 43 km) but no ATM service.  A bus is going daily to Kyela at 6.00 o`clock in the morning. But it is also possible to hire a Taxi, contact the Hotel Manager. ATM you will find in Tukuyu 96km or Mbeya (150 km).

Luxury Canoes... worth the trip alone. (Photo credit Matema Beach Resort)

Luxury Canoes… worth the trip alone.
(Photo credit Matema Beach Resort)


The Final Sailplan:

Mikoma to Matema, round trip.

Mikoma to Matema, round trip.


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Chilumba to Karonga

They surfaced at last at Mikoma Beach Lodge, just south of Karonga … silence due to a combination of no air time, no battery, no comms.  (Get a bigger solar panel next time, Richmond. 🙂

They will return to Mikoma Beach Lodge which will be their pull-out place, once they have done their final spin to the northern end of the lake so they can officially declare the Lake Malawi Sailing Expedition complete, end-to-end.

Richmond Reports:

July 23: We will head to Mikoma Beach Lodge tomorrow.  There was no rain this morning.  We left Ruarwe 03:50 and arrived at Chilumba 11 hours later. Started with a gentle westerly which soon died, motored. A northeaster came and went.  We motored again.  The southeaster Mwera arrived as we arrived in Chilumba.  Chilumba is a dump of note. About two centuries beyond its sell-by date.

T & S went ashore for local knowledge and we have moved ourselves about 3km north into a little cove behind a small island which protects us from the SE but leaves us exposed to the NE which we trust does not spring up tonight.

Total distance 584km, travelling 80 hours. Ave speed 7.3kph.  We anchored at the foot of the waterfall beside Zulunkhuni Lodge.  Charlie is the owner; a Brit who came across the site 17 years ago and decided to stay. A very charming place.  Tomorrow we head for Karonga to look for an exit place.  Mikoma Beach Lodge will be the first to look at. Once we know where we can exit we will decide if conditions are good to carry on to the north point and return – preferably not against the Mwera.

All fine on board.  A bit tired with the long day being bounced in short chop together with a poor night’s sleep – the boat pitched and rolled all night.


Today, 24th we had a wonderful 6 hours downwind sail to Mikoma Beach Lodge. Sten has told you all the rest.

Sten Reports:

We arrived at Ruarwe quite easily, had to motor quite a bit but arrived relatively early. We were told by some locals in the village about a lodge just across the bay, we were pleasantly surprised to find Zulunkhuni River Lodge, a unique and pleasant African style lodge at the base of a big waterfall, only accessible by boat, with paths for walking routes from Livingstonia and surrounding villages. The owner is a Brit who found the spot when having a 6-month sabbatical in southern Africa after high school and  ended up never going back. Was a very nice find.


We are sleeping at Mikoma tonight at on the boat, have already got the vehicle back and the trailer on the beach ready to load Flash Dancer up on Monday. The manager kindly gave us a lift into Karonga to get the Beast. Turns out that the Mikoma resort is owned by an MP of Malawi. Quite a strange-looking place for a beach resort, although everybody is very friendly and helpful.

Trailer on the beach ready to load the boat

Trailer on the beach ready to load the boat (photo credit Sten van Aardt)

Sunset Mikoma (photo credit Sten van Aardt)

Sunset Mikoma (photo credit Sten van Aardt)

We will head towards the most northern point tomorrow, to Matema on the Tanzanian coast line. Then hopefully head back the next day.

Mikoma Beach Resort:

Could find only their Facebook page, and some photos on TripAdvisor (3rd rated of nine hotels in Karonga)

Photo credit: Malawi Tourism

Mikoma Accommodation, not very resort-looking (Photo credit: TripAdvisor)

Mikoma Beach (photo credit TripAdvisor)

Mikoma Beach (photo credit TripAdvisor)


Mikoma Beach (photo credit: Malawi Tourism)



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Ruarwe to Chilamba Bay or Chilumba?

Ruarwe? Where Are We?

No word from the guys in two days. Yesterday we knew they were likely in a very remote spot, just considering the emphasis on eco-living on the website of Zulunkhuni River Lodge, where we assume they overnighted.

However, following Richmond’s sail plan, we estimate (all having gone well) they should now be anchored cosily in Chilamba Bay area.

Zulunkhuni River Lodge to Chilamba Bay

Zulunkhuni River Lodge to Chilamba Bay

There’s the pretty large town of Chilumba next to Chilamba Bay, so there should be cell towers by now.

Chilamba Bay

Chilamba Bay

Lovely long beach at Chilamba Bay  (photo credit Walter Deproost)

Lovely long beach at Chilamba Bay
(photo credit Walter Deproost, Panoramio)


Chiluma Downtown (by Google Earth)

Chiluma Downtown Showing Ilala Pier (by Google Earth)

Chilumba region lies at a distance of 70 km south of Karonga District Centre, Northern Region, Malawi, Central Africa. It has a peninsula which has a port and the ship comes once per week every Sunday from Monkey Bay, Mangochi District of the southern region. Chilumba lies along the M1 road which connects the major cities of Malawi. It has an area of 30 square kilometers with a total population of about 60,000 people.

There are a total of 6 health centres (2 mission run and 4 government run). The major occupation of the area is agriculture as 72% of the population engage in this work. The major food crop is cassava seconded by maize.

The major tribe in the area is Tumbuka who speak the Tumbukan language. However, there is still a mixture of other tribes in minorities namely: the Ngonde, Chewa, Yawo, and the Swahili from Tanzania as Karonga District lies along the border with neighbouring Tanzania on the Northern part. From CHANGE HER WORLD

This is what driving through the area looks like (2.5 mins of dash cam, a glimpse of local life):


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Nkhata Bay to Ruarwe

Quick note from Tertius:

Last night was cooler than most and sleeping outside was not the best. The wind came from the West, direct offshore and at 1h00 we were forced to make adjustments on our anchor points to avoid collision with another boat that was moored beside us.

This morning we set off from Nkhata bay at 5h45. Currently enjoying a cup of tea with a great view of the rising sun. Spinnaker up, slight breeze from the South-West and doing 8kmh.

Heading North to Ruarwe today and should be there by late afternoon if the winds keeps up.

Tea at sunrise on Lake Malawi, north of Nkhata Bay (image by Tertius Kammeyer)

Tea at sunrise on Lake Malawi, north of Nkhata Bay
(image by Tertius Kammeyer)

Ruarwe is the location of Zulunkhuni River Lodge. See photos from yesterday.

Ruarwe is a small fishing village located along the shores of lake Malawi. It is an extremely poor part of the country relying almost exclusively on subsistence farming and fishing for its economic needs.

There has been almost no development in infrastructure in the area for a very long time; there are no roads or proficient transport networks, no power grids at all, extremely limited phone reception and no access to basic services such as banks, markets, communications, hospitals, agricultural/veterinary support, etc.

Tourism plays a small and growing part in the economic development of the area. Each year the newly established community centre (Nyumba Ya Masambiro) hosts many volunteers from different parts of the globe, and NYM sources all of its staff and supplies from local villages in the Ruarwe zone wherever possible. Zulunkhuni River Lodge remains the largest employer in the community with 11 local staff and it aims to source as many goods as possible (food supplies, building materials etc.) from the immediate areas. Read more here...

Image credit by

Image credit by

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Nkhata Bay – Back across the Lake

Tertius Reports:

We have arrived at Nkhata Bay just after 14h00. Today’s sailing went well. 20knots of NE winds placing us on a reach at 320deg. Max speed with spinnaker was 16.5kph (!). Short choppy seas made us reduce our sail for safety. Our last leg we motored as the wind died to nothing.

The outboard motor is now working well.

The settlement of Nkhata Bay is disappointing. (Richmond: It’s a public disgrace) . The Harbour Master was friendly chap and we managed to provision though with some difficulty considering the paucity of stock available.

We are now anchored in a charming little cove near a PADI dive centre which is typically rundown Africa.
(Sten: African Greek twist)

We look forward to some edible food and some cold beer care of Windston and Webster of the dive centre.

All in good health and moral is high after a great rest day in Likoma. We had some delightful female company over dinner, (yet returned alone…).

Tomorrow we will be heading further North into unknown territory.  The landscape has changed to a  mountainous coast with a rock a cliff shoreline. Care will be needed to find suitable sheltered sandy coves.

Richmond Reports:

Tuesday 21st 18:07 Nkhata Bay. We’re at the PADI dive centre bar drinking Carlsberg beer. FD anchored in cove directly below.  Conditions are rustic, though friendly as usual.

We had a rest day yesterday on Likoma, visited the cathedral – which is still as impressive for its African setting as it would have been in 1905 when it was built.

Tertius stripped and serviced the outboard – which is sorely needed and I went for a snorkel dive – they wouldn’t let me scuba because I don’t have a PADI number, but I missed nothing.  Underwater is a desert – no algae, no kelp, nada. And the fish are few and tiny.

Today we set off at 05:45, first light, into a stiffening north easter which blew us to Nkhata Bay in 8 hours.

Tomorrow starts the sail into the real unknown. I sailed the Malawi Marathon 2002 with Guy which ended here.  To the north is different terrain, less villages and maybe difficult exits. We shall see. The group dynamics are very good.

Sunset with Sten

Cheers! Sunset with Sten

Safely anchored and relaxing at last

Safely anchored and relaxing at last

Next leg will be the red route and an unknown anchorage far from any kind of civilization,

Next leg will be the red route and an unknown anchorage far from any kind of civilization.

They are heading for Zulunkhuni River Lodge which is described on their website as an eco-lodge. There are no roads to the lodge, access by boat only, approx 8 hours from Nkhata Bay.

60 kilometres north of Nkhata Bay, at the mouth of the Lizunkhuni river, a cool and picturesque waterfall tumbles into the alluring waters of Lake Malawi.  (Image credit:

60 kilometres north of Nkhata Bay, at the mouth of the Lizunkhuni river, a cool and picturesque waterfall tumbles into the alluring waters of Lake Malawi.
(Image credit:

Between Nkhata Bay and Chitimba is the least developed stretch of coastline on the Malawi lake shore. This area is populated by tiny fishing communities, often cut off from the rest of the country with access only by boat. This is due to the unique topography of steep forested escarpments and roaring waterfalls which make the area a road builder’s nightmare and an ecologist’s paradise.

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