October 3, 2013: A Tropical Paradise in One of the World’s Poorest Countries

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A long stretch of powder-fine white sad bookended by mountains and lapped by dazzling water, Cape Maclear deserves all the hypes thrown at it. The bay glitters a royal blue, studded by nearby islands and puttering, crayon-colored fishing boats. On shore in between resorts, women wash clothes, dry fish and nautical types spread out fishing nets to dry. The streets in the back of the beachfront resorts ring with gospel and reggae music. It’s impossible not to be lulled by the place.

Not only is Cape Maclear a tropical paradise, it was also a running paradise for me. Dirt roads all over the place with all kinds of entertainment along the way to keep my mind occupied and not thinking about how sore my legs still were from our descent of Mt. Mulanje. For an hour I ran with children joining me along the way on and off, adults waving at me, and going around goats, chickens, and dogs in the back streets of Cape Maclear.

I cooled down from my run by walking the back streets of the village where locals hang out. At some point a young man named Isaac join me while on way to his job at the Lake Malawi National Park, one of the few freshwater aquatic parks in Africa and designated a Unesco World Heritage Site. When I told me I was originally from Canada he was excited to share with me that he had been involved for a few years now in an economic development project sponsored by a Canadian university. When I asked which one, I was stunned when he said Bishop University – a small private university located about 10 miles from where I grew up in Quebec and where I spent multiple summers perfecting my forehand and backhand on the campus’ tennis courts … what a small world this is.

I joined the rest of the group for a beachfront breakfast that included a totally amazing Malawian lemongrass tea and then we all got ready for our day-long expedition on the lake. I have to say that the water was so incredibly inviting, especially that it was a very hot day, but I resisted the temptation to jump in. I actually almost killed myself getting in and out of the boat trying to avoid putting my feet in the water. With Boysun and Terry serving multiple roles as our guides, cooks and captains, we explored very picturesque coves along the shorelines of nearby islands, the guys snorkeled and jumped off small cliffs, we got an up-close look at the lake’s eagles by feeding them fish (not sure what king of eagles they are but they sure were impressive … they actually look like the American bald eagles) and we enjoyed a delicious lunch on a beautiful rock formation on an island looking back at the white sand beach of Cape Maclear. We lounged in the sun for about an hour while Boysun and Terry labored over a small fire, preparing us a feast that consisted of Nshima, freshly caught fish and two vegetable dishes. We returned to our lodge late afternoon, in time to do some last minute shopping. While going into some of the less touristy shops in the back streets a very charming young man started following us and commented how he liked my Adidas shorts. I told I would give him the shorts if he followed me back to the lodge, which he of course did enthusiastically. I figured he needed them a lot more than I did. I saw him later on the beach at sunset proudly showing off his new gear to his friends.

That night we watched the most incredible sunset while having drinks (I had a few diet cokes sticking to my commitment to not drink while in Africa) and a late dinner at the next door resort where Nicholas, Anne and Jason had set up their tent. This was another perfect day in Malawi …

Description of a Few Photos:

1 and 2) Backstreet of Cape Maclear behind the resorts
3) Breakfast at our resort
4) Leaving for day-long boat expedition
5, 6, and 7) Life on the lakeshore
8, 9, and 10) Wildlife during our boat tour
11 and 12) Our guides, Boysun and Terry
13 and 14) Preparing and amazing meal
15, 16, 17, and 18) Having a great time on the lake!
19) Gave away my Adidas shorts
20, 21 and 22) One of most amazing sunsets ever

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