Monday, February 15, 2010

All Aboard....

Note - I will add images to this later when internet connection allows.

I awoke to the sound of raucous laughter and glasses clinking together, I turned my head a little to the right and witnessed the sight of around 20 local men crowded around a small wooden bar a mere 2 metres from where I lay. You may wonder why I had been asleep in such a place in the first place – I can assure you it was not on account of me passing out, or anything slightly alcohol related. I was on board the 'Ilala Ferry', and where I lay on a vinyl mattress, a few metres from a rowdy bar was somehow considered first class! I can also inform you that this first class luxury also set me back around $110 (aussie).

This ferry was sailing on Lake Malawi, and was transporting us from Monkey Bay, to Nkhata Bay – the trip was to také 2 nights. The ferry consisted of 4 classes - 3rd class, 2nd class, first class – deck class, and cabin class. As the ferry was much more expensive than we anticipated we opted for one first class – deck ticket, and one second class ticket with the intention to také shifts and swap between.

I spent around 3 hours total in second class... and that was more than enough for me. Second class was situated on the bottom deck, along with third class. It consisted of a room at one end of the ferry around 3 metres wide, and 8 metres long. The room is basically a sauna, with the iron walls keeping the heat and humidity tightly sealed in. As I lay on the vinyl benches provided I was reminded of the chairs we used to have at school where your skin would stick to the vinyl in summer, and you would basically have to peel yourself off it.

We discover not long into the trip that security is slack, and we can both be on the deck class without causing too much hassle. I also contribute this to the fact that we act every meal in the first class resturaunt that only had 2 other legitimate customers.

The first night we sleep soundly on our vinyl mattress, rented for 3 aussie dollars. The second, not so well on account of being 2 metres from a bar. This is also because at the beginning of the trip there was probably around 40 people on the entire ferry, and by the 2nd night there were hundreds. I couldnt sleep the second night, so wandered around the ferry and witnessed some entertaining sights... the bargaining power of the ferry security (a security guard allowed her on first class for a certain payment, which didn't involve money or goods), and hundreds of locals crammed into second and third class... imagine a throng of bodies, in underwear sleeping, snoring, sweating (I said a silent thank-you that I had gotten out of sleeping down here).

Our ferry arrived at Nkhata Bay at 3:30am, we awoke and continued to sleep until 5:00am before packing up and disembarking. The ferry was to head north after here, but we found out this wouldn't be happening due to a fuel shortage... it runs on diesel, and there is a huge fuel shortage here... and it costs around $2.50 a litre.The ferry was also delayed 5 hours in Monkey Bay before we departed as we were waiting for a fuel tanker to provide us with diesel.

In all the ferry was a great experience (apart from being expensive, badly run, and pretty run-down)... the days were filled with card games, sleeping, eating, reading, and gazing upon Lake Malawi (Although I tried hard I didn't spot any hippos or crocs!) Nkhata Bay is our home for the moment... we have a few days of relaxing before doing some scuba diving here in the Lake (I'm hoping it's alot calmer than the ocean!). Also, an exciting suprise yesterday – we met up with Leonie who we had been travelling with previously, so it has been fun swapping stories and catchng up again. From here, we head north to Tanzania with Lucas and Bart (A couple of guys we are travelling with), and prepare for the mighty Killimanjaro.

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