Buddies in Malawi
By Katherine Jones, Mixed Core 2016
Week 2 in Malawi! Moving on from our week spent at Cool Runnings in Senga Bay, we headed to a different part of the lake, Cape MacClear. The memories of the rewarding work we did at the local school, and Sam (Cool Runnings)’s kindness and generosity stuck with us as we began to look forward to the next of our adventures in Malawi – scuba diving! Arriving at Fat Monkey’s Lodge, we were immediately whisked off through the village to meet our PADI diving instructors for the next few days, Rob and Don. Most of us were on the course to gain our Open Water diving qualification, whilst the more experienced in the group were taking the Advanced course.
Our first day entailed the beginnings of the theory we needed to learn. This continued throughout the week, alongside practicing diving skills in shallow water with our ‘buddies’, an essential aspect to scuba diving. Finally, we were able to make it out to the open waters of Lake Malawi, and had the amazing opportunity to experience dive sites such as Usipa Rocks, the Aquarium, and the Rock Gardens, to name a few. The Open Water divers did a total of 4 dives, the deepest point reaching 18m. The Advanced course dived 5 times, at one time getting to dive to a wreck at 30m! As scuba diving was a first for the majority of us, being underwater for the first time at such a depth, and swimming amongst rainbows of fish including catfish and cichlids, the course was a memorable experience for everyone.
We could easily count the multiple walks made from our campsite at Fat Monkey’s to go diving as part of our PT for the week; those of us that missed lifts in the bakkie that is! PT returned during our week in Cape Maclear, along with the reminder that the triathlon was less than two weeks away. Lake Malawi was the obvious substitute for the pool at Falcon college, and alongside runs through the village, we began to form the mindset that yes, this triathlon is actually going to happen! Our walks through the village also gradually turned into an extended shopping trip; through the village there were shops every few meters with items ranging from local material to musical instruments shaped like frogs! By the end of the week, we were all pros at the art of bartering, thanks our strong will to be cheap due to our budgets! Nevertheless, by Friday we were all near broke after purchases of shirts, bags, and bracelets, despite Bella’s best efforts at getting something “for free?”.
Contributing to our empty pockets were our adventures exploring Malawian nightlife, some more than others! As an intake, we celebrated our successes in passing the scuba diving course with Rob and Don, who helped make the overall diving experience so memorable. Our last night in Malawi was marked by dinner and drinks at Gecko’s, an evening which even the prospect of the 4am departure time the next morning couldn’t dampen! And so our trip to Malawi came full cycle, ending the way it began with a 3 day journey back to Quest in the overlander. With a full two weeks of adventures behind us, we are all eager to get started on our projects this week (and maybe slightly less eager for the looming triathlon on Saturday!)