Ben Winston

Not your average travel blog

Just missing that haunting, panpipe-style, ding ding…

Lake Malawi
I’m normally a morning person, and here in Cape MacClear waking up isn’t too much of a problem. The natural sounds of the village children (not a Village People spin off band) resonate around the lakeshore and invade the ears like touring musical mice whistling into megaphones on a carnival float. Come 7am there’s normally a distant sound of a generator somewhere due to the sporadicly located but regular power cuts all over the country. Morning “Sweepers” are aurally hypnotic; Local ladies use just the end of witches brooms to brush around the dust and debris, similar to the annoying sound of those carved wooden frogs with the bumpy backs that you have to drag a stick over to make them croak. Back and forth, shushing around outside the door, like dragging bones over a cheese grater…this dawn break cleaning might be the most environmentally friendly way of making your village so aesthetically pleasant, but it is hypnotically irritating.

A daily noisy truck turns up unannounced and roars into the cape. Rocking crates and clunking missiles around on its flatbed (not actual missiles, just things that could cause some damage if they were to fly off). The only blessings on a scorching morning in Cape Maclear seem to be the calming sounds of the lake itself, gently lapping at the coarse sand. It’s a strain to drown out the youthful exuberance of hectic society at 6am, but the melodic slapping of the “metronomed” water is about the only semi-successful attempt. Song birds try, but after little sleep, they are part of the racket.


This morning is particularly hectic, as last night was quite stormy. The winds wrapped themselves around some of the more delicate trees and there’s a sprinkling everywhere of leafy debris and sticks to clear up. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the lakeshore chalets or the hassle of downtown (try and imagine a dusty, worn away track, shouldered tightly by small, single story, crumbling brick shacks, with the occasional plastic roof amongst the thatched for shade), everyone seems to be on clean up duty while the noisy kids sing and drum their way to school. It’s the sound of Africa, or Malawi, at least.

Travellers like me struggle to sleep occasionally: for us unacclimatised tourists the temperature rises above comfort level prior to 7am. The storm kicked out the power and therefore the possibility of a fan to cool anything down. With my 6’3″ frame tightly mosquito-netted into a foetal position on a single backpackers bed, the possibility of sleep was whisked away just as much as I hoped malaria was….otherwise, I may have as well have lay with a harpooning harlet actually called Malaria and jostled around on the bed with her like a tasty whale. I’ve never stayed in a backpackers retreat which isn’t as loud as a supermarket on a weekend; we’re just missing some of that haunting, panpipe-style, ding ding music that you hear around the aisles. However, I seem to be moaning! Aside from the accommodation being relatively basic compared to any hostel or hotel back home, I’m totally relaxed. The tourists (the sun-glazed zombies dozing around the place) are also not unwelcome. I’m just having my memory jogged that Africa is NOT a peaceful place in the morning – even in the bush. Unlike the bush though, in Cape Maclear, you don’t have to go very far for coffee!


Some of the storms here do get quite gnarly. Recently, one beached a catamaran while splitting one of the hulls in half, dragging the anchor across the shoreline, up the beach and splicing a few things in its path. Last night’s mango storm (weaker storms that appear at the beginning of the mango season) wasn’t quite so harmful, but it was noisy and unsettling enough to move me from my beach hammock, back indoors.

When there’s no fan working, it’s like sleeping in the hot box from a scene in The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Outside, especially with a breeze from the lake, the heat is much more bearable at night. The power cut (and no air conditioning) alongside a busy society that rises loudly at dawn, means that the noisy mornings are currently a difficult way to kickstart a Malawian adventure. The cool waters of the lake, the serene noises of the shore, a few birds to sing a headache away along with some decent aspirin and I’m sure I’ll be man enough to deal with this adventure soon… Did someone say there was some bush here to disappear into? I think it’s a few days away…



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Where am I now?

After extensive work and tours through Southern Africa, most of my time is spent between Malawi and Europe.
Go Untamed Safaris was striding into top gear, but volatile poitics in 2019, Covid in 2020, the impacts of Russia vs the World as well as insesent corruption forced my hand.
The dust is now settling. Everything has changed. New chapters are about to be written.

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