Ben Winston

Not your average travel blog

Ravin’ Bees and a lot of Gin

The storms have begun and thankfully, we weren’t caught out, floating around on some hefty hollowed-out tree trunks near Mozambique (as we had planned). Plenty has however, been blown off in Nkata Bay. Many flimsy roofs (most of them thatched or corrugated aluminium), boats have been battered and businesses are now busy cleaning and sweeping out debris after violent winds stirred the rains in the Nkata Bay cauldron. It isn’t uncommon at the start of the rains.


Returning to the town for what should be a recharge and a couple of days of meeting, greeting, eating, drinking, and some proper hobnobbing is more frustratingly, a blustery, hectic shock. Some might argue that that is always the case in Nkata Bay, even without the storms.


Following the usual storms around November/December, Nkata Bay is now more frenzied than normal. As an international port; goods and people come and go from across the lake and the hive of activity when the Ilala visits is intense. The harbour now resembles a rave in a beehive with the neighbouring ants nest as guests. The town throws out music on ever street corner, people bustle around, hurrying from one place to another, shouting to each other in the four or five “localised” languages which are used here, plus English and the occasional other European twang. The smells and colours that fill the air are a (wonderfully abrasive) invasion of the senses. The stench that always saddles up inside the nostrils – about as welcome as a vegan at a barbecue in Texas – is the soaking reek of the cassava root before it’s dried. Even though it’ is required to wash away toxins, there isn’t a pleasant way to describe it. The smell makes the throat convulse and I’m afraid to burp. I can only imagine the aroma similar to cat vomit after it has been forgotten about behind the sofa for a fortnight. It vents pure acridity. It’s just all a bit much. We find a quite corner and numerous gin and tonics to deal with it all.


As usual, plans change. Bjorn and I are heading back to Ruarwe. I’m banking on some peace and quiet to study the multiple projects that we seem to have conjured up and after Nkata Bay, Zulunkhuni River Lodge is the best place for us to find some solace.
Sadly though, following the storm and after sheltering much of the night in Aqua Africa (diving school’s) kitchen as the rains came down sideways, we’ve missed the boat. It had absolutely nothing to do with the many gins or the tonics! Honestly…
Yesterday, our belongings were at the time, conveniently and safely locked away but now we can’t gain access. We’re in limbo while we wait for the key. It looks like we have another three days in “Tortuga” until we can try again on the Ilala. Just enough time to talk to the wood carving guys to start making my new chess set!

On a positive note, the rains are a refreshing change. After the long months of super-heat and the recent slap of humidity; there’s a cooling respite to the hectic steam room. It’s the first day I have worn anything more than a t-shirt and another reason why there is more activity everywhere (because it’s cool, not because people feel safer to come out now that I have more clothes on).

A few days later I wake up in Ruarwe and the rains have disappeared. It’s hotter than molten cheese on the inside of a toastie and the sauna-sweats are a 24/7 constant. It isn’t unusual to find me in the lake in the middle of the night. Obviously you can’t see if there are crocs around….but it would be extremely odd if they were here. It’s just too steamy to ly in bed and the only thing you can do is stride out into the lake to cool off one’s white bits. Turns out full moons are pretty common at the moment…


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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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