I hope this finds you doing well. I came across your site via CU Class Notes. I am CC 2010. I have been inspired by your story and website, and as a fellow lover of travel and medical student, would definitely be keen on learning more about your travels and how it all works out.
Also–I saw that you have not yet made it to the African continent (according to the place markers on the website’s map). [That is mainly where I travel, and my family is also from there. I would be more than glad to provide you with connections in the countries I have been to/enjoyed, should you make it that side.]
Thank you, and I am truly looking forward to hearing back from you.
All the best,
Nadi Nina Kaonga
— Nadi’s first ever e-mail to me, January 29th, 2013
After a quick overnight pitstop in Nairobi, Kenya, we took a Kenya Airways flight over Mt. Kilimanjaro (Africa’s tallest mountain) and landed at around noon in Lilongwe, Malawi.
Unlike the incredible efficiency of Nairobi’s quick visa-on-arrival process, we did not have such an experience here. Here, we were made to:
- Present our Yellow Fever Cards
- Stand in line for a visa on arrival application
- Stand in a 2nd line for paying for a visa on arrival ($50 USD for a transit visa, $75 USD for a single-entry standard visa); they do accept credit cards though!
- Stand in a 3rd line for getting the visa sticker stamped in your passport
- Stand in a 4th line for getting the visa stamped for entry
- Stand in a 5th line for customs (which they seemed to be pretty strict about)
Luckily for us, previous monsooner Nadi Kaonga from the August 2015 trip in Scandinavia happened to be in Malawi at the same time we were (a crazy turn of fate made this reunion happen!) and was already waiting for us at passport control. Thanks to 2 of her cousins being immigration officers, she was able to get us out the door by 2pm (It would have otherwise probably taken us 3-4 hours to get out of the airport without her and her cousin’s help!).
After leaving the airport, we were introduced to Nadi’s grandpa/agogo who was a freedom fighter in his heyday (and is kind of a big deal in this country!). He insisted on taking us in their hired van on a 2 hour drive eastwards from Lilongwe to Lake Malawi – the third largest lake in Africa and home to the most diverse species of fish in the world.
Along the drive, we were privileged to witness the normal unfiltered daily life on the road for the people of rural Malawi.
Once reaching the town of Salima, we transitioned from the strongholds of the Chewa tribes to that of the Yao tribe.
Although Malawi is mostly a Christian country, the people who live near the lake are predominantly Muslim, which harkens back to the days of the Arabs as they migrated into Africa; they used to plant palm trees along the lake to mark their routes into the continent (FYI, palm trees are otherwise not indigenous to Africa!).
Stopping by the Sunbird Resort for a quick drink, we walked along the beach and took in the quiet beauty of Lake Malawi
Around sunset, fishermen began to emerge as they returned home with their day’s spoils.
After an hour here, we then headed back to Lilongwe, where we stopped by at Nadi’s grandfather’s place for a home-cooked Malawi dinner.
We lingered here for a few hours, each of us taking turns for refreshingly hot bucket showers while also hearing Nadi’s grandfather tell stories of his days growing up here. In turn, we gratefully entreated his curious questions about what brought us here in the first place.
By 11:30pm, we all turned in for the night at nearby Mabuya Camp, saying goodbye to Nadi and her grandfather and thanking them for their warm hospitality.
You two have truly shown us why Malawi is known as the beating, warm heart of Africa and we cannot thank you enough for how far you went in making sure we would see both your beautiful lake and taking us into your home. Thank you for making us feel like family, as you are now part of ours.
– At time of posting in Lilongwe, Malawi, it was 60.8 °F – Humidity: 62% | Wind Speed: 6km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear