Nkhata Bay, Malawi
July 1, 2016
In the northern part of Malawi, hugging the shores of Lake Malawi is a small village called Nkhata Bay. Originally a small fishing village, it still retains in a large measure, a quaint rural charm. Despite the few cement buildings and aspirations toward a township, the pace of life is laid-back and slow-paced. A tarmac road runs through the village lined with small shops and homes. A square of bare dirt forms the marketplace with its row of vegetable sellers seated behind heaps of gleaming red tomatoes, piles of sweet potatoes and red onions, mounds of lentils, peanuts and rice. There are fish stalls selling dried fish and fresh ones. The vegetables come from the local farms and the fish from the lake. At the far end is a row of local restaurants serving up heaping mounds of nshima with fried fish and some greens. There is a store raucously advertising its collection of rap music.
The open square, home to minibuses and taxis transforms into an open market on some days. Spread out on plastic sheets are piles of clothes, shoes and sandals. Sent as donations from various charities, these find ready buyers as they rifle through the piles, haggle, and try them on for size. In another shop are flashlights, headlamps, safety pins, cables and chargers for phones – also the items out of an overseas donation box.
To the south for a stretch of a few kilometers the lakeshore is lined with rocks and boulders that climb down to the water. It is here that a number of lodges and camps have mushroomed inviting travelers and tourists to while away a few days. Mayuka Village is one such place. It sprawls down the slope with wood and reed chalets perched at various points down to the waves that lap at the shore. There are steps and pathways that run up and down following the contours of the hillside and the buildings made of stone and wood blend in perfectly into the surroundings. A few flat open patches are home to tents. Open-air stone and reed shelters serve as showers, the hot water provided by donkey boilers. A prettily decorated compost toilet adds a green touch to this gem of a place.
This is a water-lover’s paradise. Snorkelling gear is rented free each day and there are kayaks, canoes and surfboards for rent. Visitors come here to spend their days in and on the water. There are diving trips that can be arranged and guided trips offered as well to nearby bays. Tranquil and quiet, the village and the camps have an unhurried pace by day. Night brings with it the sound of music as it drifts from bars. Lively beats thrum across the water and lights from the village sparkle and dance on the waves.