Janet very kindly offered to give us a lift to the ferry which meant that we had an extra day enjoying their hospitality.. however even with 24hrs extra to pack I was still rushing around 5 minutes before we were due to leave and walked straight into their glass patio door and smashed it – janet handled the situation with limitless grace... and we headed off in the Landrover after a final cup of tea on their beautiful balcony watching the Sunbirds and Lilac Breaseted Rollers.
The ride to the ferry port was without incident until a rather bewildered goat wandered into the road and then when she saw us panicked and ran straight into our path – the little goat was no match for the new Landrover and came off significantly worse (ie dead!)
Catching the ferry was rather a civilised affair – especially as we had been told to be at the port at 12 noon and the ferry didn't leave until 4pm!
We decided to go 1st class – which meant that we got to sit on the top deck with a beautiful view of sunset.
2nd class looked a lot less comfortable with people, goats, chickens, veg and huge sacks and boxes of very smelly dried fish stacked in every available corner..
We pitched the tent on deck and awoke in the morning to a blustery force 6-7 and unable to see land in any direction but with an amazing view of the most beautiful sunrise. We were very glad to have spent the extra few kwatcha as the guys in second class were getting soaked by the waves!
Rob had a quick go at steering in the gale!
After 24hrs we sighted the beautiful pair of islands - Likoma and Chizimulu.. surrounded by small fishing boats, sandy beaches and dotted with baobabs and mango trees.
Disembarking was a lot less civilised than boarding – there was a huge scrum for the shaky ladder down to the little boats that would ferry us to shore... manoeuvring the bikes down into the dinghies proved relatively easy for the locals - used to handling 50kg sacks of maize.
Cycling across the island to the backpackers we came across Jo who we had met 4 weeks ago in Livingstone. He was looking panicked and asking directions to the hospital. We pointed him in vaguely the right direction and asked if he needed the assistance of a Dr – the answer was an emphatic “YES!” His girlfriend had just been plucked from the stormy waters after their canoe had sunk – she couldn't swim and had very nearly drowned – he said she had breathed in a lot of water and was hypothermic.
Arriving at the hospital we found her – cold and shaken up but well.. some med students had had a listen to her chest and hedged their bets saying they'd heard 'a few crackles' however I found her chest was clear so was able to reassure her... although I didn't actually have to do anything of note they found me reassuring – especially as I was the only Dr on the island (with a population of 8000 and a 50 bed hospital with fully equipped pharmacy and operating theatre!).
We got chatting to the 'clinical assistant – Aubery who invited us back the following day to help him figure out what to do with a box of drugs that had been donated from Germany.
The following day was Sunday so we went to the beautiful brick cathedral – which we found crammed full with African worshippers. I found it very moving to hear such beautiful singing and enthusiasm from the congregation after all the sacrifices that had been made by the Scottish missionaries over 100yrs ago – when 1 in 4 of the young men and women who came from 'that green and pleasant land' died of malaria and dysentery.
After church we went to see Aubery who had prepared lunch for us.. Rob went through the box of German drugs – a completely random selection of opened packets. I threw away about 2/3rds as they were out of date or utterly useless in a rural African context.
Aubery gave us a conducted tour of the hospital which seemed well equipped and clean but obviously lacking a Dr. Highlighting Malawi's lack of health professionals. South Africa has 70drs per 100,000 where Malawi has 1 per 100,000! However the Clinical Officers did seem to be doing quite a good job after having just 2 yrs training since leaving high school, however one of them may soon be going to Med school on the mainland funded by a local charity.
We are forced to stay here for a full week as the ferry only visits once/week.
What a hardship!
We have been reading, swimming in the crystal clear freshwater lake full of colourful fish.
Exercise has consisted of occasional volley ball and trips into the village to buy bread and tomatoes.
The locals go fishing at night with powerful lights and come ashore in the mornings with hoards of little fish which get dried in the sun and sent to the mainland.
The nets drying on the beach make colourful patterns
Walking around the island you encounter innumerable friendly children, we are frequently asked 'will you be my friend?'
Baobabs provide some valuable shade
We've buddied up with some other guys at the backpackers, a crazy, hyperactive canadian - Tye and a thoughtful American - Narada, to share the cooking – saving us quite a bit of money and resulting in very sociable evening meals.
Knees and bums are now fully recovered and we are looking forward to getting back onto the bikes. The next section will be very hilly with our next port of call being the town of Livingstonia – built in memory of the famous missionary and explorer who was the first European to set eyes on many of the wonderful sights we are experiencing.