Chitimba camp

25 Jan

Overlanders are a strange breed, and Chitimba Camp was packed with them. They come in groups of 10 to 20 in tall trucks. They zip through Africa’s hotspots on a strict itinerary. They have no idea where they are or where they’re going.  They’re isolated and scared to leave the camp, only viewing towns and villages through high windows as though on a safari.

In my book, out of the 100 overlanders that filled Chitimba Camp there were 2 exceptions. Axelle the French literature Phd, sous chef and all round bombshell was on the level and Valerio the Italian photography enthusiast was on another level completely.

During the couple of days I spent bobbing around in this bubble camp one of Axelle’s friends turned 28. Drinking games were the aim of the evening, so at lunchtime I cycled around Chitimba town asking where the local booze is bought (the shops were bare bar Carlsberg), and became friends with Tiger, who runs a decent restaurant next to Chitimba bridge. Tiger hopped on the back of my bike and directed me through the town and into a small fenced garden where 3 men were getting bladdered on sugar cane spirit and another man was stumbling around the place, unable to focus his dark yellow eyes.

The brewer came out from his thatched bungalow and provided Tiger and I with a tasting session. We tried some banana wine, which tasted like a bad batch of home brew beer – yeasty. Then some maize beer, which is congealed cloudy yellow yoghurty sour puke. Then some local gin (sugar cane spirit), which appropriately came out of a jerry can usually used for storing diesel.

I bought a bottle of ‘gin’ (120KW / 50p) and a carton of maize beer (100KW) and we played dread-filled drinking games in the evening for the birthday party.

The next day, while the crew kept on overlandin’ south, I cycled the 10km 2hr15min climb up the hairpin road to Lukwe’s, Livingstonia. There are mushrooms up here that glow yellowy green in the dark, and some that on contact with a falling raindrop, fire their spores around in a mini explosion. Every tiny lifeform is in a breeding frenzy in this warm, muggy and rain rich time of year. While waiting for dinner Auke, the owner of Lukwe’s, told me some infection-based horror stories on the balcony overlooking the unreal panorama of the Nyika plateau and Lake Malawi.

A quick note on the food at Lukwe’s: it’s f***ing amazing. Homegrown coffee plus homemade bread and ginger and lemon tea. Water drawn from the spring in the garden, massive portions of full english breakfast with beef sausages, fresh eggs and tomato, hashbrowns, honey, bacon and butter. Did I mention dinner – the SALAD, a massive bowl of fresh, grown-just-over-there salad with citrusy dressing, served with a bowl of chips and lastly the giant, german hung T-bone steak. Without doubt the best steak you can buy in Malawi. It’s massive. It’s good. It was a bit emotional.

So that I could afford to buy more food and drinks, I camped in the storm. The tent got covered in spattered mud, water pools formed around my head, I got soaked when I had to go for a wazz. I spent an hour drying my stuff before packing it. Then I had breakfast and it was all completely worth it.


One Response to “Chitimba camp”

  1. The girl who turned 28 January 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm #


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