After an incredible Saturday in paradise, I awoke Sunday morning to experience another beautiful day in the paradise that was Mayoka Village. As was the day before, I opted to enjoy the morning light from the security of my bed while Dylan, Jon, and Justeen continued to sleep. Eventually the need to indulge my coffee-loving-self became too strong and I was forced to get out of bed. This may or may not have been encouraged by the movement of my bunk mates who were also hearing the siren call of breakfast. We each showered, made ourselves as presentable as necessary, and sauntered over to another delicious breakfast overlooking Lake Malawi. This morning, however, we wouldn’t be entertained by the local group of monkeys who’d played around our cabin or who’d casually approached us as we ate the previous morning. I guess Sunday was their day off.
We spent the rest of the morning and early part of the afternoon enjoying the views. Dylan and Justeen kayaked to a nearby beach, Jon caught up on some work for his Leave For Change partner organization, and I sat on a rock watching the water while lost in thoughts and people watching. Two guys swam out to lounge in the sun with two girls who’d already made their way to a floating pier. Two other twenty-something women battled with balance as they paddle-boarded around the water. A slight twenty-something guy snorkled by several times, seemingly searching for something but having very little success at finding it, while his buddy sun bathed on a nearby rock. A couple of yanks sat near the water’s edge enjoying a cigarette. A family – mom, dad, and four young kids – canoed by, and every now and then one of the kids would fearlessly and expertly dive into the water before climbing back on board in a way that suggested they’d lived their life in and on the water. It was a moment meant for sitting around doing nothing but watching as each of these scenes played out around me. It was perfect.
By late afternoon, however, we packed our gear up and began the long trek back to Lilongwe. We made a short stop when we reached Mzuzu – for cash, for fuel, and for coffee – but were otherwise on our way south by 5pm. Dylan navigated the pot-holed and dilapidated road while we watched the countryside fly by. The sun was already low on the horizon, so I sat and marvelled as the sky changed from blue to pink and orange and brilliant red. African sunsets are like no other I’ve ever seen. The sun somehow seems much larger here, the shadows it casts much longer and more stately. The sky burns with colours that seem to reflect the burnt red earth that is the lifeblood of the animals and people who call this place home. We stopped along the road so we could get a better view as the sun descended beyond the horizon. It was beautiful and peaceful and perfect. Again, I was struck with an intense sense of gratitude that I could be in this place, at this time, with the band of incredible misfits I was with.
The rest of the journey home was marked with baboons grazing along the roadside, several police stops, and village after village still alive with vendors and people casually sauntering to or from home or church. As daylight surrendered to darkness, I settled back in my seat and closed my eyes.
We approached Lilongwe around 8:30pm or so. The roads were pitch black, and oncoming traffic – although few in numbers – blinded me consistently enough that I pretty much had no idea where we were. We barreled along, chatting, laughing and singing along to whatever tunes were playing, a great distraction from the anxiety that the combination of lack of vision and night driving tends to cause me. Dylan managed to somehow keep us on the road despite potholes and questionable shoulders, and a significant lack of light. I really have no idea how he saw anything. Cresting a hill just as we were about to enter Lilongwe, a herd of goats were suddenly directly in front of us, lit up by the car’s headlights. Dylan slammed on the brakes as the herd instinctively started running. Swerving as best he could, two goats seemed destined for an untimely and very painful death. In an instant they darted forward as Dylan continued pressing the brakes. They looked as if they were going to be swallowed by the hood of the car. How they managed to survive unscathed, I’ll never know. What I did know is that they were extremely lucky, and so were we. We drove on, laughing at what had just transpired, but also very thankful that we were able to laugh at it at all.
After dropping us off and saying our goodbyes, Dylan and Justeen were off. Jon and I chatted briefly, but it was very clear we were both looking forward to stretching out for the rest of the eve. The trip home had been long, but it was very full. I crawled into bed that night, tired, happy, grateful, and extremely content.
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