Departing Monkey Bay on the Ilala
On Saturday we finally boarded the Ilala. Although I had booked weeks earlier I had still not purchased my ticket from the ticket office. As Amelia and I had booked to go Cabin Class we were high status travelers. Others discussed what class they would travel and David (the Scottish guy who had been sceptical of my crocodile tales) confirmed that they would be “slumming it in 1st class”.
A first class ticket was approximately half the price of a Cabin Class ticket. We booked a cabin because we have two small children. First class passengers sleep on the top deck. If they time in right they can lie there with a great view of the southern sky. Second (and third?) class passengers sleep below with the cargo. At the ticket office I regret missing a great photo of about fifteen or twenty baboons jumping from a nearby tree onto the office roof. It would have been the ultimate ‘Monkey Bay’ photograph.
We saw the historic Chauncy Maples ‘parked’ next to the Ilala and soon we were off. Amelia and I were carrying an UNBELIEVABLE amount of luggage. Truly this was the Lampoon Taylor Family Holidays. I had figured however that people would help us carry out stuff at the critical moments. However the blankets that we brought were life savers for some of our fellow passengers – we brought them for our planned camping at Mango Drift. For a beach trip I usually would want to pack at least two boats in my suitcases plus all the camping gear I could think of.
First we passed along the western side of the great Cape Maclear peninsula. We were only a few days short of one hundred and fifty years from the day David Livingstone first saw and named Cape Maclear.
Soon we could see the gap between the mainland and Domwe Island where the second ever group of westerners ever to set sight on Cape Maclear sailed a few years later (they were a government expedition sent to investigate the, as it turned out, false stories of David Livingstone’s death). Locals now say that a lone leopard lives on Domwe. Soon we could see ‘White Rock’ which is reputed to have underwater caves with one of the top ten fresh-water dives in the world. Next is ‘Elephant Island’ otherwise known as Mumbo Island. The first Scottish missionaries to settle at Cape Maclear (the third lot of Europeans therefore) found an elephant on this island. It seemed incredible as the island is so far from the mainland so the elephant would have had to swim.
Then the Ilala heads out into open water and over to the first stop which is Chipoka. Chipoka is, I think, one of only three proper ports for the Ilala, the others being Monkey Bay and Nkhata Bay. The other stops make use of life-boats and small local boats to ferry the cargo and the passengers.
Before reaching Nkhotakota it was sunset. The evening stop at Nkhotakota would be followed by the night crossing to the far side and to Mozambique.