Brian was in town yesterday evening so we met up at Doogles, a famous backpacker haunt in Blantyre. I had long heard about this place but never actually been.
Brian is the manager at the Nyala Lodge in Lengwe National Park. Nyala Lodge is probably the best place to stay in the Lower Shire and although busy he was up in Blantyre to meet family off the long distance bus.I headed to Doogles early to check out the information boards before he arrived. It turns out that they have a good map of Mulanje Mountain. I listened to travelers discuss their walking plans and mispronounce the names of some peaks. In a different mood I would have joined in the conversation to give them some advice – I just was not in that happy, friendly, independent traveler mood and instead concentrated on a game of snake on my mobile phone.
Doogles has a pool, a bar, a lounge, what looks like a garden and of course some notice-boards of interest to travelers. I did not bother requesting a look at the rooms. I took address and direction notes on a disabled people’s ‘factory’ on the outskirts of Limbe. I am interested to see what standard and level of crafts are produced – and how they are produced. What Malawi can export is something I am trying to pick up on.
When Brian arrived he caught me drinking from a bottle of water so I remedied the situation by buying him a drink. I don’t think he particularly enjoyed the public transport journey up from the Shire Valley.
One of the reasons for us meeting up was that Ruth left her ‘Princess’ bag at Nyala Lodge in Lengwe National Park. Her great fear was that monkeys or baboons would steal her bag but I assured her that Brian would keep it safe in his house. Brian said we should transfer this bag before I left. Fearing that we would forget I said that I did not mind sitting with a Princess bag next to me for all to see.
Brian says that the tourist industry in Malawi is doing very well this year – a big change. They have been fully booked and Jambo Africa, who own the lodge but also do bookings throughout the country, are seeing a big increase this year. Brian said that this looks as though it will continue throughout the year.
We speculated on the reasons for this and wondered whether the fatal drugs taken by western governments to ‘stimulate’ – or produce a final death kick to the world economy was resulting in false optimism. Also mentioned were Icelandic volcanic clouds and perhaps the thought that flying south would avoid flight disruption – possible. I suggested that tourism to Japan was probably down and would cause a ripple out to other areas. Perhaps there is a ‘lets try the southern hemisphere’ mood this year. If that is true then it sounds sensible to me.
I asked Brian if there were any general themes coming over in conversation with visitors at his lodge. He said that everyone who comes says that they would like to move to Malawi – but of course don’t, they head back.
I told him about my conversation with Darren at Bushman’s Baobabs next to Liwonde National Park. In the context of a mention of the weather Darren had asked “How is it been in Britain recently?”
I told Brian that I was 60% sure that this was a sarcastic question and 40% sure that he was asking about British weather (another form of sarcasm I suppose). Darren’s supplementary question removed all doubt “Why do people still live there?”
My answer – 1/ family ties and 2/ inertia. After some further thought I decided that ‘fear of the unknown’ was another factor that slowed down mass emigration from Britain.
Brian and I agreed that family ties is a powerful factor. I mentioned that I had seen in my own wider family a lot of movement based on where other members of the family have moved to. The way people should look at the pull of family ties is to take the lead – make the move and encourage close relatives to follow. When it comes to the pull of family ties one should aim to do the pulling…in the right direction.
Our discussions were interrupted by a text message. ‘Check the moon dude’ Brian was told and he headed over to the pool and stared up. After he came back I mentioned that I had noticed a great white full moon earlier on my way to Doogles and so I went out to have another look.
I was surprised to see what was either a disruption of cosmic proportions….or a lunar eclipse.
This morning Ruth was happy to see her long lost Princess bag.