The last post!

Whenever a new idea came in the back of my mind, usually and even unintentionally, it starts simmering in my little brain and makes my moves towards it. That’s how I ended up in Malawi :). I know that ‘my journey and living in Malawi for an year’ is a self-indulgent move, yet becomes very interesting and hence we enjoyed the time throughout the year.

It was enjoyable not only at the working place, but outside the working place too.

The safaris are the best ones we enjoyed the most. Anjali is always fond of animals. When she was small, she used to collect all the small animal toys and she still has those toys in two boxes. We also bought some trees (toys) to make the animals being in the jungle :). I remembered a day when she was playing with toys of animals, she arrange the animals and the trees in between. She was 3 by that time. She spent quite a lot of time to keep the animals in place until she got satisfied with the arrangement. When she completed, she shouted “Huhhhh Africa”. I think she got the idea (through the cartoons) that we get lots of animals in Africa. Now, I’m happy that I took her with me to Malawi and visited all the national parks where animals live peacefully in their own habitats and we can visit them without disturbing their nature.

The trip to Zambia (and Zimbabwe) was also a very good one. But, now I don’t have enough space to upload anymore photos.

I updated the special photos in my facebook time to time.

I somehow managed to penned down most of the things that I wanted to update in this blog (after nearly 2 years) about Malawi (Many things are not written down here though, as it’s been too long). The posts made recently are not chronologically placed in the blog. But happy that I could update this at least by now.

 

 

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Mvuu Camp!

This is the first time, I drove more than 5:30 hrs on a stretch. The driving to Liwonde was a good experience. Could see very nice landscapes, the roadside small colonies/villages, the people, the markets etc. One cricket travelled with us from one small town to another (took a ride on our car and I was a bit worried that it will be all alone in the new town as it left it’s family behind).

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We parked the car at the Hippo View Lodge and joined the guided tour to Mvuu Camp. Chinguni mountain was seen from that lodge.

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The boat journey from Hippo View Lodge to Mvuu Camp was fantastic. We sailed through the Shire river which has it’s deepest point of 4 – 5 meter.

Hippos – Lots of hippos enjoying (with family or alone) in the water. They do not swim / dive. One group/family of Hippo is called pod or raft. They are territorial in water and spend the day in water and go out for grazing and sleeping at night. Although they spend most of their time in water, they can’t swim. But, they can cross the river by walking deep in the ground under water and then come up then again go deep. They can be under water for 5-7 min without breathing. Usually, if a hippo is found in the middle of the river, it is expected that the river is shallow in that area. They communicate by sound and can hear lot of noise by the time they are about to leave the water at dusk. When one female have a baby, it carry the baby on its back and go separate from the raft for 2-3 weeks to make the baby strong.

Big termite mounds also could be seen on the river journey.

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We got an interesting piece of information about a Sparrow weaver. The adult males got their plumage a bright and beautiful yellow colour during the breeding season to attract the females and otherwise in a dull colour. During the breeding season, males full time job is to make nests. The females inspect the nests and select the best one for their breeding :). So, each male is very busy making several nestsin the breeding season. They make very beautiful nests.

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White-browed sparrow weever – They are intelligent to make 2-3 nests together to confuse the predators. While breeding nests have only one entrance, roosting nests have two doors, entrance and exit.

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The Camp

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Waterbucks

They have a oval shape white line on their back.

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Zebras have very poor eyesight and therefore usually follow other antelopes like Impala or try to be with giraffes. Impalas can sense the predator quickly and start running. Then zebras can also escape from the predator. When they are with giraffes, giraffes can have the view of higher horizon and zebras can look for the lower horizon and both helps each other to escape from the predators. Each zebra has its own pattern of stripes (like our finger prints). Saw a pregnant zebra  and Zebra’s gestation 360-390 days. Usually giraffes, zebras and impalas stay closer in the bushes.

Impalas– Like to spend the night in open area. So, it makes them easy to spot the predators when they arrive. A bachelor herd consists only the males who are waiting to win a female herd. Usually, only one winner male found with 200 females during the mating period, which is April/May. During the mating period, the other males (who lost the battle) practice fighting to win their next turn for mating. The other seasons, we may see males, females and babies together. All females of impalas give birth at the same time within 2 weeks. And thus having always a huge herd. This helps them maintain the population as they are attacked by all kind of predators. Male Impala is guarding and securing the territory.

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Termite hill – 25 years

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Saw a nocternal cat fight with a mongoose. Couldn’t catch the fight in the camera though.

When they come out from water, they use the same particular narrow path every time and the guides named it as ‘HIPPO HIGHWAY’.

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The hippo highway begins from the river. Whe its getting dark, the hippos start their jouney to inside of the bushes via this highways :).

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Crocodile can go deep in water and breath inside gill for nearly half an hour. Crocodile usually eat fish, but may go for antilopes. They can eat hippo too when hippo is dead and drowned. The crocodile  take to the dead body of the hippo to the bank and let the skin become soft and then start eating from one point. Crocodiles fight and even eat each other. Crocodiles sometimes, waiting for the birds to fall down from the tree to eat them.

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Elephants – They eat for 18 hrs and sleep for 6 hrs intermittently.  Can lying down and got up easily. Can eat 300 kg/day. Male tusk is curved.

Elephants poor eye sight.

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The guided evening tour

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Birds watch

Coudn’t remember all the names. Spare-winged Geese eats grass seeds and pick up ticks from Kudus, a symbiosis relationship. Grey-headed parrots are beautiful.

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White-breasted cormorants – 28 continuous days for hatching. Both male and female switch turn on hatching period on eggs.

Turpid/tortoise – hatch by temp.high temp – more females (crocodiles opposite)

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Trupe of baboons – the female is in heat and that’s why the male is hanging around.

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Village visit

They have a lodge with the set up of a village home if anyone wants to stay and experience the village life. It contains a room, bathroom, toilet, and kitchen where a family 3 can stay.

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Usually, a house contains small rooms, kitchen, (sometime both rooms and kitchen are the same), if people are in a better position, they do have boys quarters which is occupied by the unmarried children of the house, goat house, toilet, bathroom and washing area.

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School, children, Dance and music

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Traditional healer – He gives a paste, called as ‘love portion’ to make people fall in love :). Beads in a chain is given to respectable business customers.

Inside the village

They makes big woven baskets for the maize storage for the non productive season.

Mvuu camp 3rd day

Mappane trees hold the 85 % of the bush. They have butterfly like leaves and containes high protein, so the animals like and eat a lot of that tree. The stem is used to make ropes.

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Baobob tree

It’s a tree found in most of the rural areas. Baobab tree hole is used a dentby warthogs,  but hyenas can compete for the dent.The parrots can make their home in the tree trunk. The animals eat the bark of the tree during the dry season to get water.

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Yellow fever tree – At old time, there was a belief that malaria comes because of this tree. The trees grows in svamp area and obviously a good place for mosquitos. And that may be the reason people get malaria.

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Just before we left, the guides got a message that a big herd of elephants are enjoying at the river bank. So, they asked us whether we want to visit the place before leaving. Of, course we said yes and they took us there in a hurry. There were nearly 40 elephants gathered at the river bank and then after sometime, the families splitted (to avoid competition on food). They washed the grass in water and ate. They drink 50 liters of water per day. One has short trunk (without fingers), might be a crocodile bite.

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Cactus

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Mancala

Our Pallanguli (பல்லாங்குழி) – mahagoni seeds are used (we used tamarind seed to play pallangkuli when we were children)

Squirrel

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Johannesburg with family!

The lion park

Springbok – jumping to attract females and gets water from grass, Blesbok, zebra, black wildebeast, sacred iris, Lions, wild dogs, cheetah, interact with lion cubs- cheetahs, mearcats, caracal, zebra, giraffe, ostrich, stripped hyenas, spotted hyenas.

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Pokypine village- social animal- 1 to 40 together – sharing the village

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Again visited Soweto The upraising museum Afrikaans, english, sotho, zulu

Football stadium– 2010 world cup- in the shape of Ukhumba – bowl used by rural area to drink african bear.

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At the Hotel

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Kruger-Balule Park, SA!

Visiting the animals in their nature is so exciting. We travelled by bus to Balule from Johannesburg and it took nearly 6 hours.

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We stayed at Balule-Game Park.

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It’s a Safari in the bushes. We took morning drives, evening drives in an open vehicle inside the game park. Spotting animals looks like a game – who spots the first animal, who spots more animals, who finds the foot prints etc. Kuga bought a binocular, but unfortunately, he missed one baggage in the flight. But there was no need for a binocular most of the time as we saw the animals very closely, just a couple of meters away. Our challenge was to see all the big fives of Africa, lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhinoceros. The drivers were with walkie talkies and they could contact the other vehicles around and find out if there are any interesting things happening. Most of the time, we were looking for animals though we could spot some birds. They said, may be, we need a couple of days for bird watching only? Throughout the safari drives, we could recall many animals/birds from ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Jungle book’ :).

Saw Impala, Stanbuk, Lions, antilopes (waterbuk), Yellow billed Hornbil (Zazu), Roller (with a beetle in her mouth), Stalien, Impala group, Walder beast (blue), Zebra, Jackal (brown & white), Giraffe, Elephant, White faced Owl on our first day evening game.

Our first day dinner was under the stars, shaded with a huge tree, in which kerosene lamps were hanging and candle lights show us the path.

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2nd day, it was only 3 of us taken on an open vehicle and it was so amazing. We started our morning drive, with cloudy sky and nice breezy weather at 5am. Bachelor herd of 4 impala, gini bird, white backed vultures sitting atop trees, looks like taking sunbath or warming up (Remembered the dialogue “what are we going to do today” from jungle book). They were waiting for the dead bodies or left overs. Then a grey igar antilope fell on our sight. Impalas again, as they are plenty in the bushes. It was a bachelor herd consists only the males who are waiting to win a female herd. Usually, only one winner male found with 200 females during the mating period, which is April/May. During the mating period, the other males practice fighting to win their turn for mating. The other periods, we may see males, females and babies together.

A Lion group/pride (1 male with 4 females) is lying down under the bushes, just a couple of meters away from us. (I have a nice video, but couldn’t upload it here 😦 ). The guide said that we don’t need to be scared as we are not in their eco system and unless we make lot of noise or try to provoke them, they won’t attack us (I was a little scared though). When it is too hot, lions use to lie down under the bushes for 20 hours and just move from one shade to another. They can stay without food for 3-4 days. Male’s lifespan is 14 and female’s lifespan is 18. Males have shorter lifespan as they are challenged by their younger ones. Their gestation period is 3 months.

Each zebra has it’s own pattern of stripes (like our finger prints). We saw water buck, wart hog (poomba), grey luri or cuwawe, water buck drinking water, european rola, a pregnant zebra. Gestation period of zebra is 360-390 days. African/cape buffaloes were in group. Red build ox, pega birds eating the ticks and the parasites on the skin of the ox which is symbiosis. Three wart hog running from us (missing timon 🙂 ).

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We got a small break for stretching out. The driver and his assistant served us cookies with tea/coffe/hot chocholate.

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People have private holiday house inside the game park.

Black back jackal, leopard tortoise, Kudu, grey tree frog, spoon beak, dip chick, egyptian gees, Elephants, White Rhinoceros that are grazers. These rhinoceros have poor eye sight, but have good smelling sense. They have bigger heads and lower to the ground. Laughing duff, black rhinos are dangerous as they are more aggressive in behavior. They are browsers with smaller head and up from the ground, nocternal african wild cat.

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There was a tree called, weeping watle tree which has very soft leaves and can be used as toilet paper.

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Grey tree frog lays the eggs on the tree leaves, and the pure white coccons are formed with little baby frogs. The babies inside the cocoons are dropped in the water when food is finishedin the coccon and developed as adults.

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3rd day, vi visited the Largest park in Africa, The Kruger Park – Baffalo,  Impala, Gnu (wildebeast), Lion, Kudu (the 2nd largest antilope), African buffaloes, warthog- walking on the knees on front legs to reach the ground for grazing, gnu (teritorial and has preorbital glands which is used for marking the path by dropping), waterbuck, baboon, hypopotomus.

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4th day, we could spot Black backed jackal, waterhog, bushdog.  Saw a young baobab tree, which can survive more than 1200 years. Impalas in a herd give birth at the same time (in 2 weeks) to produce lots of calves and to make the herd large. This strategy is to maintain their species for long, that is for survival as they are at the bottom of the food chain. Saw dwarf antilope and zebra too.

Saw a pokypine village, and pokypines are social animals. 1 to 40 individuals share a village. Wildebeasts are the dummest animal and they forget things very quickly. They run for everything and run fast too. We found the baboons sitting and eating the food from the hotel.

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On travel back, went through Blyde river canyon and got down from the bus and enjoyed the scenic view. This is the third biggest canyon in the world and have three rondavals, mountains, dams.

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One family and their home – Village!

I got the chance to visit a village and spent a day with a family. Yes, I visited one of my colleagues home one day.

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It was a very good experience get knowing the real Malawians and their culture/customs/traditions though it is only a small part of their day to day life.

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I could learn how do they greet/treat/respect each other, what’s their meal, how they cook, what they wear etc.

There are particular ways to greet elders and give and get something from them. When you want to give something to or get something from an elder person, you have to kneel down. Even a younger brother gives such respect to an elder brother though he is only a few years younger.

The Malawians say ‘sorry’ often though they do nothing wrong, but when others do some mistakes. It’s like a consolation.

Malawi proves that poor people are more generous than the rich ones. When a relative child becomes an orphan, they don’t even have a second thought for adapting the child who is in trouble. Though they are poor and cannot afford their own family expenditures, they are instantly ready to provide the love to the child who is in need.

I was surprised to see some similarities in our Tamil culture and Malawian culture when it comes to relationships. We used to treat our father’s brother’s (பெரியப்பா & சித்தப்பா) children and mother’s sister’s children (பெரியம்மா & சித்தி) as our brothers and sisters. At the same time, father’s sister’s (மாமி) children and mother’s brother’s (மாமா) children as our cousins. It’s exactly the same in Malawians relationships. Sometimes, we call our daughters ‘Amma’  (meaning mother). For example, இங்க வாங்கோ அம்மா. They do the same.

When you are in Malawi, if someone is telling you “You become fat” or “You are fat”, don’t feel offended. Because it is actually a complement and you are supposed to be happy :). Because being fat is considered as you are healthy.

My colleague’s home in Lilongwe, in a nearby village

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