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Again to Malawi Lake, dread locks, gluten free

MALAWI | Friday, 14 October 2011 | Views [733]

I’ve taken off from Lilongwe (capital city) and have arrived in a bay called Nkata. It’s a quaint fishing community on the shores of Lake Malawi where people are smiley, artistic, laid back, and goofy. I’ve planted my foot in a backpackers hostel/volunteer center  called “Butterfly Space” where we have a large mix of travellers, volunteers, and locals are working to improve community standard of life while enriching artistic movements. I’ve been blessed to learn about how and why other travellers are on their adventure.


Butterfly space is very in-to permaculture and sustainable practices and therefore offers support to the community for new techniques like stoves and toilets that are more efficient. So when I brought to them this idea of teaching the “hot box” method for saving 75% of firewood, they were stoked. So tomorrow morning, I will be meeting with a group of around 30 women from the HIV/Aids and Widow group who will learn how to cook in a hole or a basket. We’re also going to enjoy a group lunch together afterwards. I am looking forward to the thrill I get from opening that pot of rice and showing them the cooked food which we only spent 5minutes preparing. YAY!


Within one week I’ve been able to meet 4 different groups of bike tourists. One is going Cape Town South Africa to Italy while another is an amazing couple doing 2 years on bike touring all of Africa and with a tent. They don’t travel light either, they’ve  included two accordions, a flute, a didgeridoo, a watercolour paint set and a whole supply of cooking gear. I am very inspired by their efforts to live on the land and share their talents in every setting they arrive upon.


At the centre, I find composting toilets set above a high rise where you can take a poo while watching the waves crash ‘pon the shores as canoeing fishermen send out their spears. They also have tiki like dorms mounted upon stilt frames where I share a room with world class characters from Germany and the UK. I’ve even picked up speaking in British terms like ‘wanker’ and ‘quite splendid’… I quite enjoy proper English!


The first few days were filled with back breaking work. Structure here are typically built with large rocks and boulders packed with cement and we were on a mission to break it down. They have decided to start the first ever Tonga radio station in the village paired with a recording studio that will be used by young singers and musicians in the area in hopes to get their music produced. So for 2 days we had a crew of 6 using sledge hammers and chisels and our bare hands to knock down walls and remove debris. My arms and legs have never been so soar but its nice to sweat out the heavy African food being served each day. We also have a sound engineer volunteering here who has already started classes with the community to teach them about sound and equipment use, this project is moving quickly and I will probably be here for the finalizing of the room and I am so happy.


The chef here is named happy and as I get to know more locals, I have found that most of the people here have similar names like Fortune and Precious. Most people live up to their given name and its quite unique. I have been going by the name Dzuwa named for the sun in Malawi’s Chichewa language. I even found out that I have the same name as the Malawian futbol coach, named Kinnah, they giggled at first and thought I had taken his name.


What I find unique and special about the community here, is that although people are moving about coming and going, everyone is so welcoming and kind. Within the first day or two, you find that all the staff know your name and greet you inquiring about your life and what you’re doing or how you are feeling. Each evening we sit at a long table and have conversations over tea while we’re waiting for our gourmet meals served in family style setting. I have mostly enjoyed the food here but have officially claimed my gluten intolerance. I still find myself eating it in small portions here maybe once a week, but I pay for it with a stuffed up nose about 15minutes after consumption but its difficult when youre not able to prepare you own meals. After dinner, most people head to the bar for a smoke or a sip of gin where the party often goes on til sunrise, which I quite like since I do 5am yoga and get to sit on the sandy shore as the partiers are just heading to bed. Its quite a jolly cycle of work then play that seems very efficient for the projects we have going here.


Yesterday I made some makeshift hula hoops and took them to the after school program which is a wooded area above butterfly space. It is equipped with a hanging footbridge, a rope ladder, a cemented stage for plays, and a whole room of books and games that have been donated over the last 4 years. Its overall a safe space for kids to play together before dusk. The kids saw me do 3 performances and then took their own chance. One 5year old boy created a unique style of his own as he twirled in a circle with a hoop on his hip rather than it twirling around him…it looked great though. Another young girl popped that hip with expertise and grace, she’s a complete natural. I am hoping to swing some more advanced moves into the lessons although a few of them have already got it down.


Last night, I was sitting the bar with the sound engineer who has gorgeous long thick hair, and he started to explain about wanting to dread his hair for the last few years. I shyly smiled after he said he was going to the local rasta shop on the path and was going to pay to have it made…then  he looked at me and said ‘unless you want to do it?’ Hell yes! I was soo excited so for the next 2.5 hours I played on his head and made about 18 dreads, the funny part of our time in the bar was that near the end there were 10 of us and 8 of us had dread locks. It was a dready party and I have found this area of Malawi to have more dready/rasta culture than anywhere else I have travelled. Usually I wouldn’t like that so much, but apparently Rasta’s in the community are considered the peace makers and their colours are peace colours so when I walk the path to town they shout peace lady and I quite like the appeal of this title.


Overall I have been swimming in the lake daily as the water is fresh and clean and although I have to wash my hair more often, I typically step out of the lake feeling sinless and pure. At night one can see eyes roaming on the darkened rocky shore…the rock Hyraxi that are like lake hamsters maybe equivalent to a nutria although a bit nicer and less mutated. The dogs here are also interesting, not quite like a pet but still engaged with their dedication to their owners. Nature is just quite breathtaking and so are humans, I am continuing to learn each day. More photos and videos soon to come….


Tags: africa, butterfly space, dorms, gluten free, malawi, permaculture, tonga

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