Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Malawi national parks and game reserves: Sizes

There are five national parks and four wildlife reserves in Malawi, each differs in size and location.

The National Parks are:

Nyika National Park
Area: 3,134 km2

Kasungu National Park
Area: 2,316 km2

Lake Malawi National Park
Area: 94 km2

Liwonde National Park
Area: 538 km2

Lengwe National Park
Area: 887 km2

The Wildlife / Game Reserves are:

Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve 
Area: 920 km2

Nkhota-kota Wildlife Reserve 
Area: 1,800 km2

Majete Wildlife Reserve
Area: 691 km2

Mwabvi Wildlife Reserve
Area: 135 km.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

How to make bricks: A Malawi brick-making masterclass

Bricks in Malawi are hand-made from the clay soil that makes up much of the composition of the land throughout the country. I've been away for a while, you know how the Christmas and New Year goes, anyway, here is the latest blog post on how to make bricks in Malawi.

Preparation for making bricks in Malawi:

Most people in Malawi who can afford it, build using bricks. These are made manually, using wooden moulds. Generally, one would buy a small piece of land with an anthill and bring in a pile of sand to get the right consistency. The old anthill would need to be dug up, water brought and the earth from the anthill mixed with sand and water. People mix the brick-mix by repeatedly treading in it barefoot - rather like how one imagines grapes for wine used to be crushed in the old days.

Sun-drying bricks in Malawi:

Normally the process of making bricks, once the anthill/clay mixture is at the right consistency, involves several people in a sort of production line.

A brick-shaped mould is lined with sand, to prevent the mixture sticking to the sides and bottom. A lump of the mixture is slapped into the mould and any excess is scraped of the top using a flat piece of wood. The full mould is banged on the ground a couple of times to remove any potential cracks. The brick is turned out on a flat piece of ground and subsequent ones are placed in rows alongside and behind it. If there is no shade, the bricks are covered lightly with cut grass to stop them from cracking as they dry in the sun.

Firing brick in the kiln:

Kiln-baked bricks are much more durable than sun-baked ones.

Once the bricks are sun-dried, they are collected into a pile and the process of building a kiln can begin. The number of 'legs' a kiln has depends on how many bricks need to be fired, and therefore how many spaces are needed for the wood fires.

Bricks are stacked to build legs, which are gradually widened so that once they are around 1 metre tall, they meet each other and form a single sturcture with spaces underneath, for the fires. The entire structure is then covered in mud creating an oven effect that encloses all the bricks. Slowburning wood is then brought and fires are lit under the arches.

Once the fires have burnt out and the bricks have cooled down, they are ready for use. Alternatively, they can be stored in the kiln structure until needed. Once the bricks have been fired, they are much more robust, and can withstand a fair degree of weathering.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Travellers Tales: Transport in Malawi

A post on travelling in Malawi from a recent visitor.

Many people in Malawi don’t have access to their own transport and there is no public transport as such. This means that some people will walk for miles and miles in order to get to the nearest town, school or even hospital.

However, if you stand on the side of the road (and you have a good idea of where you need to go), you can hop onto the back of a pick-up or jump in a minibus for a very minimal price with a whole host of other travellers. Often you will find (particularly as a white tourist or a ‘mzungu’) that you will be able to haggle the price down to a similar price that the locals pay. Normally, when you manage to do this well, the driver or person you are haggling with will laugh and say “ah, you have been in Africa before.”

The journey into town or wherever you are going is an experience you will not get in many other places and you will find that you are in very close proximity with a lot of other people and their belongings – bags of fish, rice, sugar cane and sometimes live chickens. The journey is often very bumpy and very noticeably, the driver will cut out the engine when going down a hill before bump starting it to get up the other side, in order to save petrol.

For me, I can see no other way to travel in Malawi, it is cheap, the people are very friendly, you can familiarise yourself with the normal way the locals travel and you are also able to experience the chatter (a mixture of the many and varied Malawian languages) around you.

Kindly written for All About Malawi Blog by Will Andrews

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Earthquakes in Malawi: December 2009

A quick overview of the fragmented press coverage on the earthquakes in Karonga District in Malawi in December 2009.

A series of earthquakes and tremors hit Karonga District, in the Northern region of Malawi between Sunday 6th and Tuesday 8th December 2009.

The Facts:

Magnitude of Earthquake: 5.9 on Richter Scale
Depth: 10km
Region: Northern Region - Karonga District
Population: 1.2million
Alert Status: Orange (medium humanitarian impact) (Source)
Injuries: 6 (hospitalisation)
Deaths: 1 child (building collapsed)

On the ground reports:

Sources on the ground in Malawi reported that tremors were felt as far south as Mzuzu (110 miles south of the epicentre of the tremors). One text I received from travellers stated 'I thought my bed was being shaken by someone, but I realised that the floor was moving, all that and torrential rain and thunder! Scary!'

Comments from people in Karonga have focussed on the confusion and fear they are feeling, with many opting to sleep outside their houses, in case they collapse.

The District Commissioner stated that he had set up a task force to assess the damage and respond to what could be an impending crisis if the aftershocks continue.

Why did it happen?

Part of Malawi sit in the Great Rift Valley, a deep valley that has grown due to the movements of tectonic plates that cover the earth, creating our mountain ranges. Other tectonic areas are places like indonesia, Los Angeles and the himalayas.

Numerous sources from the BBC to Reuters have reported on the story, this post pieces them all together.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Customs, Etiquette and Manners in Malawi

This post will cover a few basic rules of culture, manners and etiquette in Malawi.

As a foreigner, you will be observed by most Malawians, especially in the more rural areas as rather strange, with lots of money and some odd habits. There are of course customs and etiquette that should be observed, not least to surprise those Malawians you come into contact with.

Here are some general musings and comments:

  • When you shake hands with someone important e.g. ministers, chiefs, school committees, older members of the community/village, bend your knees slightly to show deference, and as you shake put your free hand beneath the other arm, as if you’re propping it up.
  • Expect to pray before everything: meals, journeys, meetings etc.
  • Before a meal, the host or hostess will give you a bowl and a jug, to wash your hands in. As most people eat with their hands it is important that you ensure your hands are clean before eating.
  • If you are having a meeting, expect to sit in silence for a long time. When the chair is speaking, there will be many formalities including welcoming you, thanking everyone for coming and asking after various different parts of the attendees families. You will be expected to speak and say how pleased you are to be there and thanking the hosts for their hospitality.
  • Don’t expect anyone to be on time. Malawians operate under GMT (General Malawi Time!) so make sure you are not just waiting around, and have something to do. It's not unheard of to arrange to meet someone at 8am and they turn up the next day!
  • If you visit a school, you will not have to lift a finger. The children automatically do everything for you in the same way as a host in their house. Don't try to stop them they will get offended.
  • Try not to give anyone money who begs for it. If they do something for you or take you somewhere then give them a little bit as they have earned it.
  • Don’t walk through a village or school openly eating as you will be mobbed by children asking for your food. It is also seen as rude if you openly eat while others aren't and you will be often asked to join people eating, to share with them.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Natural Phenomenon: Lake fly plumes on Lake Malawi

One of the most amazing phenomenon in the natural world happens on Lake Malawi.

Imagine thousands and thousands of flies, all hatching at once in the middle of a huge, open expanse of freshwater...rising up from the lake in huge plumes, like smoke in the distance.

If you can't imagine what that would look like, here are a few pictures to show you this amazing natural sight:

The plumes attract birds and fish, who glut themselves on the insects as they are blown across the lake towards the shores.

Each plume is made up of millions of flies, and as you can see in the image on the right the lake fly make dense clouds that can be seen far on the horizon.

When the lake fly make landfall, this is the scene close to the shore as they swarm around trees and buildings.

Children go crazy over these lake fly and gather large handfulls of the insects to make into cakes, which they fry and eat!

An amazing event in nature and one which I would thoroughly recommend you see.