We commenced this leg of our journey after departing from the enchanting Lower Zambezi National Park, which had captured our hearts.
We arrived late at Heuglins Lodge in Lilongwe, around 8 p.m., after navigating a treacherous dirt road out of the Lower Zambezi National Park with no signage and no cell phone reception for the initial four hours of our journey.
Along this dusty trail, we took a moment to inspect lion tracks and had an impromptu tracking lesson from Dean. We had only just missed them.
The joy of reaching a tar road after hours on the unforgiving dirt was palpable. Our next destination was the Mzimba border, a long drive that found us spending two additional hours dealing with border procedures.
Darkness had fallen by the time we reached home. Knackered and irritable, we headed straight to bed, after a quick dinner.
Our first set of lessons took us to Bunda, a 45-minute drive from Lilongwe. Along the way, we picked up Sellah, one of LiC's regional managers in Malawi, on the road to Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), where the rest of the team awaited.
From there, we journeyed to the first of two schools Sellah had selected for us. At the initial school, we taught 50 children aged 8 to 14 in both English and Chichewa, utilizing engaging games to make the lessons more enjoyable for the younger kids.
Our adventure continued at the second school, where Sellah conducted all the lessons in Chichewa.
The day concluded with heartfelt goodbyes to the children and the team, followed by preparations for our drive to Liwonde the next day.
Our journey to Liwonde was long but uneventful, apart from the last 10 km when Dean decided to break the speed limit. After a quick stop negotiating with Traffic Police, we set off again for the last stretch.
At Mvuu, we were welcomed by Danny, our older brother. We celebrated our return to Liwonde - a place Emma and I have called home for the past 20-odd years - with a sunset cruise on the Shire River.
That evening, we decided it was time to put Dean to work, so after dinner we all climbed into a game viewer and went out on a night drive to observe the pride of lions that were roaring close by.
Thanks to Dean’s incredible tracking skills (and the fact we knew exactly where they were) we found them. After watching them for an hour or so we figured that they weren't going to move anytime soon and decided it was time for bed.
We awoke early the next day to drive to the park's southern main gate, where we met the LiC Zomba team and 20 kids from Zomba Primary School.
The LiC team had been teaching this group of children for several weeks, and the moment had arrived for them to experience the principles they had learned firsthand on a game drive.
Using the African Parks education center, the children were given breakfast and a presentation on Liwonde National Park to prepare them for what they might see.
During the game drive, the children's faces lit up as they spotted warthogs, impalas, elephants, kudus, and more. However, the highlight was the discovery of a pride of eight lions resting beneath a tree. Almost all of the children had never seen lions before..
After dropping the children off at the gate, we provided the Zomba team with new teaching materials and a laptop, a gesture that was met with immense gratitude from the Team.
Back at Mvuu, we had just enough time for a nap before heading out for sundowners. An evening braai followed, and we watched the Springboks play Ireland in the Rugby World Cup on a projector at Danny's tent. Throughout the game, we were serenaded by the sound of lions roaring nearby.
The next day, we left for Cape Maclear at 11 am but were forced to turn back briefly after realizing we had left some items in our tent. Along the way, we picked up Mwayi and made it to Thumbi View just in time to watch the sunset over the lake.
The next morning we headed to Cape Maclear Primary at 8:30 am.We met with the teachers and discussed how to go about the lessons.
Due to the quantity of kids, we decided to teach the lessons outside under the shade of a huge Albizia tree. We split the children into two groups of around 200. It was here where we surpassed our target of teaching 1,000 children, a remarkable achievement and the first of our three goals completed. Submitting Kili and meeting all of the LiC team being the other two.
The next morning, we departed early for Nkotakota National Park to embark on another game drive with 20 children. The highlight of this drive was seeing a small family of elephants, a rare occurrence that left the kids very excited. After a successful drive, we returned to the main entrance to drop the kids back at school.
After a long day we checked into KK Executive Lodge with the LiC team, we were joined by Kathryn, who had previously taught with us in South Africa. She was stepping in for Rhino, who had to drop out due to his back pain.
Our next stop was Nyika National Park. We made a quick visit to Shoprite in Mzuzu to pick up lunch. We continued towards the park gate, watching the surroundings change as we approached the Plateau.
Upon reaching the camp, Dean went straight out on a walk with White, one of the camp guides, and found 11 new species for his life list, while I went straight to reception to grab a rod and go fishing at the dam. We regrouped for an early dinner and games around the fire.
The next day, we walked over to Chelinda Primary School at 8:30 am to teach our final set of lessons in Malawi.
This time, we taught a group of around 40 children aged 5 to 14. The lessons were a success, with the children enthusiastically participating in games and engaging with the content.
To express their gratitude, the children put on a military-style performance and recited poems at the end of the lessons.
After finishing the lessons around noon, we had a relaxing afternoon to prepare for the long drive to Mbeya the following morning. Our day concluded with a game drive to Chosi Viewpoint to watch the sunset.
With the early morning light, we set off on a drive to reach our next destination. We quickly passed the 10,000 km mark only five minutes into our drive, a huge milestone which we celebrated by playing the song “Osiyeza” at full volume.
Our journey then led us off the plateau and northward toward Tanzania, traversing one of the most scenic roads in Malawi. The route offered stunning views of the northern lakeshore, and we even took a moment to stop for a quick swim before reaching Karonga.
Finally, we arrived at the Kasumulu border post in good time, hopeful we would not be held-up for too long.
After an hour or so we were no longer hopeful. Dean had disappeared with a gentleman named Gift who was helping speed things up, leaving us behind to speculate on how long this would take. Fortunately, at the 2 hour mark Dean returned and we were through.
The last 2 hours of the journey was dirt. A stunning road through winding hills of green.
We made it to Mbeya as the sun was setting. By now it was common practice for us only to arrive around this hour. We pushed a few kms past Mbeya to get to Utengule Coffee Lodge.
The Lodge was beautiful and the accommodation was homely. We had finally arrived in Tanzania and the reality of climbing Kili was only just setting in.