New Year’s Road Trip – Harare to Lake Malawi

Sunset over Lake Malawi

‘Not every lake dreams to be an ocean…’

What to do on New Year’s Eve is that somewhat dreaded conundrum that we face each year after emerging from the indulgence and excess of Christmas day. Soon we realise, often too late, that perhaps we should have organised something for that special night weeks ago now as options can sometimes be limited as the airlines and hotels hike up prices. In my opinion planning can sometimes be at the sacrifice of spontaneity and last-minute ideas usually always tend to be the best!

As with every December it came to the 29th of the month and I still had no idea what I was going to do. Should I welcome 2016 in Harare for the first time or venture further afield. Several options initially came to mind such as Cape Town and Victoria Falls however costs and availability of accommodation proved prohibitive. Thumbing through my Lonely Planet guide was when Lake Malawi caught my eye. Accommodation was cheap; it was a reasonable 10-hour drive from Harare and the pictures looked amazing. So after cajoling a couple of friends we left the next day.

The Road Trip to Lake Malawi

The first leg of the road trip saw us beat the early morning Harare traffic and head through the Mashonaland East province, passing diverse scenery of farmlands, rocky outcrops and lush green forest before reaching the Mozambique border at Nyampanda. The journey north through central Mozambique was as equally picturesque and saw us pass by many traditional village dwellings consisting of round huts held together with mud and thatched roofs. Towering above the villages and bush were massive Baobab trees everywhere, gentle majestic giants, standing like sentries guarding their land. Crossing the border at Dezda we proceeded east along the Masasa-Golomoti road, a winding mountain pass that offers spectacular views of the Lake Malawi valley, towards our destination of Cape Maclear on the southern shore of Lake Malawi.

Lake Malawi

Arriving at our destination a couple of hours before sunset it is easy to see why Lake Malawi is sometimes described as the emerald jewel in Malawi’s crown. Golden beaches, dazzling water, studded with islands and forested hills that tumble-down to the turquoise lake make for an idyllic scene right out of a postcard. What a great spot to see out the old year and welcome in the new one. Lake Malawi is simply stunning and as the water laps the golden sand you could be forgiven for thinking you were looking out across an open sea. The lake is vast and often nicknamed the ‘calendar lake’ due to it measuring 365 miles top to bottom and 52 miles across at its widest point.

As 2015 came to a close I got the impression that it was just another day for the locals so I didn’t have that usual New Year feeling about me. Even though the New Year’s celebrations weren’t as flamboyant and colourful as some I’ve experienced, I had an amazing 3 days and I enjoyed the atmosphere of the place. Other highlights included snorkeling in the crystal blue waters surrounded by hundreds of cichlids (fish), my pathetic attempts at paddle boarding, watching the local kids dance like they don’t care and finally gazing across the lake as the slowly fading, crimson light from a setting sun danced and lingered across the lake’s surface like it also too didn’t want to leave just yet. Just like the Sun I will be back.

Happy New Year and all the best for 2016.

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