Sea to summit

The beautiful massif of Mt. Mulanje - photo credit: Leah Karels

The beautiful massif of Mt. Mulanje – photo credit: Leah Karels because my phone no es trabajando

Sometimes my blog posts aren’t entirely representative of the topic or theme I’m trying to write about, and at no time is this more apparent than when something contrives to keep me from properly documenting a vacation. In this case, it was rain, rain, more rain, and a faulty kayak. Jiminy Cricket, I didn’t know it was physically possible for it to rain that much. Me and water, we don’t get along so well. So this is my excuse for why I only have pictures from two separate hours of my 312-hour trip.

In lieu of copious notes and gigabytes of photos, none of which I now have because of inclement weather and technological difficulties, here, have a list instead:

23 – different buses and taxis that I squeezed my wet behind into

28 – times we started to try to speak to someone in Bemba, then got blank stares and asked if they spoke English instead

15 – times they did indeed speak English

16,000 – total elevation gained, lost, skidded, tripped, and fallen over the course of four days on Mt. Mulanje

Heading to our first night's camp after a three-hour climb up a slippery staircase

Heading to our first night’s camp after a three-hour climb up a slippery staircase

4 – different distances we received when asking fellow busgoers how far away the next town was

0 – number of fellow busgoers who were right

5 – times that my buddy Sam and I accidentally flipped our kayak

1 – Sea to Summit dry bag that ended up being not quite as dry as advertised

3 – phones lost to water damage

1 – kilograms of rice bought in a futile attempt to remove water from said phones

37 – photos taken of spectacular sunsets at Cape Maclear

I mean, come on, the fact that places can even look like this isn't fair

I mean, come on, the fact that places can even look like this isn’t fair

11 – samosas bought from street vendors

8 – times I asked street vendors selling memory cards, shoes, yogurt, sodas, and candy if they also sold meatballs

0 – actual meatballs bought from street vendors

113,000 – Malawian kwacha spent on what I can now only surmise must have been mostly street food

1 – place we had to wade through a river because the road that was supposed to be there…wasn’t

43 – people I now know it is possible to cram into the back of a small canter truck with the bedspace of a Toyota Tundra

9 – funny signs I saw and photographed intending to start a “funny signs in Africa” series

1 – picture I have remaining of funny signs

Just one of several amusing signs/names I spotted in Malawi

Just one of several amusing signs/names I spotted in Malawi


ZamTwitter, Month 20

Sorry for the delay in blog updates! By a combination of unfortunate weather and blatant user error (read: I’m dumb), my phone died an ignominious, watery death during my recent clash with Malawi’s relentless rainy season. Since then I’ve had to run around town purchasing a new phone, attempt to recreate various blog post drafts from memory, and gnash my teeth over the unexpected additional expense and inconvenience. But not to worry, Fishing in Zambia is now back in (belated) action.

Random news from my twentieth month of Peace Corps service, in 140 characters or less.


One of the unfortunate and very real consequences of rainy season in Malawi (photo credit: Leah Karels)

December 15 – Helped dig terraces along pond walls today for planting rice. Promoting integrated aquaculture, or just trying to keep busy between rains?

December 18 – Hobbes’ latest kittens are driving me crazy. I’m badgering Sebastian to come get them before I bike out to the bush and leave them there.

December 23 – Just bought produce from a passing boy and discovered that my usual suppliers have been profiting off my ignorance of current market prices.


This kalembula (sweet potato leaves, left back) only set me back 1 kwacha, or about 16 cents, six times less than what the girls next door usually charge me

December 25 – Today I learned that Christmas in rural Zambia is exactly like every other day, except with more requests for me to give people things.

December 28 – In Mansa to work on my Volunteer Report Form. What does a PCV eat when he can buy whatever he wants? Mostly pineapple juice and sausage.

December 30 – You know it’s been a rough two days of travel when your bus gets stuck in mud for two hours and that’s still not the worst part of the trip.


The worst part? Getting a nasty bout of diarrhea which forced me to exercise painful sphincter control for ten hours in order to not expel my bowels all over the back of a bus (photo credit: Leah Karels)

January 1 – Ringing in the new year in beautiful Tolkienesque southern Malawi. Only took 31.5 hours on transport in nine different vehicles to get here.

January 3 – Mt. Mulanje soars to nearly 10,000 feet above verdant tea plantations. This out-of-shape hiker gained 7,500 feet over the past three days.


The massif of Mulanje looming above its surroundings is rumored to have inspired the mountains of Mordor in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings (photo credit: Leah Karels)

January 7 – Traveling from windswept, desolate Mulanje to sunny, placid Lake Malawi at Cape Maclear in one day is an exercise in extreme contrasts.

January 10 – I went to Malawi and all I brought back was three drowned smartphones and this impressively patterned sunburn.


Look closely and you can see the extent of where my short arms could reach with the suntan lotion (photo credit: Leah Karels)