Chizumulu had always been there, sometimes seemed close enough to be touched if you would just stretch your arms. From a distance, it had a curious shape: the southern part flat, the northern part hilly. But when we were walking towards the beach on Likoma to leave for Chizumulu, our world was defined by the beam of our torch. It was still pitch dark. We reached Ulisa beach, and to my surprise, found quite a few people waiting. There even was a dhow, on which two guys were preparing the boat - basically, getting rid of excess water. There was time for a refreshing dip in the lake before one of the guys decided it was time to leave. A surprisingly low number of passengers boarded the dhow, and we were on our way to Chizumulu. Almost immediately, the ropes of the sail were released and the make-shift but beautiful sail was raised. The wind caught the large sails, and we gained speed. The absence of any noise was a treat in itself - small waves lapping against the hull of the dhow, and low voices of the passengers, were all that could be heard. The sun had climbed behind the hills of Likoma, and I hoped that this ride would somehow take the whole day: it was so peaceful, so relaxing... But within an hour and a half, we were near Chizumulu, the sail was lowered, and we docked at Same beach.
Exploring Chizumulu really started after walking to the other side of the island, and dropping the luggage. After the clouds of lakeflies that had been drifting over Lake Malawi, a small cloud seemed to have hit Chizumulu: the only way to walk through it was by covering nose, mouth and eyes. There were rumours of a wedding party, and a dance festival, and it would prove easy enough to find both. Even at this early hour, a remarkable amount of men were already drinking small bags of alcohol. After seeing a group of kids rehearse in a small church, and walking a little more, the wedding party presented itself. Marching over an open field surrounded by baobabs, a group of girls in white dresses was dancing, ahead of a group of bigger girls in red, with a whole party behind them; at the very end, under a blue-and-white umbrella, the newly weds. After following this party for some time, one of the family indicated that there would be a lunch break. Time for a hike across the island.
A lovely black dog walked along, up the Chigoli hill, picking mangoes on the way to the eucalyptus trees on top of the hill. A fine view opened up below: the lower hillside, the baobab trees, the lower part of the island, and, of course, on all sides: Lake Malawi. The faithful dog continued to walk along until the other side of the island, where he disappeared in the lake, drank a lot of water, and joined for a swim in the enjoyable water of the lake. It seemed that there were no sober men left in the dusty streets of the main town of the island - there were more drunk men than before, and it was still only half way the afternoon. In a distance, the dance festival could be heard, and it turned out to be a sweaty and swinging show where Chizumulu women were demonstrating their best. This was the lower part of the island, strangely contrasting with the hilly part of the north. The sunlight was now very warm, and cast a great light on the island and its jolly inhabitants. Walking back to the other side of the island, to the luggage, and to the beach where the ferry to the mainland would leave later that night, with the sun setting over the lake, casting an orange glow over the old baobabs and the golden sand, I realized not only that I loved this island, but also that it was so surprisingly different from its bigger brother Likoma. That night, my dog-friend suddenly appeared from the dark to say good-bye, jumping against me, and running crazy circles around me. Chizumulu has left a soft spot inside of me and who knows, I might be back, if only to meet that lovely dog again.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Chizumulu Island (Malawi). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Chizumulu Island. Read more about this site.