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From Senga bay we headed to the capital, Llongwe. This was more of a transit point than anything else as we headed to Nkhata bay in the north, the last stop on the ‘tourist trail’ really and as we move northwards from here the backpacking numbers dwindle and dwindle. Nkhata bay proved to be a very intriguing place, not least because I ended up sitting outside a prison speaking to the convicts about how they ended up there!

Malawi landscape

Nkhata bay is effectively the last stop as you move north towards Tanzania so I ended up spending 3 nights here before the disgusting 2 day bus journey to Dar Es Salaam. It’s a very laidback place, with a couple of great hostels. I stayed in Big Blue for about $5 a night and with free wifi and big portions of food, I’d recommend it highly =)

I was walking around the town taking pictures carefree until I apparently took one too many and got confronted by a very scary AK47 wielding soldier who looked straight from Blood Diamond the movie! Turns out I was taking photos of Nkhata Bay prison and naturally that’s not exactly inline with acceptable behaviour! He was of course very nice about it after and didn’t even bear the huge machete he had shoved down the waist band of his trousers 😛

Over the next couple of days I ended up becoming quite friendly with a couple of the prisoners (who were allowed to conduct their daily work outside the front of the prison). They were very amiable indeed and were living testament to the new zero-tolerance attitude that the new Government is demonstrating. Snoop dog (below) threw one drunken punch and got 7 years in prison! :S Anyways, they were cool guys and after throwing a few bits and bobs their way they made a really cool copper ring for me with the Malawian sun carved into one side of it – it sits proudly on my backpack as we speak =)

Convicts in Malawi

The last day in Nkhata bay was spent with the local witch doctor! For $5 he showed us around his village, went through his various ‘potions’ (for want of a better word), showed us around the fields were he collects his remedies and generally enlightened us to the world of local doctors here. He was a cool guy and the stuff he showed us was mind-blowing although never have I been happier to be a recipient of Britain’s National Health Service!!

Just before I bid farewell to Malawi I had time for a quick trim in the local salun (sic). She was adamant that she had cut a white guys hair before but judging from the industrial paper cutting scissors and botch job she did on my golden locks, I remain unconvinced! Still for 35p what do you expect 😛

mazungu haircut

Tanzania here I come….

P.S The internet in Ethiopia (where i am at the moment) is terrible, hence the lack of uploaded pics! Sorry, ill update it when i can! But considering my next stop is Somalia, it might be a a week or 2!


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6 thoughts on “Backpacking in Malawi – Llongwe and Nkhata Bay

  1. Hey Johnny,

    I know you’re super busy man but is there any chance you could link my website somewhere in the Malawi pages?

    I’m tryna hook up some local tour operators in Africa by advertising ALL day tours on my day tour website.

    Many thanks and no trouble if this request falls at a bad time or in a bad way!


  2. I enjoyed reading about some of your trip to Malawi. I am a Malawian who is returning home, and need some advice about how to get from Zomba to Daa resale. I understand there is a ferry, but are there nay ways one can travel? Thank you

  3. Hi Johnny, I was wondering whether you could give me a bit of info? While you were in Nkhata, did you get an idea as to whether there was a ferry that ported in Nkhata bay from either Mozambique or South Tanzania? My girlfriend and I are crossing from the Mozambique side ideally to Nkhata in Malawi. We’re willing to travel further north to the Tanzania side if it means we get to cross Lake Malawi. If there are no commercially available ferries/boats, do you know how easy it is to hitch a lift off a cargo boat from Mozambique/Tanzania?
    Any info would be brilliant. Cheers buddy! Rob

    1. hey Rob, yeah mate pretty sure you can because i know the other way works. The Songea ferry sails from Mbamba Bay (Tanzania) to Nkhata Bay on Malawi’s northern lakeshore every Saturday. The journey takes around four hours and fares for 1st-/economy-class deck are US$11/6.50, check out the Songea ferry and you’ll be all set! Altho i heard some rumours that the return goes via mozambique (:S) so check that out, if so there are cargo boats from which go to Mbamba (TNZ) pretty regularly so if you have the visa you should be grand..

      1. Hi, I contacted Ilala ferries and that service is definitely no longer running (N. Mozambique – Malawi). I’ve looked for a schedule for Songea ferries from Mbamaba (TZN), but found nothing. Is there a website or a contact email for Songea ferries that you know of? Anyway, looks like we’re gonna have to wing it! Cheers for the info!

        1. i got nothing i’m afraid mate but there are boats running all the time, so i honestly think if you go to the port and pay some cash it’s doable. Good luck mate and keep me posted!

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