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“Special” Malawian Cake

Cape MacClear, Malawi –

We met these two British girls (who turned out to be medical students) at breakfast named Cathy and Karine. Wednesday night they’d organized a local to cook a barbecue on the beach and they invited us along. Went down with them to the beach Thursday night and had a good dinner of BBQ fish, rice & tomato sauce (what’s new). After getting thoroughly wrecked it was off to the bed. Thursday (November 12th) we woke up and met a group of people here at Mr. Stevens to go down to the beach, for we’d arranged a boat to take us over to one of the islands to go snorkeling for the day.

Here’s the cast – 1 Brit, 2 Aussies, 1 Kiwi and us. We met our captain who rowed us across the lake over to the island. We found our spot to sit, the everyone was off into the water to start some snorkeling. While we were swimming Queua (our captain) started the BBQ and began to cook the huge catfish he’d brought along for our lunch. We had an incredible fish lunch, after more swimming (and everyone else had made a very poor attempt to row the boat around) we all piled back into the boat for our return journey.

We arrived back in the early afternoon, just in time to meet our BBQ chef, Patrick, from the evening before. In addition to doing evening BBQ’s Patrick can cook some of the best local banana cake around. The locals make “special” banana cake for K5.00, and boy do they do the trick. If you eat too much special cake it just does your head in.

This would be the perfect time to explain to the reader what we’ve figured out about the Malawian people. Every male you meet almost always can offer two or more of the following services: the first one is usually “Take a boat?” [there’s a tie for numbers two and three], 2./3. – laundry, BBQing, 4. Making you a “special” banana cake, and 5. Is whether or not you need a cob. When you can show up in a country and hire virtually any local to do the cooking, cleaning, smoking and transportation, that’s a place you’ll want to spend some time.

Wednesday Rich and I walked down the beach towards “The Gap” [INSERT HAND DRAWN MAP HERE] but we got lost and ended up climbing over tons of hug boulders in our thongs. This local climbed with us showing us the way and when we finally reached the beach near The Gap we asked the local if he’d go back and get his boat to we could get a ride back to shore. We didn’t even know he had a boat, but we asked anyway and he went and found a boat. It’s yet another example of how everyone’s available for hire – and they can almost always do a few of the basic services.

Back to Patrick. Patrick had whipped up one of his banana cakes, so Rich and I went and got Cathy and Karine (the British meds) and promptly sat down and ate the cake as our hors d’overture before dinner.

I looked at a calendar today and realized our flight doesn’t leave until Wednesday, so we’ve got another day here. We’ve become markedly less active in the last few days.

Let’s finish the BBQ story first. After our pre-dinner snack we had a few beers, then headed to the beach. After a spectacular sunset of the most brilliant reds and oranges we laid back to look at the stars. Cape MacLear is so far removed from everything that you can see all the stars clearly. We sat there and looked at the stars but didn’t know any of the constellations because we were all from the Northern Hemisphere. We have as of yet to find anyone who can point out the Southern Cross to us. Because it’s so dark here you can see tons of shooting stars. The best one I saw was huge and it went streaming across the sky, leaving a brilliant white trail that looked like a 4th of July firework. Amazing. Patrick, the local we’ve contracted out to BBQ for us, served up the fish and rice and we had a relaxing meal.

Wasted any lying on the beach looking at the stars Karine started talking about chocolate, which eventually led to Hob Nobs. She and Cathy had been travelling for two months and absolutely wanted Hob Nobs. Karine was saying how nice they were and how nice it would be to have a Hob Nob or two. I made an exit to our room, and when I got back both the girls were laying on their backs and Rich and I sitting above them on the beach. Upon my return Rich asked me for something but my reply was “Not unless it’s made in England.” I then held out a half a package of Hob Nobs that I’d put in my backpack in London five weeks earlier and said, “These are made in England.”

Both Karine and Cathy looked at what I was holding, but because they were looking at me upside down they couldn’t see what it was. “What are those?” asked Karine. “Hob Nobs from England,” was my reply using my game show announcer voice. Upon hearing my response Karine quickly rolled over and after taking a second look at my hand she asked me with eyes the size of plates, “Can I touch them? Are they real?” They were truly amazed that we were sitting in one of the remotes places in the center of East Africa craving Hob Nobs and they suddenly appeared. Cathy reached out and touched the packet upon hearing Karine’s question as Karine couldn’t believe it. “This package of Hob Nobs left England five weeks ago and has since been to Egypt, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Malawi. Let’s enjoy them,” I explained. And on that note we munched on some chocolate covered oat cookies that had been through hell but tasted so nice.

We didn’t see Karine or Cathy the next day because they’d gone, but I’ve got their address and will give them a ring in England to recollect what we’ll call the Hob Nob story.

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