Today we headed out to Majete National Reserve with the Scutt family for a day out. It was already swelteringly hot, although England we understand was even hotter. What’s that all about?!
Before our ‘day proper’ started we had an hour of intercessory worship, and then went to the school to send off a YWAMmer, Sam, who has been teaching Standard 1 (like the American grades, but 6 year olds, entry level) and also doing sport discipleship. Having completed the teacher training that Chris has been running, he is moving to another school to teach full-time, and also getting married before Christmas. We took the opportunity to prayer-walk round the school, a big crowd of DTS and staff team. Although it is still the holidays, there were actually two classes of the oldest year in, brushing up on the basics and preparing for term!
In primary, some students wear uniform and some don’t. Those who can afford to go to secondary all wear uniform (see the film ‘Harnessing the Wind’ for more on this). There has been talk of providing secondary education on the state too, but that seems little more than an electioneering promise.
As we walked up the Base to get in Chris’ car, Daniel gently informed us that a friend of his had been killed by an elephant at Majete – he had been out of his vehicle at the time.
It was a long, scenic drive to Majete, with approximately eight police checks (we are now at Chileka airport waiting for the first leg and fully expecting these in the UK now!). We drove around a mountain at one point with stunning vistas. Around Majete, which is lower and hotter than Blantyre, there was lots of flooding a few months ago, and on the rough track leading up to the Park, we could see white temporary houses, provided by a relief agency, where the flood had wiped out dwellings. Portions of road had also had to be mended.
Once inside the Park, we sat down to a pre-ordered lunch of chicken and rice, enlivened by mango char (not sure how that’s spelled). There was a very inviting pool and we had a swim too – Colin managed to push Caleb in, much to his delight, and then produced a surprising turn of speed ‘for an old man’ as Caleb chased him furiously round the pool!
We took a swing round the Park in the car, and saw impala, warthogs, kudu, crocs gliding down the river with the current and a hippo sunbathing on the rocks.
Chris had booked Colin and myself on what turned out to be a three hour game drive, with a very well-informed guide who told us about plants, birds as well as the big five. The idea was to stop for a sundowner before it went dark, but as Colin said the closest he got to refreshment was a glimpse of the Milky Way. In retrospect, it was a good drive. I should say at this point that before we came out, I mislaid my wallet with cash and bankcard in, and was dependent on Colin’s dollars all day. As we were driving round looking out, this started weighing on me!
But we saw some great birds, the oldest baobab in the Park at 1600 years, and had a narrow escape with a matriarch elephant. We had watched a lone bull elephant for some time
And then we spotted a baby and some others in the brush off the road just by the river. Then we heard a trumpeting, and the driver said: ‘I know this group’, put his foot down and shot off up the sandy path at tremendous speed – we were being chased by the matriarch for some distance. Colin lost two of his fillings. We learnt the group had been transferred from Liwonde National Park, and had experienced poachers there before they put a high fence round. So they always chased off any vehicles, especially when baby elephants were around.
Briefly, other highlights of the day included two buffaloes, in the dark, a nightjar, hippos in the river, and looking at the Scorpio and the Southern Cross in the pitch black. For Colin, what sprang to his mind, after the bumpy safari truck and the jolty drive back (Chris’ driving stamina has to be noted here) was chips and ginger beer picked up from Kips, Blantyre’s answer to a Dinky Doo Diner. I leave you with the baobab tree!