Tag Archives: Lukwe Lodge

An Adventure Away From Our Home

By Emily Parker (Bishop’s)

The breathtaking view

The breathtaking view

At 5:00 am we were all on the bus heading for Livingstonia; our first “exterior learning opportunity”. I was really looking forward to it. That being said, I was also worried about all the work we still had to do, especially me because I am leaving a bit more than a week earlier than everybody else (so is Rita). Thankfully, the ideas for our units are being expressed and formulated rather well, however it is mostly the editing that is time consuming. Nonetheless, I think with a little more discipline we all as a group can step it up a notch in order to get more done each work day. This would not only allow for the editing, but also the final touches to be done in a stress free manner.

Now back to the “exterior learning opportunity”: We had an interesting day on the bus. It was not long before we got a flat tire, but later on we had the chance to have delicious lattes, cappuccinos and even macchiatos for some, eat too many chips, listen to music and sing along of course, stop in a local village to use their toilets and finally the last part of the drive was a very “sketchy” drive all the way up to the top of Livingstonia where we were staying at Lukwe Lodge. Even so, this was all worth it the second we saw one of the most absolutely breathtaking views I have ever seen. Words cannot describe the feelings or emotions that were passing through me while I gazed out into all the landscape had to offer. The view was filled with different heights of mountains, vegetation, villages a far and best of all, a view of Lake Malawi. Every part of me tried to take it all in at once, but I think it took the entire time we were there and until the very last moment before we left, and still I think I may have missed something.

It was not long after arriving there that everyone was dropping off their belongings in their gorgeous huts or Shayla and I, in our cute little tent. Then shortly after, it was time for relaxing and conversing over a nice cold beverage. The conversations were happy, but mostly grateful for our little escape. When supper time came, the gratitude filled the air 100 times more! The food was absolutely scrumptious and we had salad, without even getting sick! Need I say we were in heaven? This wonderful evening continued with much laughter and new nicknames for everyone… So much fun! I will not mention what time, but later on it was bedtime and Shayla and I cuddled to stay warm on that cold jungle mountain night!

Our little escape to Livingstonia has just been one of the countless opportunities I have had here that constantly remind me to simply appreciate more every minute of every day, no matter where I am or what I am doing. This is easy to say, but I challenge myself to keep the sense of appreciation alive within me even once I am back home, cooped up in my normal everyday life.

Bathroom Thoughts and Then Some

By Aaron Thornell (St. FX)

Site of outer body experience

Site of outer body experience

I had planned to write this blog post about the most majestic and serene defecation I have possibly ever had. It took place at Lukwe Lodge, beautiful accommodations located partially up Mount Livingstonia. Dusk had fallen as I sat, pants around my ankles, my second or third beer of the evening close at hand. A gas lamp completed the scene, as it provided just enough light to illuminate the tree canopy above me. I could not recall the last time I was at such peace letting loose my bowels…sorry.

The serenity of that moment remained with me for the remainder of our visit, and was capped off by a long but gratifying walk down the mountain from the lodge. It was not until, at the very bottom of the mountain, after becoming caught behind a small herd of cattle that I remembered where I was. As we walked to a shady resting spot, sights and smells of small rotting fish and a hanging pig carcass quickly brought me back to ground-level, real Malawi.

On the drive home, I was lucky to sit at the front of the bus, providing me with a view of the road and all it contained. Malawians of all ages attempting to flag down our bus for a ride, and looking disgruntled when we did not even slow down. Men struggling as they attempted to control their bicycles, laden with what appeared to be an impossibly balanced seventy pound stack of wood. Narrow misses with overcrowded mini buses. I felt a strong sense of gratitude for all that was provided for me during my life. I recalled the seldom occasions when I felt as though I was working hard, although only lasting short periods of time. This was followed by an almost overwhelming sense of guilt – something which quickly transformed into near rage as I felt powerless to do anything about it, and as I sensed that some within our group did not observe the same things or feel the same way.

While that evening was undoubtedly my most emotional one since I have arrived in Malawi, I hope it was a stride in the right direction, as I to direct myself towards a personal understanding of the realities or hurdles faced by those who chose to work in the field of community or international development. I was reminded of the reading of an article for class this past academic year. While I still disagree with many of the things stated by the author, his main point – essentially that the conscious of one working within the margins of society is wrought with self-doubt – has become much clearer to me.

Our trip, while incredible, seemed to have softened some of the group members’ resolve (or at least my own). Upon our return to Makupo, we were welcomed like some sort of heroic troupe by many of the village’s children, although surely not many, be they Malawian, Canadian, or Irish, realized how strange the scene was. In plain fact, we had just spent a large sum of money on this trip, money which could have been put towards any number of things. To say the money was wasted would be false, but personally I continue to have some trouble with the reality of the complication it brings in this place.

Where will they go next?

By Amy Simpson

View from Lukwe

View from Lukwe

Early Friday morning, June 14th to be exact, we hit the road to go to Lukwe lodge, an eco-friendly site on the top of a mountain near Livingstonia. As we drove along we passed massive areas of clear-cut forests. Looking out the window, in some areas you could literally count the number of trees still standing in the landscape on your hands and toes, but the number of half burnt stumps in the distance were countless. Seeing the amount of clear-cut wasn’t necessarily shocking because I am well aware that the same occurs back home, but it still was somewhat depressing. The only difference between here and back home is that back home in many places the clear-cutters leave a line of trees alongside the road to try and hide it from us. Instead, along the road side in Malawi, what I saw were people sitting beside the logs and cut timbre that was for sale.

Seeing them beside what looked to be the last few trees for sale got me thinking about what they would do once they have sold it all. What would be their next source of income? Some areas were replanted with pine trees, which grow relatively quickly, I imagine, but what will they do while they wait for it to happen? I am assuming that they will have to move elsewhere. The wood shack kind of structures that were built around them did not seem like permanent establishments either. So where will they move? To another forested area where they will do the same and have to move again in time or will they try and find a completely new source of income?

Sitting in the bus for hours provides one with lots and lots of time to think about many things, so my mind then wandered to questioning how they divide up the forested land. How do they know whose tree is whose? Do they invest and buy sectors of the land or do they find wooded areas and have a free for all situation occur? My assumption is that they most likely have some sort of organization but then again I could be wrong. Just to clarify this is not to pass judgement on how they are going about in the forestry industry here, I don’t think it would be just to do so because I do not know enough about it nor do I fully understand their living situation.

A few hours later to get up to the top of the mountain which was lovely and still forested. We drove up the scariest road I have ever been on. The road was narrow, steep and bumpy. It seemed more like a cleared rock path than an actual road and on the side of it was a steep cliff which at times, was only inches away from the wheels of the bus. Luckily we had a talented driver. Anyhow, we made it up safely to Lukwe. The environment was such a contrast to the clear-cut landscape we were driving through only hours before. The owner designed the site trying to be as eco-friendly and self-sustainable as possible. For example; by eating fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables straight from the gardens, running on solar power and using natural building materials for the structures. The view from the cliff-side balcony was breathtaking. The next day, we hiked up to nearby waterfalls and up even higher to Livingstonia. On Sunday it was back to Makupo, which is beginning to feel like a home away from home.

A Perpetual Shadow in History

By Elise Brown-Dussault

The view from the mountain

The view from the mountain

I imagine that the way an outsider would have observed our trek to Livingstonia—sweat dripping from our temples, hiking boots skidding on loose pebbles, dry coughs triggered by the heavy dust—hardly differed from how Livingstone and his comrades appeared when they were first led up the mountain by Malawians in the 19th century. Although the times and circumstances have changed, the essential has remained the same: that Westerners, in an attempt to understand and adapt, relied heavily on the locals to try and develop what they felt was a dire situation. I’ll wager that the Malawians who helped him establish his mountaintop city were amused, just like those who accompanied us on our hike; a slight smile splayed on their lips as they skipped nimbly up the path, while our eyes bulged in fear of the incredible altitude. There is no doubt in my mind that David Livingstone and his company would have perished without the local help they received—and yet their names are forgotten on Livingstonia’s relics and monuments. It seems terribly unfair, especially since the Malawians were the ones to carry the materials up the mountain to build the city in the first place, that they are denied of any credit.

This particular historical sequence is in no way unique. Most cases of colonialism include the thankless work of natives which had previously occupied the land, such as the case in most American colonies. But after the difficulties we encountered ascending to Livingstonia, the injustice seemed particularly prominent. I can’t even begin to understand how grueling it must have been to climb the steep 20 kilometers when even walking down left us winded.

Throughout our journey, we have almost always been treated as treasured guests—as friends. It makes me feel slightly uneasy to think that even after the azungus have freely altered the environmental, political and educational context of Malawi (with minimal consideration of those affected) that we are greeted as benefactors. Nevertheless, I do keep in mind that I’ve come here with only my best intentions and that it’s improper to continually expect contempt from our hosts. Instead, I focus on being merciful for this friendly reception. With each passing day and after every unfortunate incident (most of them including Old Breaky, our bus) I am floored with the kindness and concern we are granted.

A monument to Livingstone's men

A monument to Livingstone’s men

Livingstone, despite his shortcomings, was also full of benevolent intent. According to our guide, he chose to build his city atop the mountain because he’d observed a significantly lower malaria rate amongst those who lived there. His decision, although impractical, wasn’t completely illogical. Perhaps he dreamed of a better life for himself and the locals; one where the devastating illness wasn’t so prevalent. My only hope is that we, in this new generation of azungus, can continue to work in partnership with Malawians to develop their country but also remember to give credit where it is due.

A Near Death Adventure

By Louisa Niedermann

Day 18:

View from my lodge

View from my lodge

We got up early like we normally do when we are headed on our weekend adventures.  This weekend we are headed to Livingstonia, which is a village at the top of a mountain. In general I try and sleep as much as I can during our road trips. Today was no different, until we hit the bottom of the mountain and our bus was going to start to climb. I don’t think anyone expected what was yet to come. The road was filled with stones; the bus ride was very bumpy as it went side to side all the way up the hill. At times, the bus was so close to the edge, all I could picture was the bus tumbling all the way down the hill where the bottom was nowhere in site. Although there were near death experiences, our driver was really good and controlled the bus very well. When we were almost at the top, the bus stalled at a steep point. My heart started racing and I saw my life flash in front of me. We all had to get out of the bus and Dr. Stonebanks and Arshad gave the bus a little push and it was able to climb up the rest of the mountain without difficultly.

Excited from our long trek up the mountain, we got out of the bus and explored this remarkable man-made lodge.  I was lucky enough to land myself a spot in one of the lodges, while the others camped out in tents. The lodge hung-over the mountain and had an amazing view of the landscapes from the deck. A few times I stopped to take everything in and reflect on the scenery my eyes were seeing. After we got settled in, we had the most incredible dinner on this trip so far. Everything was fresh from their garden. We ate salad, steak, potatoes, bean salad, and a really good tomato sauce. With each bite we would taste new flavours and we all ate until our stomach hurt. After our amazing meal, we all sat by the campfire and got warmed by the heat. It was a lot colder at the top of this mountain.

I was curious if any animals come into the lodges while people are sleeping. Right before bed the owner (Ukwe) explained to me that bush babies, which are little monkeys, look for food at night and may come into the lodges, but he said not to worry because I would not even know they were there. My second irrational fear is Bush Babies coming into my lodge in the middle of the night and climbing on me.

Day 19:

I woke up all cozy in my bed, not wanting to get out. I headed to a wonderful breakfast, which consisted of fried eggs, homemade toast and tea. We had a relaxed morning, which I think all of us needed before heading higher up the mountain to see the village of Livingstonia.

Today was not a very good day for me. My stomach was throbbing and climbing up the mountain did not help as it maybe even made my stomach hurt more.  However, I still tried to enjoy the views and scenery as much as I could.  The pain in my stomach was worse at some points than others. When the path was only steps away from falling to a horrible death, that’s when the pain in my stomach was the worst. The fainting and dizziness sensation came over me and I had to focus hard to not slip and fall. I could not turn back, I was determined, this was a once in a lifetime experience and it was something I was not going to give up for a stomach ache. I tried to grasp certain moments as much as I could, which made me appreciate them even more.

Garden at Lukwe Lodge

Garden at Lukwe Lodge

After our day of hiking we explored the enormous garden the owners had created. Everything looked so fresh and well maintained. The owners did an incredible job creating this magical garden. While exploring this never ending garden of fresh fruits and vegetables, all I could think of was how much my mom would love this garden.

Day 20:

6 am sunrise

6 am sunrise

I am not an early riser, however I could not miss the opportunity to see the sun rising over the scenery.  The sunrise was very beautiful and I was glad I forced myself out of bed to see it.

Instead of risking our lives and having a heart attack every second by taking the bus down the mountain, all of us decided to walk. It was a nice walk down the mountain, and I feel I could appreciate the views much better without being scared for my life. Once I got down, I figured that I should go to the bathroom because I did not know when we would stop next. I got pointed in the direction of the bathroom, which was a shack at the end of an alley with a lock on it. I had used bathrooms like this a few times; I wasn’t expecting much and was just going to use it and get out. I unlocked the door to find a hole in the ground but as I tried to lock the door behind me, it sprung open. I was going to try and figure out a way to lock the door but then a cockroach crawled out of the hole.  I took a deep breath and I told myself I could still use this bathroom. The next thing I knew, I shook my head, I could not do it and I got out of there. This was the first instance where I could not do something that was out of my comfort zone here in Africa. I felt embarrassed, I could not use this bathroom which is normal to the people who live here.

Linden and I at Livingstonia

Linden and I at Livingstonia

The rest of the bus ride, I kept to myself, reflecting on all the amazing trips we were taking and how each day I am learning new things about the country I am living in.  We drove by different villages, some with satellite dishes on every roof while other villages had houses that were barely standing. I listened to my familiar music while my eyes explored the unfamiliar countryside.