Dated: 14 Mar 18
Where I am sat is palatial. From the throne you command a view of the camp. Go early or your head may be seen floating in the canopy by the other guests. It’s a peaceful spot. I’m not normally one for loitering on the toilet, but you cant beat a poo with a view.
It’s sunrise and the staff are already busying away, laughing, clattering pans and furiously sweeping before the dribs and drabs of sleepy eyed mzungu’s (white people) rise. A vervet monkey rustles the trees as he lurches through branches towards the encampment. It’s part of their morning routine. The scout moves not so stealthily forward, in the direction of the cookhouse, a lone call sounds from the rear perhaps asking if the coast is clear. But the jig is up as the eager individual plonks on to the corrugated roof with a clatter. The staff make quick work of scurrying them away. Better luck tomorrow.
I’ve rented smaller rooms than this airy space and the upholstery is certainly to a higher standard than my student flat. It has a woman’s touch, from the plants, pillows and wicks remnants from last nights candles. Few porcelains are this open, yet surprisingly private, perched on the cliffs overlooking the mornings’ majesty that is Lake Malawi. Framed by dangling branches the lake, nestled in the crook of the mountains, marks the southern extent of the Rift Valley. The soft morning glow highlights the outer leaves like paper thin jewels of subtle emerald, whilst casting earthy green notes on those in the shadow forming the canopy’s mosaic.
Perhaps by the time I make my way to breakfast, a light meal of fruit and muesli, the gap year students might already be sat on pillows singing around the one individual who can play the poorly tuned guitar and no doubt there will be one who thinks he can play the bongos; all that’s missing is a ukulele. Or the gabble of Peace Corps troopers might be exchanging war stories. One girl likened herself to a soldier on the front line and said she had been thanked for her service. I wouldnt want to bump into her in a dark alley. Perhaps I’m just a cynical Brit but I’ve not been overly enthused with the corps lot so far.
This vantage point I find myself in, now captivated by the peaceful setting and tranquillity, is in northern Malawi near the town of Livingstonia. Mushroom Farm, a vegetarian and yoga retreat sits around 700m up from the shores. You have to earn your place here and, for once, the difficulty of the ascent was not exaggerated . It’s perhaps on par with the tour de France’s Alp D’heuz nineteen turn ascent; famed for it’s difficulty, the first up will earn the white with polka dot jersey. As I push my bike up three hours of hairpin turns on dirt tracks I am serious praying that this lodge lives up to its reputation. It better be bloody worth it. There is a good reason I never go off road – my bike just isn’t up to it. The nineteen or so turns to mushroom farm is perhaps a way of sweating out your penance, leaving your sins at the base of the mountain before reaching the nirvana of the retreat. I receive no prize but have earned my place on this great throne and it was certainly worth the effort.
What a toilet.