Thursday, 8 October 2015

MALAWI - Week 3

So, if you've been following these Malawi posts, you'll know that this is the last instalment of my trip write-up! I was in Malawi for a total of 3 amazing weeks, and if you'd like to see what I got up to during the first 2 weeks, have a look at the Travel section of my blog to find those posts!

But today I am writing about my final week, and this was quite a jam-packed week to say the least! It was filled with many different emotions, both good and bad, and ended with the most perfect couple of relaxed days to round up a very busy and challenging 3 weeks. By this point we all definitely needed/deserved a good earned rest!

Monday and Tuesday:
For the first part of this week we were invited to visit some of the hospitals in Malawi, to see how different they are from our UK hospitals and to also see the difference in how the hospital staff work. This was really nerve-wracking, because we already had a fairly good idea about the lack of resources they have in Malawi and also how big of a problem HIV, malaria and malnutrition are. I was expecting the worst case scenario if I'm being honest, and some of my expectations weren't far off this in reality. 

On the Monday we visited a hospital called Thyolo. This is a large district hospital which has very little resources, an overflow of patients and not enough staff. When we were walking around the hospital wards, it really hit home for me, and made me realise just how lucky we are to have the amazing healthcare that we have in the UK. There weren't enough beds for all of the patients and this meant that some people had to sleep on the wards, they didn't have enough medication/needles or resources to be able to help everyone and give them what they needed. The hospital was very run down, dark and had a very strange eery atmosphere about it. The helpless feeling I had walking round is something that will definitely stay with me forever. You don't realise how much a country needs help until you see first-hand how many people are in need.

On the Tuesday morning we visited a hospital called Cure. This was an orthopaedic hospital specialising in everything to do with bones. This hospital was a lot more up-together than Thyolo, and had many more specialised resources too. This hospital reminded me of an old-fashioned English hospital, and was very clean and well-staffed. AMECA (the charity we were with) had actually built and funded their own physiotherapy wing in this hospital too, and it was great to see the positive impact the charity's money was having on the healthcare system. We also got to watch some surgery in theatres too which was amazing to see and surprisingly the operating theatres looked very similar to ours...just with less technical equipment. 

Finally, on the Tuesday afternoon, we visited Queen's hospital. This was the biggest hospital out of them all, and had a very large children/baby unit too. As this hospital was so big and catered for so many people, they also didn't have enough resources to go around everyone. This meant that some of the babies had to share oxygen and incubators, and the labour ward was a 'first come first serve' system because there weren't many beds. They also had a big burns unit for children too which was really sad to see...apparently burns are very common in children because many families cook with an open fire in their homes. This hospital was receiving funding from the government however, which meant that it was improving - even if this was a very slow process.

Before we came to Malawi, the charity asked us to gather up some donations for the hospitals which could be anything from bandages, plasters, scizzors, gloves etc...and so it was really nice to be able to share out our donations between the hospitals and see how grateful they were to receive resources.

On Wednesday we basically spent most of the day travelling from Blantyre up to Camp Mvuu for safari yaaaay!! The journey took about 6 hours including a lunch break stop, and when we finally got there we were all so so excited. As we arrived at Liwonde National Park, we had to drive through some security gates which took us into the park area, and then we drove for about an hour to the actual resort. On the way to the resort once we were in the national park, we saw lots of monkeys, water buffalo, water buck and antelope. We couldn't believe how many animals we had already seen on the way in, and this wasn't even our safari tour! 

Once we arrive at the Camp resort, we pitched our tents in the camping area (of which we were made aware that animals commonly walk around the camp site at night ahhhh scary) and then had a lovely BBQ dinner all together. 

Today was the day of the boat safari woo! I've always always wanted to go on safari ever since I was little, purely because I'm a bit obsessed with elephants and have always dreamed of seeing them in their natural environment. We decided to have a boat safari instead of a road safari because apparently you get the chance to see more animals - and obviously we weren't going to argue with that!

Our safari guide said that there was only one lion in the national park so it was very unlikely to see him, and that they don't have zebras or giraffes in Malawi. However, he said that they have over 1,000 elephants in the park, and so I was really hoping we would get to see some. On the first part of the boat safari, we saw lots and lots of crocodiles! They were absolutely ginormous and we were able to get really close to them which was amazing....and luckily they were out of the water a lot because it was breeding season, which meant that we got to see them! We also saw lots and lots of hippos. They were all sitting in the water together in little family pods (I say little...they're huge animals). It was amazing to see them, as I'd never seen hippos before in real life. Obviously we didn't get too close to them as they can be quite aggressive...but I don't really blame them seeing as we are in their home!

It was getting nearer the end of our boat safari, and we still hadn't seen any elephants. I was really really happy anyway having seen lots of monkeys, crocodiles, hippos and amazing birds...but elephants were what I dreamed of seeing. Then suddenly, our tour guide received a radio call saying that a herd of elephants had been spotted down the river slightly, and so we tried to hurry down. Luckily, we made it in time!!! There was a massive herd of elephants that were coming down to the river to drink and they were less than 20 meters away from us. There were lots of baby elephants in the herd too which was amazing and I couldn't quite believe that I was seeing them in front of me. They were so so graceful, and came really close to our boat which was something that I'll never forget. It made my whole trip complete and it couldn't get any better than that!

Friday and Saturday:
On Friday we made our way to Lake Malawi for our last 2 days of the trip. We were heading down to an area called Cape Maclear which was meant to be beautiful. Once we arrived after another long journey, it didn't disappoint. We got there just before sun set, and so the sky was showing amazing colours which were reflecting off the water and it looked amazing. We shared dorm rooms for 2 nights and were basically just allowed to relax on the beach, have a couple of drinks at the bar and unwind before going home. The beach at the lake was lovely and the water was so clear. During the day we did a bit of sunbathing, chatted and played card games, and it really was the perfect end to an amazing trip together.

Today was finally home time! We made our way to the airport, ready for our very long journey home. I can honestly say that this was a trip of a lifetime. There were so many different aspects to the trip, from the challenge of the mountain, to the amazing project work at the village, to the safari and beautiful scenery of Malawi. I honestly would recommend to anyone to take part in some charity work in Africa, because it is the most rewarding feeling you'll ever get. Knowing that I made a difference, even if its tiny, is amazing and I never thought that as a group we could make an impact...but we did!

The memories I made on that trip and the things I've experienced (good and bad) will stay with me forever, and even though at times it was really hard and I have experienced every emotion gives you a real insight into whats going on in the world, and I feel like I'm much more appreciative and grateful now for what I've got in my life.

I hope you've enjoyed my reading about my busy few weeks in Malawi! If you've got any questions about travelling to Africa or getting involved in charity work, I'd be more than happy to answer anything!

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