Those who have used the Salima-Nkhata Bay highway will testify that it is one of the most dangerous roads to travel on. Apart from the ultra-narrow bridges, the flanks of the road are so eaten away one would think someone had chiselled the road into an aesthetic object. As if that were not enough, the highway is a playground for livestock. Goats scamper, cattle amble while chickens strut on the Kamuzu Lakeshore Road.
And there are these detours. And these emergency and railing-less bridges lie way above the road surface, nails and planks jutting out like the teeth of a tiger. And the sugarcane hauling trucks that cover the whole road. The Kamuzu Lakeshore Road qualifies as a weapon of mass destruction.
However, if you ask Jean-Philippe, Nkhotakota is not all gloom and doom. When we woke up in the morning, we decided to leave Another Malawi Lodge. We went to Sani and drove down to Lake Malawi. The lake was so calm only the rhythmic splashing of baby waves against the sand could be heard. The multiple reflections of sunlight on the calm waters gave the impression of the sky turned upside down. The lake of stars was at its best.
â€œThis is great. Your lake is so calm, so innocent, so beautiful. I would wish to live here all my life! By the way, how many lakes do you have in Malawi?â€ Jean-Philippe asked.
â€œNkhotakota alone has four lakes that I know.â€
â€œChia, Chilingali, Malawi, and Unaka.â€
We parked our car at the Pottery Lodge and toured the length of the lake on foot. Jean-Philippe kept remarking how clean the sand was, how endowed Malawi was with bird species, how tall some trees were and how beautiful the girls he saw washing clothes and utensils in the lake looked. He photographed almost everything he saw; from the fresh water crab to the mbuna, from theÂ velvet monkey peeping at us from the safety of the tall duduchinthechi mango tree to the lizard hiding in the cracks of boulders, from the church to the mosque, until we got back to Pottery Lodge for a drink.
As we rested at the lodge, Jean-Philippe ran through his photographs. From nowhere he remarked that he now understood why Tanzania wanted part of Malawiâ€™s lake. He showed me a photograph of some dark sand with dotted white particles. He said those white particles were mineral deposits which, if mined in abundance, could be exported for the manufacturing of digital screens for computers and mobile phones.
â€œAre you serious?â€
â€œThese are called rare earths. China has them, mines them and exports them. Eastern DR Congo also has them and they are principally the cause of the internationally backed internecine wars in that region.â€
I had nothing to say. I was sweating despite our being under the shade of a mango tree. Jean-Philippe asked me if I needed another drink. I naturally accepted it. As we drank the cold soft drinks, Jean-Philippe said:
â€œYour politicians should seriously examine and integrate in the Economic Recovery Plan the mineral resources this country has. Australian, European, and Asian mining companies are stupid to have become intensely interested in Malawi. That will tell you why Tanzania is also suddenly very interested in the lake.â€