I have been fortunate to witness it in almost every country I have been to. And all sunrises have this one thing in common: hope. It is the light after the darkness, the promise of another chance at life, the reminder that there is still hope.
And yet, to me, Malawi holds the prize for the ‘most beautiful sunrise’ I have ever seen! Well, the sun was the biggest and the hope found in every Malawian smile was the brightest!
My time in Malawi was rather short: we spent 2 nights in a campsite by the beach in Chitimba and 2 nights in Kande before we headed to Zambia. So I made sure to be awake for a great part of it. From 4h30am till well after the moon settled in the night sky, I immersed myself in “people’s watching”, soaked in the sun, soaked in the water and met the friendliest locals at the beach.
But let me share with you about that first morning… the first time I’ve seen the biggest Sun rising above lake Malawi and the Malawi boys bathing in the lake under the big Sun.
In Chitimba, at 4h20 am, I sneaked out of my tent. The whole camp was silent and the beach was still pitch black. I tiptoed to the bathroom and reached for the light switch that appeared to be ignoring my commands. The electricity was out, which I came to find out it was a regular happening here.
With my head torch, I carefully examined the first cubicle that was already busy with a flying bug, frenetically bouncing between the walls. The next cubicle was free of hyperactive bugs, but as I was about to let down my guard, a black snake moved inside the toilet bowl. I’m pretty sure I got out quicker than light moves in this part of the world. In the end the hyper-active bug turned out to be a much better toilet companion.
Needs aside, as I headed towards the beach, I persevered through scary thoughts of stepping on snakes in the sand and found myself a spot to wait for the sun.
Mother Nature did not disappoint. A game of colors quickly replaced the dark, providing me with a show that went more or less like this: purples blended with dark oranges, a stroke of yellows in the far up corner and a subtle dégradé of pinks, oranges and reds. It was a nature’s version of Monet.
The lake slowly revealed the silhouettes of fisherman boats returning to ashore, while to my left, the beach revealed the agglomeration of locals carrying buckets ready to welcome them. So I watched the exchange of resources happen through my lens.
Malawi is the poorest East African country and the lake is the local’s most valued treasure. The lake is rich in fish to feed the locals and deep for diver enthusiasts visiting the country.
Lake Malawi is so big that the first time I bathed in it, I naively expected the water to be salty. The opposite margin, Tanzania’s land, is not visible to the naked eye.
Speaking of naked, the first three Malawi boys walked into the beach at large steps, yes, completely naked. Ignoring my presence, they splashed, jumped and laughed out loud while frenetically scrubbing their arms, chest and stretching to reach their backs.
Gradually recovering from my surprise face, I realized that this is not their version of a nudist beach; this is their daily bath. In this part of the world, where having water supply to the houses is only affordable to a handful of “rich” people, having the lake nearby is the biggest luxury of them all.
Some also brought a toothbrush, carefully dug vertically in the sand, ready to use after the bath. Very clever!
The sky is getting brighter and the big ball of fire is peaking in the horizon.
The Sun makes quite an entrance! Looking straight at it wasn’t painful. Someone told me later on this is because in the opposite margin of the lake, in Tanzanian lands, the wind blows the sand and dust high up in the air. And the little particles that float in the air create like an orange filter, making the Sun’s circumference easy to see by the naked eye.
“It’s the biggest Sun I have ever seen”, I remember thinking to myself!
Does this even make sense?! And does it even matter? I was a very lucky girl after all: just like those Malawi boys splashing in the water and the fisherman returning with a full boat, me here, feet dug in the the sand, I was soaking in hope.