Its Monday 11th February 2013 and news from the Holford’s trip to Pumulani.

Hi everyone – so we are back from a wonderful snowy cold England after a fantastic break and whilst most people don’t enjoy the cold weather I am afraid to say that we absolutely adore the change and seeing everything covered in white is a little slice of magic. All in all good times had but we are now back with a vengeance and ready to hit the river!!

For this week though I have received a lovely report from our last guests at Pumulani for the season – Mark Holford and his wife Sarah. Mark has been coming to Malawi for three years but it was Sarah’s first visit as he wanted to show her the other woman in his life. As you will see below their visit had its moments of adventure. Mark’s other woman is “Chauncy Maples”, Africa’s oldest floating ship. He is the Fundraising Director for a UK charity, which is renovating her into a mobile clinic. The work is taking place in the only shipyard on Lake Malawi at Monkey Bay, just 10 kms from Pumulani.









This is an extraordinary story, known to many Malawians, of an Anglican missionary bishop who in 1895 drowned in Lake Malawi. A ship was built in his memory in Glasgow in 1899. The ship was disassembled, transported to the mouth of the Zambezi in Mozambique and barged up the Zambezi and the Shire rivers until its passage was blocked by falls and rapids. At this point the 3,481 parcels were carried for 150kms by porters. The boiler weighed 11 tonnes and was dragged by 450 people 5kms a day for 30 days. The ship was reassembled at Mangochi (at the south of the lake) and for 50 years was a mission ship (church, school and clinic) before being converted in 1965 to be a ferry. Eventually retired in 1992 when she nearly capsized. Since then she has been laid up in Monkey Bay with its only occupation being a bar.









The UK Charity ( in partnership with the Malawi Ministry of Health is renovating the ship into a clinic to visit lakeside villages and provide basic healthcare services. The new design has been done by Durban Naval Architects, Naval Africa, and world leading mega yacht designer, Martin Francis, who co-designed, the world’s most avant garde yacht, “A”, with Philippe Starck. The 1965 superstructure has been removed and a completely new ship will be built on the original hull. The steel work has been completed and the engineering works are starting in February.

Laura, our Operations Manager in Malawi offered to be Mark and Sarah’s chauffeur and take them to the shipyard in Monkey Bay. Rob, who was visiting from Zambia, lent Laura his 4×4 for this. The drive was uneventful except it was raining. So the party got as little wet as work foreman, John Kalingo, showed them the ship as well as the “younger” 60 year old ferry, “Ilala”, also currently also undergoing a refit in the yard. They also saw the project’s 25 tonne crane, which is the second largest in Malawi.


This year the rains which have been largely absent for the last two years have returned with a vengeance. Malawi is remarkably green and by the time of their return the dirt road had become a little more interesting. Shortly after turning off the tarmac road, they met a group of fifteen young men helping a car out of the ditch; they are the local “Roadside Assistance “team who regularly “assist” stricken road users. Unfortunately they forced Laura to swerve and too ended up in the ditch at a fairly precarious angle. All attempts to get out failed and the team offered their services. Mark, the only one with cash, negotiated the price down to half the quoted fee.

















Before accepting their generous offer Laura decided to phone Rob who agreed to come with one of Pumulani’s 4×4’s. On arrival he hitched up the tow rope and started the pull. Unfortunately he too ended up in the ditch. At this point it was time to accept the kind offer of the Roadside Assistance Team, who generously did not increase their fee for two vehicles! With their help, both vehicles were eventually extricated from the ditch; Mark and Sarah arrived back in time for lunch and a few “Greens” (Malawian brewed Carlsberg). Laura had been rather worried by what the boss would say about his car being in the ditch but as it turned out the only “damage” was cured by a good wash; so by late afternoon it was gleaming again!

Later Mark and Sarah took a sunset cruise on the dhow sadly lacking the sunset but they did spy big game hippos as well as pied kingfishers and cormorants. The following morning Mark and Sarah left us to go and see more hippos and warthogs down the Shire river where they were plentiful. Laura and Rob were left counting the spoons sheets, glasses etc in the end of season stock take.”

On that note let’s call it a day for this week and we will catch up next Monday, but I shall leave you with one snippet of entertaining information from the UK – as we all know Kiki is enjoying the snowy climes but one thing he can not get used to is the British rice so poor Rails (a caterer from a few years back) was recently out in Zambia and was ordered to return with 4kgs of his favourite Zambia rice and a catch up with all the former RPS girls over dinner.

That really is it – have a great week.






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