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Mzuzu/Chitimba: Finally a nice hotel and Mdokera’s Beach Campsite – Lost property

Posted by daveb on July 25th, 2008

(This is Part 5 of the Mdokera’s Beach Campsite saga, continued from Part 1 – Introduction, Part 2 – Dance Festival, Part 3 – A Bed in a Tree, Part 4 – The Great Escape.)

After arriving in Mzuzu, we walked from the bus station and searched for a place to stay. If you’re ever in this town, don’t bother with the Zirigirani hotel which has “clean, simple and cheap rooms opening onto a pleasant courtyard”. It’s an absolute dive that I wouldn’t leave my goldfish there. Instead we are told the CCAP Resthouse is much better, although we plumped for the mid-market Mimosa Court Hotel as we still hadn’t managed to find a good midrange option since we started looking about four days ago. It’s not in the Lonely Planet, and that’s probably a good thing. We had a reasonable dinner (cheese and tomato sandwiches!) and settled in for what was the best (and cleanest) night’s sleep since arriving in Africa.

The next day, we awoke and Claire made an alarming discovering. Her bag of socks, bras and knickers were missing! Where could they be? I bloody wonder. Back we went on a three hour bus ride to Chitimba to Mdokera’s Beach Campsite to find out. Greetings were somewhat muted this time. I got a handshake from Mdokera, but no hug. Claire got nothing. Not even a creepy stroke of the hair. I explained that Claire no longer had her pants bag and that we must have left it here in the rush as we were packing-up to catch the awaiting bus yesterday. Mdokera commented that he was “VERY surprised” that we came all the way back from Mzuzu. He also told us that his nephew’s wife was “VERY ill” in hospital having just given birth, and there were complications. He had just come from the hospital where things were “VERY serious”.

He told us that he had the bag, and his wife had hung-out the clothes on the line as she didn’t think that they were dry. We could see no sign of her clothes on the washing-line — and we knew that they were perfectly dry. He invited us into a hut, it appeared to be his bedroom. At least he said it was his bedroom. Possibly, I can’t be sure.

Behold, the laundry bag was hanging inside his hut. I untied it and asked Claire to check the contents. A bra and her cherished Helly Hansen thermal socks were missing. How bizarre, all Claire’s underwear was inside the bag when we arrived and it wasn’t the kind of bag that things could have fallen out of on their own. Mdokera took-off to question the other villagers on the site as to the whereabouts of the missing items. We followed, much to his disliking. After ten minutes of misdirected searching and being reminded about how sick his nephew’s wife was, we decided to curtail our stay even though it would cost us the bra and socks.

As we walked to the road to flag-down a bus, Mdokera wheeled his bicycle alongside us, restating the terrible plight of his nephew’s wife. I kept cutting him short and told him that he mustn’t feel a need to entertain us, rather he should go back to the hospital where he is needed. He urged us to stay, while he would find the missing items. Instead I looked him right in the eye and told him “They’ve been stolen. When you talk to the thief, you tell him that he’s a bad person.”

With that, he flagged down his nephew, who was on a bike coming from our left, presumably the hospital. “This is my nephew, he has come from the hospital (points right). His wife is VERY sick.”

Sympathetically, I enquired “I’m so sorry to hear that. What’s wrong with her?”

The ‘nephew’ clammed-up and scanned Mdokera’s face for answers. Mdokera jumped-in, “She has just given birth and they left a pair of scissors inside her, it is VERY serious.”

I firmly suggested that they should both go back to the hospital, where they could support the sick wife and that we would simply get transport from here, so there was no need to entertain us further. After a brief goodbye, the nephew peddled off to the right and Mdokera scurried back into his campsite. We walked along the road a short way and flagged down a taxi. As we were negotiating with the driver, Mdokera appeared and, ignorant to our presence, began cycling to the left — in the opposite direction to that of the hospital. Within a few metres he noticed us and, with cover blown, started shouting at me in his native tongue. Our car remained stationary as he cycled past, flustered, and still chanting, eyeballing every inch of my face. I gave him a knowing smile.

The guidebooks rave about Mdokera and his beach campsite. So do some travel blogs that we came across whilst Googling for ‘Mdokera’. But I can’t and won’t. Undoubtedly he is an impassioned speaker, whether it be one-on-one or to a group [of hard done-by villagers]. If you stay, he will tell you about himself, his business, his bulldozed-home and his dead relatives. Initially I was touched by his struggle, and his apparently selfless struggle to improve the life of his fellow villagers. But after being subjected to too many, dare I say, sob stories I am left feeling numb. Worse, I am left feeling like an attempt to manipulate me has been made. I believe that Mdokera is the Robin Hood of his village: he steals from the rich (Western tourists) and gives to the poor (the village, or even just himself). Claire and I had a really warm feeling upon entering his campsite, but we leave with the image shattered.

I’m relieved to tell you that we’re not the only ones left feeling violated and cynical after a short-spell at the Mdokera Beach Campsite. Mike-Vindicator (sic) was freaked-out when Mdokera introduced him to his dead mother. Weirder still, he was asked to give up his deoderant stick to be used in the funeral ceremony. And Wes’s head-torch and pocket-knife were stolen during a stay at Mdokera’s Beach Campsite; he eventually got them back.

What do you think? Is this man a genuine hero who is rebuilding his life after a series of terrible government knockdowns, or just a ordinary–certainly, by no means accomplished–con-artist that spins as many stories per hour as needed to extort the tourist dollar whilst simultaneously opportunistically rummaging through their bags for anything that might be salable at the local market. Whatever the reality, Mdokera, I feel sorry for you. I really do. But I won’t be sending that football. I think you’ve probably had a hundred footballs and you’ve sold every one of them down the market.

Regardless, our stay over at Mdokera’s Beach Campsite has won the trophy for being simultaneously the weirdest and least comfortable travel experience since we began.

Comments

Comment from Sista B
Time: July 25, 2008, 9:20 am

My poor darling sibling and partner,

Sounds miserable – albeit a good pub story. Wanna bring forward that plane ticket and come over to me sooner than planned?!

xx

Comment from ajay
Time: July 26, 2008, 2:54 am

hi squiffy n daveb
i got ur sites addres from reading ur comments with yaro
me from india and presently in 8 to 5 job
allways wanted to live life the way u folks are doing
gr8, keep it up
regards
ajay

Comment from Andrew B
Time: July 26, 2008, 5:00 pm

Grief.

Comment from John Janngiya
Time: December 7, 2010, 12:29 am

That was a bad tale mate but myself as a Malawian who grew up along that beach and know Mdokera persoanally all I can say is that avoid his place. Mdokera is one zealot of a villager who will pounce on any unsuspectin tourists, but that is not the image of Malawi. It is important to also avoid places that are very much on the lower end of budget such as Mdokera..I am surprised you guys went as far as Mdokera. You can do beeter next time…

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