|Aboard the MV Ilala, I reached Likoma Island just after dawn.|
Useful to a great degree (and more so once you learn what to trust them on and when to ignore them) guidebooks rarely lead one astray. In some cases, however, they can become "victims of their own success."
After leaving Vwaza Marsh, in Nkhata Bay (a bustling little beach town on the shore of Lake Malawi) I became a victim of Lonely Planet's success. The book had scoffed with disdain at Cape MacClear, another lakeside town located several hundred kilometers down the shore, noting that it was overrun with hawkers who made their living pestering tourists with shell necklaces, cheap sarongs, and other kitsch. As a result of that write-up and the contrasting enthusiastic recommendation of Nkhata Bay, when I arrived in this hotspot expecting to find a relaxing, idyllic beach town where I could spend a few days, I instead found that all Malawi's riff-raff had followed all Malawi's LP-toting tourists there.
Gambling, I took one last recommendation from my Lonely Planet before deciding never to trust the book again, and bought a ferry ticket to Likoma, a small island near the Mozambican side of the lake. By a stroke of luck I had arrived in Nkhata Bay at the same time as the MV Ilala, the ferry which plies up and down the lake on a weekly schedule. After a walk around and a quick trip to stock up on peanut butter, bread and water and other essentials at the grocery store, I boarded the ferry for an overnight cruise to the Likoma Island. Wearing all my clothes to fight off the cold lake wind, I flopped down on a rented mattress on the upper deck and drifted off, listening to a few American Peace Corps volunteers and Japanese tourists chatter on in the darkness.