According to our Bradt Travel Guide to Malawi, Madonna’s residence of choice when visiting the country is “Kumbali Country Lodge”:http://www.kumbalilodge.com/. We thought if it’s good enough for the ‘Material Girl’, it would be good enough for the first two nights of our month-long trip.
The lodge, on Lilongwe’s outskirts, was 45-minutes from the airport and check in, over a complimentary fruit juice, was simple. There were 16 semi-detached, thatched lodges and number 2 was one of the closest to the main area. Our large room, with practical tiled floor, had a double bed with crisp-white sheets and an easy to navigate mosquito net. Tea and coffee making facilities and bottled water were provided and there was a huge TV, empty fridge, desk with chair and two comfortable chairs and coffee table. The room opened out on to a private deck with two easy chairs overlooking the lawn.
The spacious bathroom had a standalone shower, bath and basin with lots of hot water, plenty of space for unpacking our things and complimentary toiletries.
The main area had the restaurant, bar and two communal areas with comfortable seating: upstairs is probably used more during the rainy season, but we liked the terrace overlooking the extensive, well-maintained lawn and borders which wouldn’t have looked out of place in an English country garden. There was a large unheated swimming pool with loungers.
It was at the sit-up bar, we experienced our first MGT: a Malawi-distilled Gin and Tonic, which became our drink of choice, along with delicious bar snacks of bread sticks with a spicy warm BBQ sauce for dipping and home-made potato chips.
The food is said to rank among the best in Malawi and we’d agree. We chose in advance and, although the dinner menu was limited to three options for each course, they were all beautifully described. The food lived up to expectations and we enjoyed mini quiche, interesting salads and warm ratatouille to start with and mains of pork chops, stroganoff and chicken pie. After such hearty dishes, we opted for a simple fruit salad and ice-cream.
Breakfast was a splendid affair and we helped ourselves to fresh fruit salad, cereals, juices, breads and strawberry yoghurt made on their dairy farm before a served, cooked English breakfast of choice.
Kumbali is run by Guy and Maureen Pickering, who were often around for a chat. The staff were also highly visible and as there were only two other guests, their good-natured background chatter removed any feeling of being totally on our own.
Two nights were long enough and allowed us to recover from our flight (although there’s only an hour’s time difference between the UK and Malawi) and see the town with our guide, Everlasting. We also had a couple of walks around the extensive grounds, and visited Kusamala, to find out what a permaculture centre was.
Fully refreshed, we felt ready and raring to go on our tour, armed with Everlastings’ handwritten list of common words and phrases.