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Lake Malawi – Cheese on Toast and the Bad Hair Day(s)

“Hi, I’m Cheese on Toast!”

I probably should have walked away there and then.

It was a beautiful sunny day at Kande Beach on Lake Malawi. My friends and I lay on the warm sand, chatting, laughing and watching the world go by as the waves gently lapped the shore.

Hair Braiding in Lake Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

You’d be forgiven for thinking that you were by the ocean rather than a lake. Lake Malawi (aka Lake Nyasa) is the third largest Lake in Africa, and home to more species of freshwater fish than any other lake in the world. It’s so big, you can’t even see over to the opposite side. It’s a stunning place to spend a few days (or more) on a trip through East Africa.

Hairbraiding in Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

The name Lake Nyasa, was so coined by the great David Livingstone, taken from the local name for the lake – ‘nyasa’. What he didn’t know at the time, is that nyasa simply means ‘lake’ in the local languages, so Livingstone inadvertently called it ‘Lake Lake’.

Hair braiding at Lake Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

I sit cross-legged looking out towards the water, when out the corner of my eye, I spot a man heading our way. He’s not quite stumbling, not quite bobbing but not quite walking either. I think it would be fair to say he bumbled towards us.

His name was Cheese on Toast.

Like many of the locals around, he had given himself a funny, memorable name. To his credit, I’ve never forgotten him. He was an odd but likeable character. His baggy clothes hung on his thin frame, whilst his hair poked out from underneath his oversized hat. His bloodshot, smiley eyes and slightly away with the fairies demeanour led me to believe he may have been a fan of the Malawi Gold, but I could be wrong… or not. 🙂

“Want to go on any tours? I can take you out on the lake in a canoe? My uncle has one. Or I can show you round the village?”

We’d already arranged a few things so no-one was particularly interested. He looked at me and changed tactic.

“You want your hair braiding, or dreading?”

Kate, my partner in crime, and I looked at each other, smiles on our faces. My hair is always a topic of interest in Africa. It’s really long, thick and wavy and forms semi-dreads when I don’t brush it. The kids and women always want to touch it and my Rastafarians friends say I’m one of them. He was smart this Cheese on Toast.

“How much is it?” I say.

“$10.”

“For both of us?”

“Each.”

“Erm, we’ll think about it.”

“Ok, I’m right outside the camp, come find me.”

Over lunch we told the rest of the group what we were planning to do.

“Don’t do it” was the general consensus. “You’ll look ridiculous.” But the more people said I shouldn’t do it, the more I wanted to do it.

With these wise words echoing in our heads, we set out secretly, on a mission to find Cheese on Toast. He was, as he said he would be, sitting with his friends at their craft stall, just outside the camp.

So Cheese on Toast and friends got to work on our hair. I watched Kate and she watched me.

Hairbraiding in Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Hairbraiding in Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

I’m looking at Kate and I’m really hoping my hair doesn’t look like that. The worried look on Kate’s face said she felt the same.

Hairbraiding in Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

After about an hour and a half, they declared us complete, proudly showing us their handy work in a cracked handheld mirror.

Our braids were uneven and we looked ridiculous. But it true British spirit, we said thank you, paid the money we owed and walked back to camp. Giggling all the way.

Hairbraiding in Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

It was my tent mate who first noticed us as we sloped shiftily into camp. Denise, a native New Zealander is not one for mincing her words.

“You need to get a f*cking bag, for your f*cking head if you want to come back into the tent! And whilst you’re at it, get one for mine in case yours falls off!”

Hairbraiding in Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Our new ‘do’s’ were the talk of the camp, even if it was for all the wrong reasons. But as we’d paid $10 each for it, neither of us could face taking it out. Kate spent the next two days in a bandana and I styled mine as best I could. We may have looked ridiculous. We may have picked the worst hair stylists in all of Malawi. And we may have been totally ripped off. But do you know what, it was some of the best money I’ve ever spent! We did not stop laughing for the next few days.

Hairbraiding in Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

It was even more fun when we took them out… and an impromptu 1980’s photoshoot got underway! Kate’s gonna kill me when she sees this post! 🙂

Hairbraiding in Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Hairbraiding in Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

I know what you’re thinking. Yes I don’t get why the modelling career never took off either?

 

Hairbraiding in Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Hairbraiding in Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Hairbraiding in Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

Hairbraiding in Malawi www.heleninwonderlust.co.uk

This post is dedicated to Denise. Love DOBIT x

About Author

I'm a travel blogger and tour operator with a passion for Africa travel. I love the great outdoors, going on epic trips around the world and helping others travel!

19 Comments

  • Meruschka
    August 16, 2013 at 11:23 am

    I’m sure I met a guy named Cheese on Toast when I was in Malawi. Wonder if it was the same guy , or if its just a popular name?
    Meruschka recently posted…10 reasons why Johannesburg Airport rocksMy Profile

    Reply
    • Helen
      August 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      Definitely the same guy! He’s a legend. I spent some time in Monkey Bay recently and they knew him there too. They all have different names… there was one called Physics too. 🙂

      Reply
  • Laura
    August 16, 2013 at 11:36 am

    Hahaha This was the best post ever!! Loving the perfectly placed photos 🙂 Rocking the braid look!! I once had it done in Tenerife, I was then nicknamed a “worm” – BRILLIANT! xx

    Reply
    • Helen
      August 16, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      Ha ha, thank you ‘Worm’! Laura, we should definitely get this done next time I see you! x

      Reply
  • jennifer
    August 20, 2013 at 1:56 pm

    I love the “after” pictures!  Total 80’s flashback.  

    Reply
    • Helen
      August 21, 2013 at 3:24 pm

      It was very fun taking those pictures! 🙂

      Reply
  • Fiona
    October 23, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Ha ha h aha. Was just at Kande last weekend. There is also a Cheese and Tomato on toast and, my personal favourite, Jacket Potato. 

    Reply
    • Helen
      October 23, 2013 at 10:24 pm

      Amazing!!! I wonder if he is Cheese on Toast’s cousin? Jacket Potato ha ha!!!

      Reply
  • Beatrice
    November 19, 2013 at 3:15 pm

    Hahaha that’s amazing! It does sound like a travel story you won’t soon forget 🙂

    Reply
    • Helen
      November 19, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      Ah it was funny! Cheese on Toast! I mis him and his funny pals!!!

      Reply
  • Neil
    January 6, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    I think this hair do needs to make a comeback for Traverse!

    Reply
    • Helen
      January 6, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      I think so too Neil. It’s a fetching look for me, no?

      I think to get the full effect though, I will have to go back to Malawi, and find Cheese on Toast to do it for me. To make sure it’s extra wonky. 🙂

      Reply
  • elaine schoch
    January 29, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Too funny! Love the 80’s look.

    Reply
    • Helen
      January 30, 2014 at 9:15 pm

      Ha ha, thanks! I actually did look a bit like this in the 80’s… except I was only little!

      Reply
  • Jo
    August 10, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    I actually burst out laughing at that photo of you when you’d taken the braids out. Hilarious. You’re such a good sport, I’d never have been brave enough to put my hair in the hands of a man named Cheese on Toast!

    Reply
    • Helen
      August 10, 2014 at 9:44 pm

      Ha ha, Cheese on Toast. What a character. In hindsight, it may not have been the best idea I’ve ever had. However, it was hilarious, so scrap that. I may actually be the best idea I’ve ever had!

      Reply
  • Tarryn
    September 6, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Hi Helen,

    We would like to visit Malawi next year, from south to North of it. What campsites could you recommend please?

    Reply
  • Tarryn
    September 6, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    Hi Helen,

    I have found your page very informative thank you for sharing! We would like to visit Malawi next year, from south to North of it. What campsites could you recommend please?

    Reply
    • Helen
      September 16, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      A few of my favourites are at Kande Beach and Fat Monkeys in Cape Maclear. For safari, there Mvuu Camp in Liwonde National Park, and there are a few camps on the Zomba Plateau. I may be doing some research on Malawi soon for a future trip, so maybe keep an eye out for a post!

      Have a great trip!!

      Reply

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