After two month of working nearly everyday Randy was able to get two days off in a row. So we paid an exorbitant price for petrol and got out of Lilongwe for a change of scenery. We were able to meet another physician missionary couple from the US who live four hours south, who are our age and relatively new to Malawi as well. It was just what we needed to refresh us.
Ninety kilometers south of Lilongwe, very near the border with Mozambique is the town of Dedza. It’s know in the travel books for two things–the pottery that is made there and the Chongoni Rock Art Sites. The country side is filled with small farms and outcroppings of rock that dot the landscape. Even though it was the Easter weekend we were able to get a room for two nights at the Dedza Pottery Lodge, a small guest house (six rooms) on the same property as the pottery workshop. (Thanks to Dave and Margie’s persistence in calling Friday morning until they reached someone!)
All the rooms feature the pottery that is made on site. There is also a nice restaurant that serves meals, coffee and light refreshments with a nice garden around it and views of the countryside. We toured the showroom, saw the work area where the artists paint the pieces by hand and realized how many of the dishes in our kitchen were from this workshop.
Aside from the decorative things (cups, plates, casseroles, lamps, bath fixtures) they also have an extensive industrial workshop making roof tiles, garden pots and electric insulators for the electric company.
The other attraction to this area is to hike the mountainous outcroppings to see the Chongoni Rock Art (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). These are rock paintings made by two people groups that lived in this area. The first ones by the Akafula people over 2,000 years ago, then the more recent ones by the Chewa people 500 years ago. There are white and red paintings of animals and people.
We were joined on Saturday by two other SIM missionaries, friends of the Burgesses, so our group of Rock Art hunters became six. We had to drive over a very rough dirt road for about 5 miles to find the “quartet of mountains” to see the best preserved ones. We drove past many homesteads and small villages with mud and thatch houses, small vendors selling plastic buckets, tomatoes, meat and just about anything else you’d need for life in the country. There was a lot of foot and bike traffic on the road but everyone let us pass and waved to us.
When we got to the end of the road we parked by some buildings with a very rusty sign that said something about the Rock Art and the sites but we weren’t able to read it. Thankfully, a young boy stepped forward to be our guide and take us to the “shelters” where we could see the pictures.
The pictures have been made under large roofs of rock that jut out from the mountain, which is why they have been preserved from weather and the elements. He was joined by another “guide” who wanted to get in on the action. What the second guide lacked in charm he made up for in knowledge about the site. They led us up and up and up until we reached the largest group of pictures. Then we went back down to a lower area to see a few others of the red paintings. There were other sites on the other side of the mountain, but we got the idea so headed back to the Lodge.
Once again God’s beauty and wonder surprised, restored and revived us in the landscape and countryside of Malawi, the warmth of people we met along the way and the fellowship of others with whom we are like-minded. It was such a rejuvenating weekend for us. It echoes all the admonishment we’ve received about boundaries and the importance of taking care of one’s self to keep from burning out. While we were glad to get away to relieve our stress it was also wonderful to experience more of Malawi and its warm-hearted people. (A closing picture of a relaxed man and the beauty of Malawi!)