Willie and Ray

Day 76, Rest day, Hakuna Matata Camp

Hakuna Matata Camp is run by an old South African eccentric called Willie. It is right next door to the larger Chitimba Camp, which is more professionally run by a Dutch couple. Chitimba has a couple of dozen cabins, lots of space to camp, a large bard and restaurant area and a great beach. But it is not cheap. A coke, which costs 100 kwacha at any shop on the road, costs 300 kwacha at Chitimba camp. Willie has had Hakuna Matata Camp for about three years. His signboard outside, right next to the Chitimba signboard, says ‘Twice as nice for half the price’.  Almost. The cokes are 200 kwacha. Hakuna has two rooms, a double and a bunkroom. It also has a dozen of so campsites and a bar restaurant overlooking the beach.

While Chitimba is all about Dutch efficiency and order, Hakuna is all about Willie’s folly. Three years in the kitchen is still an outdoor camp kitchen with a thatch cover and a wood fire. Willie spends a lot of his time at the table in the kitchen enclosure sitting on an upturned dugout canoe, smoking cigarettes. He is short and wiry, about 5’6” and no more than 60kg. He wears wire frame glasses, has wispy reddish sandy hair and a thin beard, covering a skeletal face, that would embarrass a 16 year old. He wears a pair of long, light khaki shorts that are too big for him, a pair of leather sandals and no shirt.  Willie is full of stories. He spent sometime in the 90s, after the end of the conflict in Mozambique trying to import prawns into South Africa. He bought an old refrigerated army truck, drove to the coast, filled it with prawns and ice and headed to Johannesburg.   After doing this half a dozen times he had lost so much money in bribes and rotten prawns that he gave it up. He then worked in Israel for a couple of years. Don’t ask too many questions.  Most recently he had spent a couple of years buying building supplies in Malawi and taking then into Mozambique. This was more successful. He wanted to buy a filling station in Malawi but it was too expensive so he got the beachfront camp on Lake Malawi. Now he is looking for the easy life. But his wife has asthma and has gone back to South Africa for treatment and his cook has gone back to Zimbabwe for two months and his ‘do everything’ guy currently has malaria. So Willie is doing everything.

A friend of Willie’s named Ray is also there – seems to have been there for a while. Ray is a Londoner who has lived in Southern Africa for over 30 years. He was in plastics but now rides his big Windjammer motorcycle endlessly around Southern Africa. He has been doing this for about six years now. When I asked him where he was going he said he has no fixed plans he just travels around visiting friends like Willie. ‘Do you have a home base?’ ‘No’. He has a tent, an air mattress and a motorcycle. He doesn’t wear a shirt either. But Ray likes his beer as well as his cigarettes and has an adequate belly and shorts that strain to stay buttoned. His beard is fuller and more Hemingway-like – in fact his whole appearance is Hemingway-like. Perhaps he is Hemingway. Ray is also full of stories and advice.

I spent a pleasant day chatting with Willie and Ray and resting my eyes in a hammock. Bob was trying to heal his guts and slept a fair bit. Willie produced a large dinner of chicken and rice and then we had an early night.

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