My wife Anita spent a year teaching in Malawi from 1970-1971. Her photos are a part of my library, so I have included some relevant ones here, together with a few of her memories.
The MV Ilala II was built in Scotland in 1949 and has been running up and down Lake Malawi continuously since 1951. It’s a weekly ferry service that links a dozen places on the Malawi side of the lake with its home port of Monkey Bay. When I was there this was the only practical way of travelling between the north and south of the country, other than by plane. There are more roads now, but this ferry remains an essential service for many people.
I wanted to do a bit of travelling with a couple of friends, and we hitched from our base at Rumphi to Chilumba, the northern-most port for the ferry. We arrived after the Ilala’s scheduled departure, but still well before it actually left—
it has always had a reputation for always being very late, often by up to a full day. Being poor students we just bought third class tickets. The journey to Monkey Bay took about three days, so we just slept on the deck with all the other passengers and cargo, and I remember sleeping very well. The next night however some passengers from the first class cabins took pity on us and took us to sleep on the first class (upper) deck.
Boarding at Chilumba was using a pier, but in most places the Ilala just anchored off-shore and passengers and their belongings were ferried to and from the shore in dug-out canoes.
I can’t remember precisely where this ferry was, but it was somewhere near Nsanje in the very south of Malawi. I was travelling to Mozambique and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) near the end of my time in Malawi. I was using the bus shown in the photo, but all the passengers had to get off the bus while it crossed on the ferry—accidents were too likely. The river was probably the Shire, or one of the other tributaries of the Zambezi.