Thursday, 16 June 2011
Lilongwe to Nkhata Bay
We made a move to St. Peter's parish which was much closer to town, we spent most of the day wandering checking out the old market along with finding something to soothe our now, red bumped filled itchy skin. We also located the central bus terminal and found out when we could catch a bus for our next destination, Nkata Bay. We had a restless night sleep next to the shared bathroom both of us waking up to feverishly scratching our skin. We finally both woke up at prayer call (5am), we gathered our gear and went out to try to hail a taxi or shared minibus. Almost immediately we were told by two nice young school boys that we were standing in the wrong place so we moved to the right location. We boarded the bus with our now exploding packs, everyone was laughing at us as we tried to squeeze ourselves around our packs to sit. The short ride to the main bus station was replete with its blaring African music but we worth it at a cost of only 30 kwacha each (.20cents). The bus station was a frenzy of morning activity with various bus touts shouting out there destinations, food stall vendors trying to hawk their wares. We were quoted by one guy that he would, for the inexpensive cost of only $500 he would take us to Nkata Bay. We found our way to the bus having been told to be there at least an hour early, we showed up more than an hour early to find that the bus was already quite full. A luggage boy immediately grabbed Erika's pack and went on to the filled bus as Jeff tried in vain to jostle with the crowd to get up the first step of the overcrowded vehicle. Erika meanwhile followed her pack like a dog following a bone and was pointed to two seats which were currently occupied. The luggage boy said something in chechewe and the occupants hastily moved seats. Jeff, meanwhile sat outside trying to get Erika's attention to tell her he could not board because of the pack of people at the front steps of the bus. The driver finally shouted something in chechewe and like Moses, the sea of people parted and Jeff was able to board with his overstuffed pack. Somehow the luggage boy was able to cram Jeff's bag into the narrow bins above the seats. The obligatory crowd of people seemed to shuffle in and out and then back in before settling down and we were able to depart. We drove thru the outskirts of Lilongwe passing numerous roadside villages with women carrying huge cargo upon their heads balancing precariously. While others were gathered around the village pump trying to coax the liquid life from the well's depth. While in general the men sat around with seemingly nothing but time on their hands. We passed through a number of police roadblocks and after a couple of hours stopped at a local vegetable stand. Everyone piled off and quickly stocked up on vegies. Curiously as the bus emptied, the policeman entered the bus to check all of the bags for contraband, cigarettes, medicine or anything else that could be smuggled to the rural north. Everyone quickly loaded up into the bus , most carrying huge bags of vegies. One poor guy tried to juggle 5 huge heads of cabbage while trying to find his seat. The already crammed bus became much more full. A couple of roadblocks later we stopped in the town of Salima where the bus was surrounded by hawkers, many with out stretched arms banging furiously against the windows trying to sell everything from hard boiled eggs to coca cola. We bought a couple of vegie samosas and a coke and were content with a nice Malawi breakfast. The boys were relentless. A couple had bags of water at the end of long sticks which they pushed through the open windows to try and entice parched passengers. We finally continued on with the bus now seemingly overfilled with sweaty people and all their worldly possessions. We did not drive more than 5 minutes before coming upon another roadblock where the policeman stopped and counted the passengers of which there were many. By Jeff's count, there were over 170 people on the bus which would normally hold 90 comfortably. About halfway through the journey, we descended down to the Lake, a beautiful body of pristine, royal blue waters which sat in sharp contrast to the verdant jungle lined hills creeping to it's shores. The next few hours we stopped at seemingly every small village along the lake shore of Lake Malawi. As the sun started to make it's descent and the temperature started to cool, Jeff entered into a game much like tug-a-war where the girl behind him would shut the window every time the bus was in motion while Jeff repeatedly opened it at every stop. As the heat coming through would irritate his already itchy, achy, skin. As the sun dropped over the horizon, we made our way into Nkata Bay, some 9 hours after departure. As we exited the bus we were surrounded by touts offering various accommodations. We decided to stay at a place called Myoka Village, we found our room in the dark and after a quick bite fell effortlessly asleep to the sounds of the water lapping gently against the shoreline.