Malawian Rice Vendor

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Onward toward Malawi

Reluctantly we knew we had to go.  We were fortunate enough to befriend a group of medical students that were studying in a town towards Chipata and they offered to give us a lift.  Much to our delight we were able to leave with them avoiding the pain of having to ride in a shared taxi of which only left at midnight.  One could only imagine how that road would be in the middle of the night packed with snoring people.  We were able to make the 3 hour drive in only 4 hours in the relative comfort of a landcruiser.  The docs were nice enough to drop us off at our guest house after stopping at the local stores to do some much needed grocery shopping.  We spent a very cold night in our tent at Deans Hill View, in the morning Dean himself was to arrange a taxi ride however the taxi was in disrepair and Dean drove us to the shared border taxi station.  A place that one could pass a dozen times and not realize it was a "station".  A couple of old broken down nissans sitting by the side of the road with a group of guys trying to exchange Zambian Kwacha for Malawian Kwacha.  We were able to get to the border for about 30,000 kwacha (approx. $6.5 dollars).  The ride only took about a half an hour and we then made it through both customs with relative ease and were approached immediately by another shared taxi driver who would take us to the nearest border town for only $500 malawian kwacha.  The car filled with 5 passengers even though the driver had promised us only 4.  We headed down the road only a few km's when an oncoming car flashed his lights and the driver was notified that the police check was ahead.  We ended up taking several detours through the dusty countryside in the Malawi highlands.  We eventually snaked our way slowly towards the town of Mchinji.  When we got out and got ready to pay, jeff asked one of the fellow passengers how much he was paying and he said $300 kwacha and we had been quoted $500.  Upon hearing this, Jeff confronted the driver demanding that we only pay the amount the locals pay.  With a huge cheshire grin on his face, knowing that he had been caught the driver reluctantly gave us our change due.  We quickly found a bus heading towards Lilongwe and were able to secure two seats in the back.  The malawian bus, unlike it's Zambian cousins, was filled appropriately, one person for every seat.  As we drove through the Malawain countryside we could see the abrupt changes, the housing was made from brick instead of mud topped with tin instead of thatch.  The countryside turned from a cool green to a hazy brown within km's crossing the frontier.  We made good time into Lilongwe making the 130 km journy in a little over 2 hours.  We came into the city and snaked our way towards the bus station.  We had heard of a place to stay called Mabuya Camp.  We asked a taxi driver to take us there but he quoted us an outragious price so we started to walk and find another way.  After walking quite a distance with our heavy packs in the searing sun, we decided to ask what looked to be a fireman for directions hoping he would offer a lift.  Graciously he gave us directions but did not take our hint and so we proceeded painstakingly forward towards Mubaya.  We crossed a bridge over the Lilongwa river when suddenly our friendly fireman reappeared.  He asked us politely how much were we willing to pay for a lift to the camp.  We negotiated a price, much less than a taxi would have cost, and they gave us a ride saving our backs and feet from more anguish.  We arrived at Mubaya Camp a dusty dank hostile like area where we set up camp for the night.  After a quick venture to town, tired from a long days journey, we stumbled back, had a dinner of Malawian bean stew and chatted with a couple of Dutch friends before retiring for the night.  We woke early in the morning discovering that we had endured a number of bites on both sides of our bodies realizing only then that we were being attacked by small ants.  It was at that point we decided we would move to a new guest house.  Erika walked over to one we had seen the night before and secured a couple of beds at a local Catholic Parish where we will hopefully spend a quiet bite free night.......................

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