A Genuine African Adventure
We had 2 weeks of for Easter. For the second time this year, we planned to spend a long weekend in Blantyre. For the second time this year, there was no fuel in the country for the 3 weeks preceding our vacation. So, my housemate, Tracy, and I decided to take the bus to Cape Maclear. We had no idea just what an African Adventure our little road trip would turn out to be…
We arrived at the bus depot in time to get a seat on the 7:00am bus. We had no idea how fortunate this was; as once the seats were full, they continued to sell tickets and load passengers who would stand for the “4 hour” trip.
Along the way we stopped at the roadside markets and people did their shopping for vegetables and all manner of goods. We sampled the street vendors’ “donuts”, samoosas, and french fries. All handed up hurriedly through the windows as we paused on the side of the road…
We arrived at Monkey Bay around 2:30, and had to take a mini-bus-taxi up the mountain to Cape Maclear. We, the the 3 “azungu” (white people) from the bus, were the first to be approached by the taxi driver. We “bargained” him down from 3000 kwacha each, to k1500 (about $9). Once we paid and boarded, he drove up to a fuel station to buy black market fuel, then drove in circles around town, until we were full, before heading up the hill. Turns out, the going price for the taxi from Monkey Bay to Cape Maclear is k500 ($3). We drove up the hill and let people off at the various lodges and other spots in the surrounding village. Finally, last lodge on the circuit, after an 8 1/2 hour trip..,. 14:30pm Fat Monkey's
We showered, and went out to watch the beautiful sunset.
The vendors all rushed us trying to get us to buy their curios. We explained about 160 times, that we did not have any money for buying the trinkets, as we planned to go scuba diving on the island. One of the vendors, taught me how to play Bawo, the African game tha involves moving seeds around all the holes, in an attempt to take all your opponents seeds. I can’t really claim to actually understand the rules, but it was fun trying…
The next day we went scuba diving on the island,
and a chance to feed the King Fiser Eagle,
and went down the beach to have dinner at the Gecko Lounge. It was a very fun day
We had to go to bed early, because we had to catch the 5am taxi back to Monkey Bay, in order to catch the 7am bus to Lilongwe. I woke up at 4 to get ready for the day. By 4:55 we were back at the “corner” where they had dropped us off. We ended up on a “motola”. A flatbed truck that takes on passengers/cargo as it goes along.
We wound our way through the village, picking up passengers as we went. By the time we reached the road down the hill, we were only ½ full. So, we circled back. We continued circling the village, until we were packed. Then, down the hill we finally went. We struck up a conversation with the 2 other azungu on the ride. She’s a teacher at another Lilongwe school. Her boyfriend is visiting her for a couple of weeks. They’re from Germany. She’s travelled by public transportation several times before and knows the ropes. As we approached the bus-stop, Nina said, “There goes our bus”. Sure enough, we had missed it. A motola pulled up as we disembarked and said, they’d take us to Lilongwe for k1800. As soon as we had packed in, he said, k2800 to Lilongwe. We refused and got out. Another motola pulled up and said, k1000 to Salima, (about ½ way to Lilongwe). So in we climbed.
He drove about 10 miles, then pulled over and said they needed to buy fuel and we must pay now. We said, ½ now the rest when we get there. He disappeared around the corner, and it was over an hour before he returned, climbed in, and started the drive, (with no fuel to add). Then he proceeded to pick up people on the side of the road as we drove. After about 2 hours, we stopped in this little town. He climbed out, and disappeared for at least another hour, stating as his reason, we need fuel. Eventually, a little fuel arrived and he disappeared for another 15 minutes. The passengers up in the cab were honking and threatening his assistant who stayed with us in the truck. Once we got moving again, he continued stopping for passengers. Eventually we picked up a guy and a bushel of his sweet potatoes. Then it started to rain.
Then we picked up a guy with this huge crate. As they got close to the truck, you could smell the fish inside the crate. Of course, the crate was pushed right up against me.
Eventually, we reached Salima. We paid the rest of our fair and disembarked. We stopped at an ATM as we had all run out of cash. We went to the main bus depot and found a minibus taxi with 6 open seats. We paid for our 4 and waited only 5 minutes while he filled up the last 2. And we were on our way to Lilongwe in “the lap of luxury”, (luxury as compared to our previous transportation).
It was a lovely, uneventful ride. With the usual stops for passengers and markets, and finally we arrived in Lilongwe. The taxi was going to the center of town, which would require us to get another taxi from there to ABC. Nina lives about 3 or 4 miles from us, so we got off close to her house and walked to her house with them. Then we continued down the road, hoping to catch a taxi or a ride for the remaining few miles. Of course, just as we parted ways, it began to rain again. Tracy and I walked along in the rain, waving our hands in the Malawian sign for hitch-hiking, until a gentleman driving by was kind enough to stop and ask where we were going. When we said ABC, he said he was going close to there and would give us a ride. We stopped at the next taxi stop to pick up his wife. Turns out, he is the manager of the school our new friend Nina teaches at. He was kind enough to give us a ride almost to the ABC gate.
So, finally we arrived home, safe and sound, at 4:30. A mere 12 hours after our “4 hour” journey began. Sounds about right for Malawian time! Being too exhausted to cook, we ordered a pizza. Of course, we have no internet service in our house at the moment, so I won’t actually get to post this until tomorrow or, (who knows when I’ll have access again…) Now, I’m going to bed, I don’t care if it is only 6:30…