Lilongwe, Last Day In Malawi
Slept pretty well last night and wake up this morning feeling fairly refreshed. I mentioned earlier that I now use the Oasis Overland tent and not my own one as it was damaged. It takes a bit longer to take down and is much heavier than my one. I have breakfast and put all my gear back on the truck in preparation for next trip to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. Off at 7am.
The journey is long and uneventful. As we have a fair distance to travel, Often, our driver, goes as fast as possible. This leads to lots of bouncing around in the back but nothing we’re unaccustomed to. Most of us chat, read or snooze. The day rolls on.
The weather is pretty grey, in contrast to the bright sun of Kande Beach but we don’t mind too much as we’re in our truck, protected from the elements and cooled down by the open sides.
We stop a few times for wee breaks at the side of the road. Boys to one side, girls to the other. Watch out for snakes and scorpions. I imaging my Irish DNA merging with the African landscape and becoming incorporated into the body of a little creature here so that a tiny part of me will always be in Africa.
There are very few cars on the road, evidence that Malawi is much poorer than other East African nations in the region. We notice this too in the villages we pass through. Some look dirt poor and raggedy looking. Yet the people are unfailingly friendly and smiling and wave to us as we pass by, hanging out the sides of the truck. Malawi is called the warm heart of Africa. I understand why.
We stop around 11-ish at a petrol station to use the loo and get snacks. Several small children follow us and hold out their hands in a universal begging gesture. Some point to their mouths or say “give me money, give me money”. They move closer and climb up and along the perimeter wall to get nearer the truck. The security guards pick up rocks and throw them at the children, who scatter. They are too quick to be hit and move away, out of range but come back again as far as they dare. The guard mock charges and they scatter again and regroup. A truce breaks out and the children lie on top of the wall and just look at us. We all have enough money to change these children’s lives radically but we go off and buy crisps instead. I go off and buy crisps and weep inside at what I see. I do nothing. We drive away. I’m haunted by the big silent eyes of these hungry children. Then I fall asleep and wake up thinking of my next meal. The children forgotten. They’re still there.
We stop at around 2:30pm to get lunch and for cook groups 3 and 4 to get food for today and tomorrow. We’re at a market area with stalls, shops and a shopping centre. I’m in cook group 4 so buy food, with 2 others, for tomorrow’s dinner plus breakfast and lunch the following day. We have a budget, fairly limited, so need to keep to this.
I’m generally retail phobic and would rather chew a lump of glass than shop but luckily one of us likes shopping and cooking and has a recipe in mind. So, I do what I’m told, grateful that I don’t have to think.
Shopping over and off to find food but in the interim, the heaven’s open. I mean really open. It’s like a vertical sheet of water is in front of us. The roads are flooded and a torrent starts flowing in the street gully. I have to drop the shopping bags back in the truck before I go to eat and get drenched on my way. Maintaining dignity is more important than remaining dry so I refuse to run so avoid looking like an arthritic duck with haemorrhoids trying to dance the can can. I make it to the truck, dripping but with dignity intact. I dig out my mac-in-a-sac bright yellow raincoat and head back.
I meet the others in a takeaway pizza place and order a medium veggie ‘feast’. By this time, I was ravenous. It arrived surprisingly quick and was very tasty. I scoffed it down in no time.
Back to the truck and wait for one of our travellers who decided to stay at a wildlife centre but changed their mind. They were getting a taxi back but were delayed. We sit in humid truck with windows all fogged up. Eventually we’re off and 20mins or so later, arrive at soggy soaking campsite. All of us decide to upgrade to dorm or room.