It started spitting rain as I went to bed last night. No problem, I thought, it’s just spitting. Well, maybe if you’re a giant. The rain just got heavier and heavier until it was thundering down on the roof of the tent until I thought the tent might float away in the ensuing torrent. But it stayed put. I love lying in my tent listening to the rain pitter patter. This time it was bordering on the fierce.
Then the thunder started, first distant and then closer and closer until it was overhead and heartstoppingly loud. I could see the flashes of lightening through the thick tent cover. They were bright. I counted the seconds between flash and thunderclap. 5, 4, 3, 2 and then 1 and then simultaneously. Shit. I’m in a iron framed tent on soggy ground, near trees and a mad thunderstorm, raging like a demented god, overhead. I’m not long for this world if I get hit, I thought to myself. I tried to remember how a Faraday cage works and made sure I kept on top of my fully pumped up air mattress to insulate me from the ground. One particularly loud thunder thump made me nearly jump out of my skin. Then I said to myself, feck it, it’s highly unlikely I’ll get zapped. Anyway, the electrical conditions already exist to make a connection between the positive and negative charges in the sky and earth and there’s not much I can do about it except lie back and enjoy the majesty of the spectacle. To use that vastly overused word, awesome; it was awesome. Then I fell into a deep dreamless sleep.
I briefly woke at around 2 for a wee and it was still lashing down. Shite. Back to sleep again until I awoke next morning at 5. It was still pitter pattering down, but not lashing down. An improvement. Between 5 and 5:30am, the sound reduced slowly until by the time I needed to take my tent down, it has stopped.
I then put my camping bag in the truck and went back to take the tent down. It was dark and I need to change batteries on my head torch. I was concerned about snakes or scorpions who might have sought shelter from the storm under my tent. The guy in the tent next to me just avoided being stung by a scorpion under his tent. I was OK though.
We had an early breakfast, standing around in soggy bleariness. Then up on the truck and off at 6:30am for the border with Malawi. Suddenly, shrieks, a scorpion was running around on the floor of the truck. But not for long. It was soon two dimensional and chucked out of the window to be gobbled up by a peckish bird.
After a few stops we got to the frontier. We went through the usual process of exiting one country and then entering another. The rest of our lot had their fingerprints taken but the immigration officer told me that over 60s don’t need to. Maybe they think we’re too feeble to cause any harm or maybe its an African elder respect thing. Or maybe something completely different.
One of the advantages of overlanding over independent travel became apparent. When we got to the frontier, there were people waiting to exchange money and to provide Malawi sim cards for our phones. I know from experience how difficult it can be to get a simcard when you have language difficulties or need to find a shop and go through the rigmarole of buying one. It can also be tricky changing money unless you’re sure of the honesty of the person providing the service. The tour leader has contacts all over Africa and made the arrangements beforehand so everything was set up when we arrived. A result.
We were through immigration in a few hours and took our first steps into a new country. A few hours later, we were at our new campsite. It was 5pm but as we had to put the clock back an hour, really 4pm. Plenty of time to get the feel of the place. As the sky was beginning to look soggy, I decided to upgrade to a room.
That evening, we went out to the house of a local guy who provides services to tourists and he provided a meal for us as we sat in front of his house eating it. Good local food.
The guy next to be found a huge spider on his foot. He was admirably calm. A local man’s said it wasn’t dangerous and plucked it off. Muffled gasps and smothered shrieks all around. And that was just me.
Then back to campsite and to bed.