From marshmallow kids … to Malawi

Day 35 –

L: So last night while Steve was blogging, I decided to surprise him with a beer from the bar and buy myself a cider. Imagine my surprise when I took out 50 Kwacha and the barman told me that that was not going to do it…….63 Kwacha for 2 beers. That is over R100, I felt ill. I was so angry at myself that I did not even enjoy it. Steve says that it is extortion. So now we have learnt that we have to first ask how much it is before ordering it.

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Well, other than that, we enjoyed the camping and the boiling hot showers. Bjorn thinks the campsite is quaint with the stone work bathrooms and huts, I think it is neglected and run down.

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S: We drove back up to the stalls at the junction on the main road so that Lesley could look for a straw hat for herself. She came back smiling as she had found one for the bargain price of 5 Kwacha, which is R8. She felt so guilty at getting something so cheap that she paid him double. L: He looked like he had won the lottery!

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From there we headed toward Chipata. We crossed the Luangwa River bridge which apparently is a military secret as we were not allowed to photograph it. There were a lot of road works after that with detours, the road was in far worse condition than we had had up to now. The closer we got to Chipata, the worse it got. It was quite a challenge trying to overtake a truck where the road is only one and a half lanes wide. Lesley was a nervous wreck every time I did. L: That is because there are kids and kids (goat babies) and bicycles everywhere and the edges of the road are disintegrating into the dust. I might as well have been driving as I was concentrating so hard on the obstacles even while crocheting.

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L: About half way into our trip, we stopped for a warm drink. The sky had been overcast the whole way too. As soon as we had our warm drinks in hand, two little local girls crept up the embankment to where we had parked and just stared at us. It is quite unnerving and they don’t speak English so you cannot communicate with them. They did not beg, but just kept staring at me. Steve also reminded me that I look very different as I am fair-skinned and fair-haired (to greying). We decided to get back in to the car and away from the group gathering, now 7 little ones. Before we left, I handed out a marshmallow to each child, pink for the girls and white for the 3 boys. They just held them in their hands and stared at me, then one little girl smelt it. Steve told me to eat one to show them, which is what I did and still they held them perched in the palm of their hands. One of the little girls came back to the eldest child and put it on the ground in front of her, like it was a ball that would bounce. And all the while as I got back into the car and we drove off, they held them In their open hands. How sad, they have never seen a marshmallow, it felt so surreal that I imagine that a year from now they will still have them.

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What do I do with this …..?

S: We also passed several huge trucks, traveling really slowly with their copper ingots spread out all over the length of the trailer. We are close to the copper belt area which is in the north of Zambia. A few things about traveling on Zambian roads :- No truck or car pulls over into the yellow zone, if it exists; whenever a vehicle in front of you approaches anything that forces it to slow down or stop, they put their hazard lights on; if a vehicle in front of you deems it safe for you to overtake him then he will put on his left indicator; if he thinks it is unsafe to overtake, he will put on his right indicator which is opposite to South Africa.(Rather confusing at first) If a vehicle has broken down, they will put out their red triangles in front and behind the vehicle and then additional broken branches further ahead and behind to warn motorists of the obstruction. The problem is that the branches are often left behind so you keep expecting to see broken down vehicles when there are not.

L: Throughout Zambia, we have been so impressed that all the taxi drivers use indicators!!! They only deposit or collect passengers in the designated areas, which are off the roads. S: Only on certain roads though. L: But sadly, they are also not very good drivers……

Towards the end of our long drive, we spotted a truck carrying bales of cotton. It was piled high and the load had shifted so it was crabbing in front of us using half of the other lane which forced anyone coming towards them to go off into the red dust. All the oncoming traffic flashed lights at us to warn us and we were convinced that his suspension would give out. Finally he had the sense to pull off the road. We did not wait around as how he was going to unload and reposition his load, was a mystery to us.

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Cotton truck about to ‘bale’

S: Finally, after 6 hours to do just over 300 kms, we pulled in to Mama Rula’s B&B and camp site. We were pleasantly surprised at the cost as it is only 45 Kwachas per person per night. After that we drove back to the town to find some LP gas for cooking and parts for the car. It was “fun” trying to locate the places as no-one is very helpful and everything seems to be down a back alley.

We filled up with diesel as well as our extra jerry-cans and set off back to camp. An overlander truck had pulled in and surrounded poor Bjorn on all sides with their little tents and a group of girls on their yoga mats………

L: We met Andrias who is out for a long holiday with his family from New Zealand. We had a long chat and later he came to introduce, Eleanor, his wife to us and treated us to a drink in the lounge area. It was lovely making new friends. So now it seems that we have quite a bit of company heading North with us. We had received an e-mail from Maria asking if we had seen Bjorn too. She was safely back in Oslo after an arduous trip home by plane.

We had a good rest until about 04h30 when the over-landers started the pack-up parade!!! What a din……..
Day 36 –

L: Why is it, that when everything is so easy, it feels so wrong? On a border, that is…….
We are into Malawi and we just passed through customs within a few minutes and……get this, never paid a cent or should that be a Malawian Kwacha. Thank you, Lord. We weren’t asked to declare anything or if we are carrying extra fuel, which we are as it is not always available in Malawi and is more expensive according to the internet.

S: After getting our passports stamped and the carnet processed we were told to pass through the gate and some vague instructions about getting third party insurance. We did not see any place that looked like it would be the place to do it so we kept on driving. A few kilometers along the road we were stopped at a police point and asked to produce our third party insurance. We showed him the letter from our SA insurance company and managed to convince them that it was all we needed. It does cover us in Malawi,but these countries do not seem happy about not having local insurance. I did ask about Comesa insurance, but it does not apply to SA vehicles. Since then we must have stopped at police controls at least 6 times and after a brief chat just been waved through.

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All in … !! (Hang ten, I am still getting in)

The main roads in Malawi are old, but still good with the occasional potholes. The real problem is the amount of cyclists on the road transporting everything you could imagine and some things you wouldn’t. It is quite densely populated along the roads and every time you approach a village the speed limit is 50km/h. You have no choice but to slow down as it is so busy. Also the speed limit is 80km/h so it takes you a while to get anywhere.

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The milk man

 

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The wind has been blowing all day and as we entered Malawi the soil is really red so there was this red dust blowing around. Brick-making is a big industry in some places and we noticed that a lot of the houses are made from this red clay brick. But I think the biggest small enterprise must be bicycle repairs and servicing. L: And taxi-ing. They have a little upholstered cushion fixed to their bicycles and then transport people, often women with their babies too.
They are everywhere…….!!

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S: We stopped in Lilongwe to purchase a SIM card and airtime and to find a bathroom. We want to go to the south of Lake Malawi but it would have been too long a drive for us for one day so we headed east to Senga Bay on the lake instead. We will most likely head south tomorrow.

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An hour or so later we drove into the Steps Campsite after passing through Salima. The road narrows considerably for the last bit and it took a conscious effort to slow down as we got nearer our destination. It had been a long day and I was really tired with the constant concentration. The wind was really blowing at Senga Bay and there was no shelter from it as it was onshore. The place has been around for awhile and the buildings definitely show it. There is at least a lot of grass and trees as well as electric points. Security is good with at least three guys walking around. L: Or sitting next to our site and staring into space, shame so boring for them.

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The bathrooms were huge, with warm showers, but in need of some serious tender loving “clean”!!! There are 8 male and 10 female loos out back all in a row and we could not understand this until we were shown where there was an international (African) concert and these were built for all the extras hordes that they expected………and now they stand as a monument to that time.

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We met a few of the South African crowd that were traveling in 5 vehicles, though some of them will not remember our names tomorrow, nor their own, maybe. They had been woken by the wind at midnight the previous night. We heard later that one roof-top tent had collapsed on the one gent, not sure if he remembered it, he probably forgot to bolt it in the upright position. They are on holiday for a month and moving at a fast pace, traffic fines and all to get through their long itinery. We did not see any sign of Bjorn or Andries and Eleanor so not sure where they stayed.

We had made a quick mince and spaghetti dish in the later afternoon so although we put on a fire, we did not braai.

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