First time hitch hiker

Trip Start Apr 21, 2008
Trip End Apr 20, 2009

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Flag of Malawi  ,
Friday, May 30, 2008

Today I went to Nhkata Bay. Nhkata Bay is famous for being one of the finest backpackers hangouts in Africa. I was looking forward to it. But before I could reach there, I had to walk down 16 kms to the town of Chitimba so I could catch a bus to Nhkate Bay.  I was hoping I would find a vehicle that was going in my direction but I had no luck today. I walked for 2 hours without a car in sight. It was downhill so I couldn?t complain. Besides, it was good exercise.  Finally, I couldn?t complain as it could have been worse. I could have done the walk uphill days earlier but I was lucky to avoid this.

When I got to Chitimiba, I just sat by the side of the road waiting for a bus to show up. Locals were looking at me but I didn?t mind. Some still get a kick out of seeing a Muzungu. It was at this point that I realized that I became so comfortable traveling on my own. Here I was on the side of the road with no other Muzungus in sight waiting for a bus I had no idea when would show up with a few dozen locals staring at me and I wasn?t phased by the situation at all. Had this been my first day in Africa, I would have been a bit nervous. So I have hot my comfort zone.  It almost feels as easy as traveling back home. I?ve been to enough dodgy towns and met enough dodgy people at this point that I can now distinguish between when I am in a good place and in a not so good place. Malawi, as a whole, seems to be a very safe country.

While waiting by the side of the road, a young Rastafarin poked his head out from his shop and offered for me to wait inside instead of in the sun. I accepted and bought a coke once I sat down. While there, he took it upon himself to teach me everything about the Rastafarian culture. It was interesting but I am not a believer. Meanwhile, he had a friend who had a serious speech issue (I think he was deaf) who tried to talk to me the whole time I was there but the only sounds he could make were grunts and moans. I felt bad for the guy. I didn?t understand why he kept trying to talk to me as he must have known I couldn?t understand a word he was saying. I just nodded after he spoke.

I then spotted two Mzungus on the back of a pickup truck. I asked where they were going and they said Mzuzu which isn?t too far from Nhkata Bay. I asked the driver if I could hop on and he agreed as long as I would pay 800 kwachas. I bargained him down to 600 kwachas and I was on my way. It was the first time in my life that I hitched a ride (but I will be more impressed when I am the only one in the car). The 2 Mzungus were American and they were volunteering at a nearby town. Very nice people. They even bought me some oranges.

When I got to Mzuzu, I had to find a bank so I could retrieve some cash. I am really glad I brought my bank card and my credit card. In some instances one won?t be accepted forcing me to use the other. I never brought my bank card on past trips. SO glad I did on this one as it has saved me a few times.

It?s quite interesting going to a bank in East Africa. There always seems to be huge line ups. There were 3-4 banks at the intersection I went to. Each bank had lineups that would lead to the outside of the building. Thankfully the lineups at the ATMs were reasonable. I was disappointed when I realized I couldn?t get more than 20,000 kwachas (about $140 US) out at a time. Only 3 towns in the whole country have ATMs so I needed a lot more money before I saw another town with an ATM. After my first withdrawl, I wanted to see if the machine would accept my card again and let me take another 20,000 kwachas. I wasn?t that surprised when it let me. Thank God for small mercies.  A had a nice laugh when I tried to stash all this money in my money belt. It was a tight squeeze but it all fit.

I eventually found a mini bus to Nhkata Bay. I didn?t find a room in the first place I wanted to stay at which was a good thing. The place was too much of a party place (as I would later find out). Instead, I found a nice chalet by the water at the guesthouse next door. My chalet is run down but it has a magnificent view. My next door neighbor turned out to be a 40 yr old nurse from Belgium who was on her way to Mozambique to fix a house she just bought. Nice person. We spent the night just chatting on our shared balcony. 
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