The land of Mangoes and smiles
Trip Start Nov 06, 2006
10Trip End Feb 03, 2007
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If we have to get on another minibus then I think we will get piles. I don't know how you usually get piles but I'm sure you can get them from sitting on a plank of wood for hours, lightly covered with some cushioning and being so squished in with people (usually 30) and live chickens that you can't move. If there is no more room then things can always be tied to the outside of the bus, this is especially useful - who would have thought that by tying food items (especially fish) on the front of the minibus would keep the food cold (apparently). The only annoying thing is if the fish flick up on the windscreen due to the mini-bus coming to a sudden halt, more than likely due to a herd of goats! Minibuses have been the only way to travel in Malawi, and we have had so much fun on them. Some of the best roads on our trip were in Malawi and the drivers were very careful, not that there were any other cars on the road that could create a collision. The most danger we encountered was when Jamie got a little too comfortable in a seat, the driver hit a bump causing Jamie to snap the chair and land in the aisle.
We are always the only white people on the bus and most kids are really confused when they see us. Some cry... On one occasion the bus conductor noticed a baby who was scared of us so he thought the best thing to do was to pick it up and make us hold it. Not such a good idea, I think that baby's still having nightmares.
One bus diver bought heaps of mangoes (1 cent for 2) and bananas and told us to throw them out of the window, all of a sudden monkeys came from everywhere and the fruit was gone in seconds. On this same trip we saw a conductor of a minibus chasing his bus with its door - it had just come straight of its hinges! The funniest part is having all the Malawians laughing hard at us while we laughed at the monkeys eating mangos and the conductor chasing his bus with it's sliding door freshly detached.
Malawians are really friendly compared to the other countries we have been in Africa and are also by far the poorest. Some kids are getting around with torn shorts and t-shirts and HUGE protein deficient bellies. It's so nice to see them with a big smile though. In the first town we went to, the dirtiest little dude with his bum hanging out of his shorts just stopped, gave us the biggest smile imaginable and gave us his thumbs up approval. Despite the poverty, they truely are the kindest people so far.
Another unique thing about the Malawians is that most of them have weird names, we think they make them up for the tourists... Chicken Pizza (who brought us a round of beers than passed out cold mumbling some crap), Starter Motor, Mel Gibson - we even saw a painting by John Howard. We bought some carvings of one of them (Jamie had to throw in his Quicksilver shirt as part of the deal) and headed down to the post office. The post office is always a lot of fun. They don't sell packaging so you need to go searching for it in the markets. Then the assistants stand on their benches trying to wrap our carvings in a secure way. This always takes about an hour. $20 worth of stamps were licked and stuck on our parcel and then they asked what we were still waiting for..(we hadn't paid!). So after paying we said goodbye, but of course we had to wait for the receipt... this takes another 15 minutes. Finally we were allowed to go, not knowing whether we will ever see our wood carvings again. All the while, the assistant gave us his contact details in the capital Lilongwe and told us to pop in if we're around the area, just another example of how cool the Malawians are.
One day we decided that becase the lonely planet said that Livingstonia had the most spectacular views in all of Africa (pretty big call) that we would climb the mountain (which ended up taking 5 hours and we both nearly cried because it was so hard, especially on our pastey white English weather induced skin) only to find mediocar views and a shitty albeit famous place to stay in. The place was called the stone house and it was established and lived in by the first missonary guy who came by in the early 1900s. The problem with the Stone House and like much of Malawi is that when it got dark their was no electricity. We were sitting there with candles when the staff came out and told us they were leaving now and they 'think' the night watchman is coming. That is really unusual for Africa, you would never be left alone and everyplace has a nightwatchman. The other thing was that we couldnt lock the door and the toilets were down in a cellar that looked like something out of a horror movie - just like the Hostel flick. We locked ourselves in our room and heard footsteps soon after (which we think was the night watchman.) We woke up at about 1am hearing a big knock on the door, some sneezing and then another knock, Jamie lied wide awake with his plastic torch gripped tightly, ready to shine it at the would be attacker and than give up everything we own. We were pretty scared at this stage. Then we heard goat noises... "happy times' goat noises, there was honestly one big goat orgy being staged on the veranda that was 1 metre away from our heads. The fiasco became so intense that some of the goats proceeded to bang their heads against our door. We were disgusted and tried to go back to sleep but the sex noises from goats in the backround ensured that we stayed awake in the cold, dark old Stone House until the sun rose.
Another thing that deserves mention is the lack of electricity. It was a good three days before we even experienced electricity in the country. Electricity simply became a luxury, when it was on you could charge your phone, drink cold beer and see the people your sitting with. Apart from that though, Malawi was simply awesome and the people were super friendly.
Nadja also celebrated her birthday in Nkhata Bay, she got to wake up to the sound of the Staff at the Big Blue lodge singing some distorted version of Happy Birthday that pretty much involved mumbling something like 'happy birthday' repeatedly while waving around tree branches. She was presented with a full English Breakfast and later a Banana Pancake from the team.