Friday, 19 July 2013

South Luangwa to Blantyre

An old British fire truck in Blantyre

This was a long day of travelling. I was worried about our journey getting to South Luangwa. But the journey back was even more adventurous.

We woke at 2:30am as the minibus was supposed to be collecting us at 3am. Thomas, one of the night guards, came to get us from our hut and told us that the minibus was on a school trip that day so we'd be taking a taxi instead. Thomas told us they were from the same 'company' and I got the impression he thought it was safe, so we agreed a price and hopped in.

We cruised through the first few villages we drove through with our hazard lights on and gently beeping the horn, trying to attract additional customers. We picked up a few people along the way and luckily our driver was pretty sensible in the dark. Around half way to Chipata we picked up a lady, her child and a lot of luggage. The extra luggage wasn't great for the old Toyota Corolla and the car struggled a bit after that.

The journey back to Chipata hadn't been as thrilling as when we travelled in the other direction (mostly because it had been dark). We arrived in Chipata around 6:30am and as we approached the bus station passed a shop with a sign proclaiming they were "Direct importers of second hand clothes from the UK (Ltd)". Genius.

After a quick stop at the bus station we continued onto the border. As we were leaving town we stopped at a petrol station and realised that petrol was £1.20 a litre, pretty close to the price in the UK.

At the petrol station our driver asked us for some extra money as the original fare we had negotiated only covered to the bus station. We got the impression that he'd borrowed / rented the car for the day and probably hadn't made as much money on the journey to town as he expected. We were planning to give him all the Zambian money we had left anyway so didn't mind too much.

The border was again very hassle free (except the money changers). In no mans land between the two border posts we noticed a Welsh truck and a number of 10yr old UK registered cars. The mind boggles at how they ended up at a random border post between Malawi and Zambia.

We got an immediate taxi from the Malawian side of the border to Mchinji and then an even quicker transfer into a minibus to Lilongwe. The minibus was old, but luckily not too crowded so I had a good seat. Along the way we passed a European cyclist who we would bump into later in our trip and found out he was an English guy cycling from the southern tip of Africa all the way home to the UK.

Just after half way our minibus hit a goat. Luckily it seemed to be a glancing blow to the hind quarter of the goat who went spinning through the air and then ran off without too many issues. The only damage the bus seemed to suffer was one of the fog lights popping out.

We arrived back to Lilongwe at around 10am, had some lunch, changed money at the bank and then boarded a midday bus to Blantyre.

The coach was absolutely packed with fold out seats in the aisle making five across. I got the last 'proper' seat in the middle of the back row and Ed got the  broken fold out in front of me. When he sat down the broken chair back fell backwards crushing my shins.

As we left Blantyre a Minister got onto the bus and we had a church service with prayers, a reading, sermon and then finishing up with a hymn and collection. The service was in the local language and I couldn't understand any of it, but most of the passengers seemed quite happy.

The bus journey took six hours and was complete purgatory. I did a mix of sitting, standing and swapping seats with Ed, feeling under the weather most of the way. By the time we arrived in Blantyre we'd been on the road for 15hrs and I'd had enough. I was probably quite grumpy company!

When we arrived at the bus station we got a taxi to Henderson Guesthouse only to find out they were full so took another taxi back to the Blantyre Lodge. Uncomfortable beds and somewhere which had seen better days, but at least they had a bed.

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