Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Day 14: Cape Maclear to Lilongwe, Malawi

Our final full day in Malawi was another one spent travelling, something we seemed to have spent quite a lot of time doing during our trip. Generally I enjoy days on the road when travelling as a great opportunity to see some of the countryside up close and meet local people, but there were a couple of occasions on this trip when longs days of travelling grated a bit. Generally it wasn't when I had enough food with me to keep me going!

We woke up about seven and had breakfast by the beach, soaking up the last of the glorious view of lake Malawi before checking out. We drifted onto the main street and waited for a lift back to Monkey Bay. I was expecting to be balancing on the back of another pickup truck, but to my surprise a mini bus turned up after thirty minutes of waiting. We looped round town a couple of times to pick up more passengers and then head out of town. The first leg of our trip cost 600 MKW.

We were hoping to be able to travel back to Lilongwe via Golmoti and Dedza as it is a much shorter route than having to head south before looping north again to the capital. Unfortunately it is a much less frequently travelled route and we'd missed the only bus of the day we knew went via that route. When we arrived at the Monkey Bay bus station we were approached by a fixer / tout offering to help us. When we turned down motorbikes he disappeared for a while and then came back with and a pick up truck. We got seats in the cab and he drove us painfully slowly across to Golomoti, making every attempt to save fuel. If the road had even the fairest downhill incline he turned the engine off and let us coast. It was slow, but he got us there safely.

The road between Monkey Bay and Golmoti was sparsely populated even by Malawian standards. Our driver managed to pick up a few fares along the way, but it was probably the first time we'd be on private transport that wasn't full to bursting. The second leg of our journey cost 2,000 MKW.

In Golmoti we were straight onto another minibus and set off pretty quickly. Some locals were turfed out of the front seat so we could sit there. It makes me feel a bit guilty when this happened, and I'm fairly sure we weren't paying any extra for the privilege, just being given special treatment as tourists. Having spent quite a few cramped hours crushed into the back of minibuses during the trip I knew have fantastic the front seat was and my guilt didn't extend far enough to refuse the offer. The front was also the only place in the bus with a seatbelt.

As I reached down to put on my seatbelt I could feel that the seat was a bit damp, but I didn't realise how wet it was. I had a thoroughly soaked bum by the time we reached Dedza! In Dedza our bus emptied even though the sign in the front window said it was going all the way to Lilongwe. We were switched busses and for the second time on our trip money changed hands between the money boys on the two buses and our originally agreed fare of 2,500 MKW covered us for the whole distance.

We'd done the whole trip for 5,100 MKW, just over £10. It compares quite well with the $200 being quote for a private taxi the whole way!

The final leg from Dedza to Lilongwe was painfully slow. I'd enjoyed ascending up through the mountains as we'd left Golmoti earlier in the day, but by now I'd had enough. I read my book for the final part of the trip.

We arrived back at Lilongwe bus station just after 4pm. We quickly checked back into Sunbird guesthouse where we'd stayed on our first night an were given the same room (No 13) and headed for the shopping centre, aiming to get there before it closed for the day. Inside forty minutes we'd been to the pharmacy to buy bilhazia tablets and a malaria test kit and whipped round the supermarket to get holiday gifts (tea, coffee, gin and hot sauce).

Couldn't resist the photo. I saw two of these centres during my travels

We then popped round the corner to DAPP a charity shop where I was hoping to drop off some clothes and shoes I didn't want to take home. Despite getting there a couple of minutes before 5pm they has already closed. It was a disappointment not to have been able to drop off my donation, but I was impressed with how efficient the rest of our shopping had been.

Shopping complete we stopped in the shopping centre for a drink and then headed back to our hotel and then almost immediately out for dinner. We headed back towards the bus station and to the restaurant where we'd had breakfast on our long day of travel from South Luangwa to Blantyre. The area round the bus station was party central with lots of bars and night clubs doing a lively trade. We just settled for dinner. I finally had the samosa I'd been hankering for in the last week. It was underwhelming.
Finally a samosa. Didn't turn out to be that exciting

Final lake fish of the holiday

We headed back to bed quite early. The Sunbird was a bit of a come down compared with our lodges for the previous few nights at Cape Maclear and Zomba Forest Lodge. It had hot water and an ok shower which hadn't always been the case during our travels. It was a cold night.

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