Thursday, 16 May 2013

Chipata to Lilongwe


The confusion was total when I wanted to organize a taxi for the taxi rank or the border in the morning. But first things first. The “planning the next day” way of traveling has its downsides when you forget to think ahead in case some buses only drive on certain days. So it happened that I got back from South Luangwa on a Wednesday with the bus running on Wednesday. No need to say it was gone when I got there to check for the next day. The next bus would only be on Sunday. So I would have to travel by shared taxis and minibus combis.

So the same evening I called a taxi I had used on first arrival in Chipata, and I fixed a lift for KR 15 to the shared taxi rank. The following morning one of the staff members at Dean's Hill View Lodge told me he could organize a taxi to the border for KR 60. It struck me as very low, considering all the prices had just adjusted upwards due to a 20% raise in the fuel price. I asked the staff member if he was sure it was still 60 and he said yes. So I called my taxi again and told him about it. He wouldn't want to go lower than KR 80 so I canceled his call. Things almost always end up nicely, because when I went back to this staff member, he told me that Dean was about to leave for town and that he could take me with him. So I finally got a ride to the taxi rank for free.

Malawi visa
At the taxi rank I changed my remaining Zambian Kwachas for some Malawi Kwachas. I booked a taxi for KR 20 (about CHF 4) and had to wait a while until the driver found 3 more people to join the ride. When we finally started, I quickly realized that his car, like a lot of other cars, had no suspensions left at all. It was creaking from everywhere and its doorhandles were all missing. We got to the border after a short police stop with no consequences for us not wearing seat belts that were not present anyway.

At the border post of Mwami I went to stamp my passport out of Zambia (and filled in a exit form) and crossed over to Malawi where I quickly filled in another entry form before getting a new stamp from a new country. It goes without saying that people wanting me to change money were everywhere from the moment I put foot near the place where the taxi to the border left and until I had managed to cross over completely.

From the border post of Mchingi (Malawi side) I took another shared taxi which filled itself up in a matter of minutes. I had a choice of two taxis and as both were empty I chose the one who didn't try to rip me off USD 100 for a 12km ride. It finally cost me MK 500 (CHF 1.40) to go to Mchinga. From there I took a minibus taxi for MK 1700. The prices had just been raised from MK 1500 because of the fuel price. We had to wait a while for it to fill up, because another one had just left so ours was empty. But it finally took off. I talked a bit with my front seat neighbor before dozing off. I woke up a few times when we stopped, and the last time fully when we stopped somewhere in Lilongwe. The minibus couldn't start on its own, so had to be pushed every time. In Lilongwe, the driver had to break hard a few times so as not to run over people he had wanted to pass really closely to, and the minibus' engine stopped. After a few times, and just in front of the taxi rank, I left the minibus (as one of the last passengers left, the others having been smart enough before) and took a cab to a backpackers I had chosen. Mufasa Backpackers was unfortunately closed as they hadn't paid rent for a while. So I asked to be driven over to Mabuya. It's a cool place where I met the cycling guy from Wales again. Quite funny.