Trip Start Jun 19, 2005
17Trip End Jun 19, 2006
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We awoke in the transit town of Cuamba at 4:30am and sprinted through the dark, dusty and deserted streets in search of a minibus that would take us west to the border. Our timing was perfect! We arrived just as the impossibly roomy van pulled into a random dirt lot. High fives all around as we loaded our gear and took our seats. The driver hit the gas and his lieutenant began the familiar routine of calling out the vehicle's destination in order to entice additional passengers
We managed to complete almost one dusty, bumpy hour of the three-hour trip before the van dropped its transmission and limped to a halt in the middle of nowhere. After a great deal of discussion between the driver and the other passengers, the gist of which seemed to be what to do with these stranded muzungos, Mike flagged down a passing flatbed semi whose driver agreed to add us to his haul, and just like that we were off again. Sitting atop an unidentified pile of cargo, we were soon covered in blowing dust. But we had all the room in the world and, heads propped on our bags, dawned our iPods to add a soundtrack to the National Geographic-like tableau of naked children running barefoot past thatched huts, waving and laughing as they chased our truck. We were definitely in Africa.
Once at the border, we fought our way through the throngs of aggressive money changers on the Mozambique side, and found a hole-in-the wall eatery which despite its dubious sanitation standards was the only show in town
Crossing into Malawi after one final haggle with the bicycle taxi boys, we jumped into a tiny pickup truck jam-packed with locals and their cassava roots, chickens and children. Thus began a series of transfers to progressively bigger and more absurdly full trucks, culminating in a final, excruciating sunset ride to Cape Maclear on the southern shores of Lake Malawi; thus ended one very full day of travel in Africa.
We spent almost the entire three weeks in Malawi on and around the lake, beginning with a two-day journey on a ferry called the Ilala. During the day we lounged on deck with fellow travelers, and at night we slept under the stars as the old-school steamer made its way gradually northward toward Nkhata Bay. Lake Malawi looks and feels like an ocean, though the warm, crystal clear fresh water is in some ways more inviting for its lack of salt and scary things that might eat you. Once settled in at the scenic Myoka Village in Nkhata Bay, with its fresh press coffee and veg meals, rustic lakeshore bungalows and unique mix of local and muzungo visitors, we vowed to stay in one place for at least 2 weeks for the first time on our trip. This plan hit the skids when the clothes we naively handed over for a much-needed professional cleaning were stolen from the drying line during our first night
In dire need of a break from the case, we decided to take to the lake on kayaks. We spent three days paddling more than 75 km's north along the coast, waving to children as they emerged from their huts screaming "Azungo! Azungo!". Needless to say, kids running along Lake Michigan's shore screaming "White people!
H immediately resumed her investigation with renewed vigor. After several unsuccessful attempts to navigate the bureaucratic obstacles inherent in third world government agencies, H found herself accused by the Chief of Police of falsifying the cost of a Nike sports bra, worth about one month of his wages. The Chief's insistence that his trip to Mexico several years ago qualified him to estimate the value of the bra at approximately $7 inspired our friend Greg's outrage. He entered the fray, and while we are unsure whether it was his erudite argument or his bald head, tooth-mounted diamond and full-body tattoo that did the trick, he provided ample support (excuse the bra pun) for H's claim. The report was written, then typed, then double-checked and paid for ($20 to file a police report in Malawi), and we were free to go. Only in Africa.
We hung with Greg and the Brits another couple days, making our way gradually north toward Tanzania and the inevitable adieu. We have been so fortunate to meet and travel with such amazing people over the last few weeks, and while we have been looking forward to the freedom and feeling of accomplishment that comes with traveling alone, we already miss our companions and hope to see them again.
We left Southern Africa with fewer clothes but more friends than we had before, as well as a newfound appreciation for the region and its people. H has been particularly at home here, as the locals call her sister and manage to match her speaking volume decibel for decibel. We crossed the border into Tanzania yesterday and once again have been welcomed with open arms. We have both become very comfortable being the only mazungos on a bus, in a restaurant or even in a town, as seems to be the case here in Mbeya where we await a train that is scheduled to depart for Dar this afternoon. Our immediate plans include a clothes shopping spree in Dar, lounging and diving in Zanzibar and then heading north for a safari in the Serengeti. It's a rough life, but someone's got to do it! Back atcha soon...