November 7-8, 2008
After much consideration, Pnina and I decided to leave Zambia and head to Malawi – the country to the east. Why? First off, the things that people raved about in Zambia mostly involved going to parks to look at animals, and we felt we got that experience at Kruger. Also, Zambia turned out to be kind of expensive and we were anxious for something cheaper. Then Niku (and others) told us what a nice time they had in Malawi and how relatively cheap it was. We were sold.
The drive to Malawi was pretty long and exhausting. The first day we made it as far as Chipata – we left at 7 AM and arrived at 3 AM! The first ride, to Lusaka, involved me sitting on a small ledge next to the driver, trying to focus on my book but being constantly distracted by the crazy road (there was one truck tipped over on its side). The second ride wasn’t as exciting, just long (that’s the ride that was delayed 3 hours).
When we arrived in Chipata we found a swarm of taxi drivers ready to take us to the backpacker place. We didn’t know which of them we could trust, so we looked for an honest-looking person to advise us. We found a guy dressed in a suit who was on the bus with us all the way from Livingstone. He was kind of worried about us too, so he invited us over to stay at his place!
His name is Stanly Chola. This is me with him and several of his daughters:
Stanly has held a bunch of government jobs over the years, mostly involving managing a trade union. Now he has a contract to build a long trench close to Livingstone for communication lines. He also has a side business taking passport photos.
Stanly and his daughters were very gracious hosts. They gave us our own room, made breakfast for us, and in the morning they gave us advice about getting to the Malawi border and even walked us to the main road and hailed a taxi for us:
An hour later we were at the border. In the no-man’s land between the two countries we found some kids hanging around so we gave them the last of our party favors:
They loved them 🙂
In the Malawi immigration office we decided to use our Israeli passport because we were afraid of paying another huge entry fee like we did for Zambia. This confused the border officer – he kept looking through our Israeli passports trying to find the exit-Zambia stamp (which, of course, wasn’t there). He called his manager who came over and told us that according to our passports we ‘dropped from the sky’ 🙂 We explained everything and he said that we’ll have to use our US passports. Luckily there was no entry fee for either nationality so nothing to worry about.
The Malawi currency has the same name as the Zambian (kwacha), but it’s stronger. You get about 150 malawi kwacha for a dollar. There is no ATM at the border and you need cash to pay for the taxis on the other side, so there are a bunch of guys hanging around looking to change your money. You have to be careful or they’ll frisk you. The first guy offered us 75 kwacha per dollar, but eventually we found a guy who was willing to do 150 per dollar. In between changing money, all these guys sit around and play this game called ‘bawo’. Actually, everyone in Malawi plays this game:
Another taxi ride and minibus ride, and our journey was finally complete — we arrived in Lilongwe.