After South Luangwa it was time to head to the country of Malawi, which is also English speaking and supposedly one of the more backpacker friendly countries in Africa. I took the 5am bus from the village in South Luangwa to Chipata, and then took a taxi to the border after some extensive negotiations. I also had an interesting time in the bus station as I was leaving the bus and walking through the station, a car of a bunch of young Malawians basically drove their car into me, forcing my legs out from under me and I landed on the hood of their car. Everyone in the bus station was staring. I gave a wtf?! gesture to the guys in the car and they just laughed. Seeing as they didn’t give a shit, I got up and just kept walking. Weird. Well that was my first time getting hit by a car. But anyway, a taxi ride, the Malawian immigration, $75, and another taxi + minibus and I was at the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe.
Initially I liked Lilongwe. It had all of the hustle and bustle that was lacking from the previous few capital cities I’d been to. People everywhere. Walking on the streets, in the bus station, in the market, just a whole lot of people! I found a taxi driver who wasn’t horribly ripping me off and we went to the most recommended backpacker place, a bit outside of town. As I’d learn, there are lots of muzungus in Malawi, but almost none of them are tourists, they’re volunteers, hospital workers, NGO workers, peace corps, or whatever. It’s a popular place for westerners to provide help to poor poor Africa. Most of the people I talked to say is a rewarding experience, but very frustrating at times, especially in the hospitals. Funding is tight, there are recurring shortages of necessary drugs, and workers do many things that would never fly/get you fired in a western hospital. Lots of sick people really can’t be helped much and die. That’s Africa.
But anyway, I spend the remainder of my day wandering around the markets in Lilongwe. There were two markets, the commercial services market and the food market, connected by many wooded planked bridges, over the river. I liked these markets, interesting, and very photogenic. Of course I got yelled at a few times for taking photos of extremely generic things, which is mildly infuriating. At one point I took a photo of some sun rays coming through wooden planks with the smoke in the air, where there were some guys sitting underneath. One of them got really mad and came over yelling at me, demanding money, and just making a scene. I apologized, told him I’d delete the photo and just walked off. I’m pretty sure he was doing the whole act so I would pay him a bunch of money for nothing. Who knows.
I was having just about enough of this market, so I crossed over one of the bridges to leave. Some guy was telling me it cost 30 kwacha to cross, because it’s a private bridge. Of course this is bullshit, even if 30kw is only 5 cents to cross. So I ignored him, and he came running after me, telling me that I owed him 30 kw. I shook him off, not realizing what had happened. Maybe 20 minutes later I realized that my phone was no longer in my pocket anymore! Damn. I had read not to keep anything in your pocket at the market… well that’s why. Time to buy a burner phone I guess.
Well I didn’t want to stay in Lilongwe any longer, so I booked a bus to Mzuzu the next morning. It was about 5 hours and the hopping off point to my next desired location, Nkhata Bay. I arrived in the late afternoon and it was pouring rain, so I didn’t get a chance to see much of the city. I did meet some guys at my guesthouse who said they’d give a bit of village tour the next morning, which I stupidly agreed to, not realizing it was just so they could sell me drugs or their artwork or whatever.
Well it was 7am, and pouring rain, and to even the most casual observer, this village tour was off. It was miserable outside. But they showed up anyway, knocking on my door. After I told them no way I'm going on a village tour they wanted me to go to the bar or to their compound to smoke weed (and of course rip me off). I wouldn’t do this anyway, but right now it was 7am and I was getting increasingly grumpy. I politely told them that I wasn’t interested and eventually they still didn’t take the hint. I finally told them they would literally be the last people on earth I would ever buy weed from, and they finally left. Thank god.