Saturday, 21 November 2009

Hobbling along to Lilongwe

After three days at Kande Beach it was time to head to Lilongwe – the capital of Malawi. We hit the road and started the slow climb up to a mountain pass. The road was steep with stunning early morning views over the lake. The last of the evening’s mist was rising and the sun was coating the lake in a beautiful reflective sheen. Our truck seemed to be doing fine when suddenly, as Tim tried to change gear, the gearbox failed. We were on a steep incline but Tim managed to reverse the truck to a small patch of ground just off the road.

We offloaded, sitting by the side of the road in the sun as Tim – with a little help from some of the boys – managed to fix whatever the problem was. Half an hour later and we were back on the road, only for the same thing to happen a few hours on.

We finally stumbled into Lilongwe around 2pm where we had to stock up on supplies. After a mammoth supermarket shop, we headed to a fruit and veg market. Tim had warned us that there are often times when it’s really difficult to buy fruit and veg in Malawi as there is often just nothing to sell. Fortunately, many of the fruit and veggies were in season so we were greeted with piles of mangoes, bunches of bananas, and green beans and tomatoes carefully arranged in small 50 kwacha piles.

Every price here is negotiable. Like everywhere in Africa, as soon as stall holders see a group of mzungos walking towards their stall they’re quick to raise prices. With no price tags anywhere, market shopping always takes that bit longer that grabbing what you want from a shelf in a supermarket and dropping it into a basket. Here, with a little tongue and cheek, a few ‘my friend, my friend’, and plenty of smiles, you can usually get a really good deal. To put this into perspective, we spent 2,500 kwacha and bought all the fruit and veg we needed to feed 17 people over 3 dinners: 2500 kwacha is worth about £12.

That evening some of the team went out to a casino/club in town. Unfortunately, I’d come down with a cold (it may have even been the almost deadly strain of man flu that a few guys on the trip had had over the previous few days) so it was early to bed for me.

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