Saturday, 21 November 2009

From Tanzania to Malawi

Our time in Tanzania was coming to an end. We had a two day drive ahead of us, leaving Dar es Salem and heading out of the sticky humid heat and into the cooler climate of the mountainous area of Iringa. For lunch we stopped by the side of the road and ate chippe omelet at the little stalls run by mamas. Here, voluptuous ladies deep fried chips in metal vats then mixed them with eggs to create a chip omelet – not the healthiest food in the world but enough to fill a hole!

After 15 hours driving we set up camp at a working farm. As we were late to arrive, the farm provided us with food so we didn’t have to cook. All the produce we ate was grown or reared on the farm. Somehow, having food cooked for you after a drive day made it taste that much better than usual. What’s more, they had wood burners to heat up water so we had access to the best hot showers so far on the trip – true luxury!

From Iringa we had another long drive, crossing the border into Malawi to a camp on the shores of Lake Malawi called Chitimba. Just before lunch and the border into Malawi we stopped off to pick up food from a few stalls at the side of the road. Having shopped mostly for food in Mzungo supermarkets for the rich, it was a breath of fresh air to be able to barter with people and buy locally grown fresh fruit and veg. Nat and Griff were in their element as they wheeled and dealed, getting the most veg they could for the money.

I too managed to get a few great deals on fruit and veg, bargaining the locals down from dreamt up mzungo prices to more realistic, almost local prices. At one point as I was about to get back on the truck with my arms overflowing with food (there weren’t many plastic bags to go round), I felt a tugging on my pocket. Looking down, I saw a hand trying in vain to unzip my pocket in which I had but a few shilling. This was my first pick pocketing experience ever. As is the best way to deal with such a situation, I created a scene in front of him and all the stall sellers, thumping the man on the shoulder and telling him to leave me and my pocket alone in rather graphic language. He got the hint…and with a sly grin, he shuffled off leaving my pocket intact.

It’s a shame that in an area where people were busy trying to make money by selling their hard earned wares, you have a minority only interested in cheating the system. Fortunately, five years in London makes you very skeptical of everyone so it didn’t really come as much of a shock that, as a ‘rich’ mzungo, I was targeted on this trip… which is the reason why I keep money on me in five different places at all times!

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