Bustrip and earthquake in Karonga.

Karonga Travel Blog

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The sun is shining, flowers are blossoming, people are friendly.. What is this? Ou yeah, I'm not in Finland anymore. This is Malawi. When I left Finland, it had just started snowing and it was extremely cold. 24 hours traveling and I could feel sun touching my face gently. How warm it was, no, warm isn't the right word, it was hot. Too hot? No, the rainy season had just started.. Malawi-my promised land.

This time I didn't travel alone. I took three other people with me. I was going to show them places and different opportunities to volunteer during this over two month trip. It was first time for them, but i had been here twice before. But in Africa, even though you would have visited there often, you would always find something totally new about their culture, nature, people.

. So I never even thought I would know everything about Malawi.. I just had some little more information that helped us in the beginning. I had many contacts, many places, many organizations that we were supposed to work with.. But things turned out to be different. That's what we found out on our fourth night in Malawi. But let's go into that bit later, shall we?

So, Lilongwe and the airport. We took taxi and our driver drove us to a place or to a home where we stayed our first night. On our first day, we went to a local market area and us girls (3girls and 1guy we were) got some proposals. I didn't expect it to happen so fast.. But Africans, wow, they are fast to marry.

During that time, we had power cut twice and quess what? Same with the water. Way to go!! :)

Anyway, we survived. It was time to move on. We had a plan to travel to northern region- Karonga-on our second day. We went to the bus station on time, but earlier of course.. But as you know, in Africa they have their own time. We waited and waited.. For two hours to get on the bus and then we waited for another one or two hours. Buses never leave unless they are full packed. It takes about 10hours from Lilongwe to Karonga, I mean, if everything goes like they should. But that never happens right..? One bus wouldn't take us all the way to Karonga, but we should change in Mzuzu, which was in half way.

Finally we were on the road. Four hours- one more to go and what happens..? Yap, you're right. Our bus broke down on the road in the middle of no-where! Seriously, there was nothing else than forest around us. It was dark. In Africa- darkness is much darker than dark. There were no lights in the bus and my friend was starting to be afraid. What can we do..? More than wait? We sang, we prayed and then finally I asked a simple question that I knew how to ask in Chichewa (local language). Alipo munthu pano olankhula chizungu? Is there anyone who speaks english..? I could hear people laughing in the bus and starting to talk to us. They told us about their culture and things and my friend forgot her fear. It took maybe three hours to fix the problem. But it didnät really solve all our problems.

Bus being late from Mzuzu, meant that we missed our bus from Mzuzu to Karonga. How can that happen? Buses are always late?? But not this time. Bus to Karonga was on time.

It was night time when we arrived to Mzuzu. Bus driver said that we could stay in the bus until morning comes, that would be when the next bus would leave to Karonga. So we stayed, we didn't have any place to go anyway, no contacts, nothing in Mzuzu. But then the taxi- drivers came. "I am the est taxi driver in Mzuzu, I can take you where ever you want and I will give you best price.." We said we were not interested, that we were on our way to Karonga. "I can take you there, I give you good price, you know, I'm the best taxi driver ever". I said we were not interested of his offer and he was starting to get angry.

He was drunk. I said that I would never step on his taxi, that I didn't trust he could drive the car as he was so drunk. Someone took him out, but I could hear him shouthing at us.. "I'm going to kill you". Mmm, how welcoming? We slept poorly that night, because the taxi drivers were bothering us, throwing stones to window, yelling at us.. But finally we could see the morning dawn and we changed the bus.

By the way, don't take me wrong.. Malawians are most welcoming and friendly people I've ever met, but like in every place, there has to be some not that nice people. Right?

So Karonga. Finally in Karonga. We had a plan to stay there for three weeks, but what happened..? We could hear people speaking about something that had happened days ago, but didn't understand what they said.

We stayed with one family. They are Zambians and they volunteer themselves in different ministries. Moses, head of the family, told us that there had been an earthquake and they are expecting another one, bigger one. They never mentioned the day it is going to happen, because they didn't believe it would come again. So we were not worried.

Before our second night there (fourth night in Malawi) we were all outside. Listening thunder somewhere far away. It was magical. All those big lightnings and that sound. After dinner we went to sleep. Thunder was over.. It was almost quiet, only dogs were barking. But then it happened. It was 1.30 am when we all woke up suddenly. I still remember how it felt, even though it took some time to realise it in that moment. The whole house was shaking wildly and we could hear Moses shouting "EVERYBODY OUT!!".

So we got up and ran outside in that darkness. I remember how hard it was to run. Some seconds after we were all outside and it stopped. But we were all shaking. I had never experienced anything like that before. I send message to mom, in case she would hear about that earthquake and wonder if I was fine. Rest of that night we slept outside.. The next night I thought I was brave enough to sleep inside the house.. But that night I couldn't sleep at all. It was thunder again. Everytime when I heard the voice of thunder, I got scared, I thought that the earthquake was coming back. It didn't. Only small quakes, but those were okay. Next night we all slept outside. And night after that was even more peaceful, because we left Karonga.

Our organization where we were in, said we have to evacuate.

So we did. We went to Mzuzu. Our bus trip wasn't that safe this time either. I think we were on time, but the road between Mzuzu and Karonga isn't the nicest one. It's very curvy road.. Going up and up and up.. Our bus driver was driving slowly, but the track that came from Mzuzu wasn't driving carefully enough. He was driving like a crazy and there wasn't that much space.. So we almost found ourselves from very deep cleft.. But we made it to Mzuzu. Taxi drivers came to the bus again, but when they saw us, the gave up right away. Not one taxi driver came to us. What a relief.
But this wasn't our plan.. We had no plan at all to stay in Mzuzu. So we had only one question in our mind? What now? What happened in Mzuzu.. More about it bit later. :)


P.

S. About the earthquake still.. It was 6.2 Richters and made some damage in Karonga. Few poeple died, many were injured.. It wasn't anything compared to what happened just few days after in Haiti.. But those poeple in Karonga were left alone. The biggest damage happened to houses. Many of them were collapsed. Business men left Karonga.. I wish I could have stayed, but orders are orders and I have to obey the leaders. They were afraid that there would be earthquake under the lake Malawi and there would be huge flood or Tsunami in Karonga and if that happened, it would mean that Karonga would be part of the lake Malawi soon. So we had no other choice than leave that place. But I wish I could be there helping. Those poeple don't have money. Bus from Mzuzu to Karonga costs only five euros, but it's too much for most of the people in Karonga.
They have no escape. If they made it to Mzuzu, they wouldn't have any place there to stay, no food.. Nothing. It was so easy for us to leave.. But my heart is still aching as I think those people who stayed. I think it's better now and there hasn't been earthquakes, but.. You never know when the big one comes that destroys everything. I have a dream of going back and I wish to see that things are getting back to normal.

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Karonga
photo by: tinni