First impressions

Lilongwe Travel Blog

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Welcome to Africa! I'm your host, Jim, and I've had some serious butterflies in my stomach since the plane started coming in to land. This is a big, parent-scaring continent and Lilongwe isn't Bangkok by any stretch of the imagination.

My guidebook promised there'd be an airport bus meeting the flight but a guy with a clipboard and a fly on his face (just like on the news!) wouldn't let me on the only bus there was. Tried stubbornly to walk to the main road and flag down a lift; instead I got persuaded into a taxi with a sticker on the dashboard saying how fantastic God is and a Man Utd pendant hanging from the rear-view mirror. The driver spent the half-hour journey telling me he wasn't going to rip me off. Surprisingly, he didn't.

Allowed myself a couple of hours resting up at my hostel. It was warm but not daft warm - I'd stepped off the plane in the middle of the day expecting the heat to hit me like a slap in the face, but it wasn't nearly as bad as all that. Still, I'd been in transit for a while by that point and I didn't feel too guilty sitting on my arse for a while; the lodge I was staying in was comfortable and had a bar. Enough for me.

All I did for the day, then, was head out for an hour before it got dark. Lilongwe, according to a sign in the hostel, isn't safe after dark (take a taxi, or just stay here and spend at the bar). The last few minutes of the taxi ride to the hostel was along roads lined with absurdly beautiful orange-flowering trees, and I wanted to take a few photos before anything got sketchy.

First impressions: people in Africa really do carry things on their heads. The country, considering we're right at the end of the dry season, doesn't look as parched as you might expect. (Adverts on the sides of the roads trumpeted the president's irrigation schemes, "working towards food security in Malawi." No-one looked malnourished, for the record.) It was spring-time in Lilongwe, the trees all blossoming orange or white or purple. The city didn't bustle, but little knots of people strolled up and down every road, and nowhere was quiet. Little bonfires smoked on the dirt pavements, next to people who sat selling mangoes or mobile phone top-ups; signs advertised the services of plumbers, painters and sign-writers. Broken glass and Group 4 Security signs lined the tops of property walls. That was the outskirts of the city on an evening in November.

At the hostel, I ate bean stew for dinner, drank Carlsberg and the local brew, and wasn't late to bed.
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122 km (76 miles) traveled
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photo by: sarahsan