Making it to Malawi

Cuamba Travel Blog

 › entry 76 of 77 › view all entries
The next morning, of course, no transport showed up. We had long since breakfasted and hit the local ATM (incredibly there was one) and were ready to leave, but our driver apparently had forgotten about us. With the help of the hotel staff we finally found another car, which brought us to the market square. By now it was very late, but there were still about a dozen people sitting in the dust, waiting for a van to Malawi. We did not have to wait too long: soon a truck showed up. Everybody clambered on, arranging themselves as best possible on top of their luggage and then we sat there and nothing happened. About 45 minutes later, the driver resurfaced from somewhere and declared the truck was broken. Everybody climbed down, and a few lads were enlisted to push the truck out of the way. A few people left after this, but most of us sat down in the sand again, patiently waiting for the next opportunity.
This would arise three hours later when a businessman stopped in his big SUV. Arnaud stormed forward to negotiate a price for him to take us, but by the time he had gotten me and all our bags to join him, four other people and two children had already crammed themselves into the car. Arnaud was adamant: we would not be turned down. Since the other passengers did not back down either, we ended up with four women and two children in the back and Arnaud with all our bags in the trunk. The drive only took a couple of hours, but the road was bumpy, and we were bruised and hurting by the time we arrived in the little town by the Malawi border.
We had been told that there would be people with bikes available to drive us from border to border through the no-man’s land between Mozambique and Malawi. Which was true, except we were not being offered motorbikes, but bicycles! Three enterprising youths strapped al our bags onto one bike, then invited Arnaud and me to sit down on the specially fashioned seat cushions behind the two other boys. And off we went! We must have been the heaviest load these three had ever ridden over those hilly seven kilometers, and they repeatedly but vainly tried to renegotiate a higher price. At last we arrived.
The sun was about to set when Arnaud started to haggle with various money-changers and drivers. We still had a two-hour drive to Mangochi, the next big town, ahead of us. One of the drivers finally gave in to my husband’s thick-headedness and agreed to drive us for less than the usual fare. I sat in the cab with him and he told me that Arnaud was crazy: ‘Nobody pays less,’ he was laughing. Manuel was very nice and drove us to a convenient guesthouse right behind the bus stop we would need the next morning.
We were tired and very happy to finally rest after this long day of traveling, but seconds after the truck had disappeared I realized that we were missing a bag: Arnaud’s laptop bag with his computer, electronics and important papers had stayed in the cab of the truck behind the passenger seat! After fruitlessly looking for Manuel’s truck around town with the help of some nice hotel guests in their car, we decided there was nothing left to do, but go back to the border in the morning to try to find him there picking up new passengers. Resigned we sat down at the bar next door to our guesthouse to drink a couple of Malawi beers, which give you a splitting headache after the first sip. Depressed we were mulling over our misfortune, when suddenly someone tapped Arnaud on the shoulder: Manuel! ‘You forgot this,’ he smiled, proffering the lamented bag! We had never been so happy! We offered to buy him a beer, but he wanted to go home to his wife and son, so we gave him some money instead and said good night. We slept well after this adventure and another stringy chicken dinner.
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