Back to Blantyre

Thu, 14 Aug 2008 15:58:23 +0000

Monkey Bay Index Blantyre to Tete

I woke up at 2:30, not enough time to get back to sleep before it was time for the alarm to go off. Grumble grumble, even less sleep than I had planned. I got myself together and left the hotel, tiptoeing past the sleeping figure of the bloke with no English, who doesn't seem to have a proper bed. The main gate to Hakuna Matata was closed, and actually woven shut in a complicated use of the wicker ends of the gates themselves. There was a bamboo rod woven through the whole lot, but even removing that I couldn't disentangle the thing. I then noticed that the side door was open. Oops. I hope I didn't break anything.

As I was walking along in the dark a minibus rolled into town and asked me where I was going. I said "Blantyre", and they said sure, they were going to Blantyre. Hmm, seemed a little dodgy to me. I refused, sticking to what I knew. That left me really hoping that my bus was be where I thought it would be.

And of course it was, with a sizeable crowd of people around it. I started to worry that I might not get a seat, but I was fortunate and got the last window seat. At least it wasn't too crowded, and everyone had a seat by the time the bus got moving, dead on 4:00. It was an absolutely sparkling bus too, at least compared to the one I arrived on.

It might not have started out crowded, but we accumulated passengers and it became even worse than when we arrived. I guess that with the other bus out of commission, everyone has to take this one. At least there seemed to be fewer chickens today.

My window seat was this time on the correct side to see the lake. Not Lake Malawi, since it was still dark as we passed that. This was the smaller lake to the south. It was beautiful with the sun rising over it (and unphotographable, of course). I enjoyed the view, and with the sun towards my back I didn't even get sunburnt.

Of course the scenery was the same, mudbrick and straw houses and huts. When we stopped at the poorer regions the hawkers clustered around with barbequed corn or cassava roots, at wealthier towns there was coke and biscuits. I bought a lot more of the fried doughy things. I wish I could remember what they're called, I've been told twice, and forgotten both times.

I noticed a couple of painted signs to "African doctors" along the way, which makes me wonder exactly what sort of medicine they practice. Possibly the kind the BBC has reporting about recently, where they murder albinos and sell the bits as good luck charms. I have noticed lots of albinos around the place. They don't look especially terrified, so that's good to see.

We pulled into the bus station at Blantyre around 11:00, not noticeably faster than it was going to Monkey Bay, but a nice early time to find somewhere to stay. This time Doogles not only had beds free, I had an entire dorm to myself. Weird how these things are so variable.

I decided that I really needed to try nshima again, so went off to find some. I ended up at a little cafe run by an Indian woman, maybe not as authentic as could be, but good enough. I ordered nshima with chambo, "chambo" being a complete mystery that I had to investigate. It turns out to be fish (one only found in lake Malawi, according to a conversation between tourists I overheard later).

I experimented with rolling balls of nshima in my palm as I've seen. It's messier than using just fingers, but has the advantage that it cools the stuff down so that it doesn't burn your fingertips. I kept my clothes much cleaner this time, and got my hands much messier. I washed them thoroughly in the washbasin provided, but I was still scratching lumps of congealed cornmeal off my hands as I explored the town later. That really is enough nshima I think.

I wandered around the town for a bit, but I have to say there's really nothing interesting to Blantyre. I bought a bun filled with whipped cream from a bakery, and the cream was grotesquely sickly. Won't be having that again.

For the evening I just hung around the hostel, blatantly eavesdropping on the other backpackers' conversations. One group of middle-aged South African blokes were apparently hunters, approvingly discussing the huge benefits bloodsports bring to the African continent. I agree with their economic arguments, while having complete contempt for the "sport" itself.

I can afford to relax tomorrow, there being no fixed scheduled to the minibuses, and certainly no need to get up early in the morning.

Monkey Bay Index Blantyre to Tete