Published: August 6th 2012August 6th 2012
Following the Game Walk, we hired a taxi to take us to the Malawi border. The "taxi driver" was an off duty police officer. Civil servants are generally not paid a living wage. Most survive by charging bribes for the smallest of tasks. Others moonlight. As a bonus, the police officer was a good driver. The first hour of travel was on unpaved road, and was rough on the small car. The final leg was on fresh tarmac.
After immigration formalities of stamping exit and entry visas, we got lucky when a Zambia-Malawi bus showed up at the border crossing heading to Lilongwe. Since it was Sunday, we'd considered staying at the border overnight, to give ourselves better choices at traversing the last hour and a half from the border to Lilongwe. This bus goes only twice a week from Lusaka to Lilongwe, and Sunday was one of those days! No need to be crammed into small share taxis. The people on the bus were so nice. They made room for our luggage inside the bus by moving some of their larger parcels around, and we even got seats side by side at the back of the bus. Luggage is safe in the hold, but gets very dusty. That's why we prefer to have our luggage inside the bus when possible.
Children normally travel on the laps of adults. When the man beside us realized we were having a hard time having W.. on our laps (he's not tiny anymore), he voluntarily got up saying he needed to "stretch" so W.. could have his seat for a while. The man on the other side gave us all sorts of help with orienting ourselves around the Lilongwe map and helping to negotiate a taxi fare from the bus station to our guest house.
That has been one constant throughout our Africa travels. People are so nice. They are genuinely friendly. "How are you?" is not a mere formality. People really want to know how you are doing. They want to help whenever they can, and will often go out of their way to help you out. They also share what little they have with each other. And, I've already mentioned how they automatically take care of each other's kids. In Asia and elsewhere, people are certainly friendly and helpful. But, here in Africa it goes further than that. It is a pleasure to interact with the locals. On the back of a truck, in buses, in stores and on the street. The only time this is not true is when dealing with the money changers and touts at border crossings and some bus stations. As one local said it, "Oh, they are just doing business." Yes, crass commercialism may not be civil, but everyone else, customs officials, police officers, taxi drivers and ordinary persons - civility is the first order of interaction.
We left Mfuwi at 11:30. We arrived in Lilongwe at 18:00, including stops for food in Chipata and a slow border crossing.