Published: May 10th 2012May 6th 2012
The journey 6th
Clare and I left home at 12ish on Sunday and had speedy trip down to Heathrow with Leader. Both of us were slightly worried that our bags would weigh too much at check-in despite me and Will weighing them at least 50 times at home. Needn’t have worried - got a nice check-in girl at Kenya Airways and everything was fine. All of the bags were just under the 23kg limit apart from one which was 27kg and was accepted without us having to de-cant and swap contents of the other bags around. Boarded the 8pm jumbo to Nairobi and settled down to what we thought would be a good night's sleep on the 8 hour flight.
Not to be, thanks to a white Zimbabwean with one of the loudest voices ever having a prolonged altercation and a black African man about the rights and wrongs of apartheid in Africa. Since they were sat a couple of rows in front of us sleep was impossible even though we both had ear plugs in and were tired.. Despite being told several times by various passengers and crew the battling duo persisted
in their heated debate well into the early hours of the morning. That aside the flight was reasonably OK - Kenya Airways have a good amount of leg room in economy and the refreshments were served regularly. The cabin crew were friendly and a couple of the crew could have easily stood in for JLS if ever the boys need a holiday!!
Arrived in Nairobi slightly worse for wear thanks to the black v white battle we had experienced and waited the 3 hours for our connecting flight to Malawi. Basic little airpot in Nairobi to say it's the country's capital. Distinct lack of air con in the building but loads of little gift shops and duty free. Clare managed to charge her Blackberry in a random socket next to a cash machine and as we sat and guarded it we spoke to an elderly retired lady from Stevenage who was on a mission to clothe orphans in Malawi with the 1500kg of items she had shipped out from England a couple of weeks earlier. In case anyone is interested it cost her £1300 to have the things shipped and on arrival in Malawi she was going to have
to negotiate duty costs with what she referred to as 'unscrupulous Malawians' to the cost of about another £300!!
The flight from Nairobi to Lilongwe, Malawi's capital, was enhanced for me by the rather large African man sat in the window seat of our row who smelt like he had been working out in a gym for the 3 hours before he boarded the flight. Sweaty didn't cover it, and to make things worse the smaller Kenya Airways plane we found ourselves on had less passenger room than the jumbo we left Heathrow on. Needless to say I was somewhat overpowered by his testosterone and sweat, and a bit concerned when his huge arms rested against mine as we went to take off. Fortunately thanks to Mr Zimbabwe and his black African friend keeping me up most of the night I managed to sleep most of the way to Malawi.
Arrival in Lilongwe was a surprise for both of us because it wasn't as warm as we had expected when we got off the plane. It was warm but not tropical, and there was a pleasant breeze which was to be a godsend later in the day. No
one checked our vaccination card and nothing was asked about us having had the Yellow Fever jab. Passport control was easy and then our bags were searched not by one customs person, but two. The second man was very interested in the toys I had taken and hinted that his son would like to have a look in the bag!
Managed to get a local SIM and pay-as-you-go card for my newly unlocked ancient phone from home, but had to suggest a price for the SIM and top-up with the lady in the shop since I only had US dollars on me and she had no idea how to convert to local currency - $25 was handed over for what the lady said was a huge amount of phone credit. Time will tell on that one I suppose and I would imagine I have probably been ripped off in some small way.
We waited about an hour in the arrival area of the airport until the representatives from our charity arrived. We were greeted by Kingsley (our African guide for the duration of the trip) and Mark, an English director from the charity who was in Malawi to
check everything was going smoothly for the volunteers and the various programmes that are operating.
We also met 3 other volunteers who will be with us for the next month - the 3 medical students we had pondered about back home. Mystery over and whilst they didn't fit Clare's requirements of all being male and from Scandinavia, they are all very nice and consist of 2 girls and one man, all final year medical students studying at St George’s Medical School in Tooting.
The bags were loaded into the land rover and we packed ourselves in for the journey to the Nursing and Medical Council of Malawi for us to register for our stint at the hospital. Here lies the next adventure!
There are more photos below