Waterfall in the bus, fuel crises and women without trousers

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Africa » Malawi » Northern » Nkhata Bay
January 20th 2012
Published: January 20th 2012
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The nice description ‘Africa for beginners’ in the Lonely Planet book sounds great and of course you are expecting quite relaxed, friendly and a beautiful country, we were really looking forward to hit the road by backpack in an easy way this time. But when we finally arrived to this country and faced to extreme poverty, hassle which remained us a ‘light’ Kenya and remote capital city so we understood that our trip through Malawi won’t be so easy and it is nothing for beginners in our opinion. The situation is getting worse for every day and we are rushing though this country because you never know what it can happen in the short time of period.

However we booked a bus ticket from Lusaka to Lilongwe and the boarding time was 4.30am. It was absolute pouring with rain when it was time to leave the hostel and we decided to get a taxi (or the guarder of hostel called one). We were waiting and waiting… 10min, 20min… we asked impatiently where the taxi is and he answered with a calm face that the driver’s phone was switched off. We couldn’t believe our ears since we were standing and waiting for ages in front of him, and he said absolute nothing. Well this is Africa and still what is illogical for us, is logical for them… just accept and move on… but it is quite frustrating. We had just a few minutes to get to the bus station so we picked up our backpacks and in the heavy rain ran to the main road where we found a taxi driver. He wasn’t happy to have unhappy and wet passengers in the car but more than happy to earn some money in early morning. We encouraged him to drive faster and helped to find the acceleration pedal. We felt like in the TV show ‘Amazing race’ but our prize would make to the bus in the time. Yeah, we made the bus, really wet, tired and the day began really bad. We were sitting and waiting the bus to move now but guess what?! We moved two hours after our arrival because they didn’t get a full bus and we were waiting for more passengers!!! They are kidding with us we thought first but unfortunately not. It has never stopped rain and the day didn’t promise sunshine… and the heavy rain caused a small waterfall over Diana’s seat and the lady’s in front. The bus had a big leak in the roof and collected the water which was running in the bus. OMG… it couldn’t be worse huh… the bus was absolute overcrowded and people were sitting on each other. We were drown just before the bus trip and just begin be warm and dry so we have a waterfall over the heads. Well it was quite cold, miserable and we couldn’t move anywhere, just accept your situation. Few people were car sick and through up their breakfast in the plastic bags. Chris was standing half the way (the trip took 11-12 hours) and Diana was trying don’t through up as well since it was no fresh air in the bus and if you would open a window so you would be a little more wet than you are already but maybe worth if you think after all. We think this trip has been worse bus trips so far in Africa but a great story to laugh about today.

We arrived to remote capital city and it looks quite different than the other African capital cities we have seen on this trip. First the crowds of people hits you in the face and you’ll offered all kind of service first you’ll step off your bus. So we needed to take whole our energy which was left after the horrible bus trip and escape so fast as possible from this stinky and dirty place but in fact it was hard to find a clean street so we decided to find a hostel in this area to sleep over, and move next day to Nkhata Bay. The guesthouse looked quite ok but we noticed that the prices were a little bit higher than we had expected to be in Malawi (9-10 dollars). The room was without any toilet or shower, and two small beds and the cockroaches are included in the fees. The main thing that we had a great sleep and we woke up early (6am) so we could reach before the darkness to Nkhata Bay since it is almost 500km to there. We were happy to be in the bus at 8am and we were waiting until the bus will be full once again… The bus moved from Lilongwe a little after 12am and we knew that this day won’t be possible to make to Nkhata Bay but we made to Mzuzu at 6pm. The bus ride wasn’t pleasant either, it was non space for the legs and Chris had an old lady on his laps because she was pulling her seat back all the time… but she was kind of big so maybe was hard to fit in one seat. We arrived quite late and we found some place to sleep and food, and next day after two hours made to Nkhata Bay. Still our legs are in the pain after three days in terrible local transportation.

Nkhata Bay is a small and cozy village by Lake Malawi and on the first day we were overwhelmed with all kind of information about this place and Malawi in general, and we hardly could believe everything. Malawi is one of the world’s poorest country and we expecting that the prices would be quite low but we were surprised with the high prices in this country (some is equal or more than Western world prices). Especially the food prices are quite high for the country standards and the choice from the supermarket is really small, Lilongwi (the capital) has larger but the prices are unreachable for locals and some tourists as well. The main things are possible to get in usual supermarket is bread, eggs, flour, sugar and water. Try to survive on it day after day! On the streets usually you can get fresh vegetables and fruits but not here in this time of year (hopefully just now). Actually isn’t strange that more than 50% of population is suffering of extreme malnutrition.

In this small town HIV/AIDS positive is 75% of population and increasing with every day. Well it is hard to imagine what it will be after few years since the infected population is already dominating in this town and maybe in whole country. The life expectancy is 38 years and on every corner in this tiny place you can see a coffin factory which is a big business here. We have realized that we are like grandparents in this country since so young people are dying. Not often you’ll see an old person in Malawi. As well to have a baby in this country is quite risky business. First of all that you have make sure that you won’t be infected with HIV and later that you’ll survive the delivery of baby since 1 of 98 women die during the delivery. The healthcare is terrible and many ladies giving birth at home which leads to a tragedy. This is life in Nkhata Bay and whole Malawi, a paradise for a tourists and a hell for the locals.

The fuel situation is quite unbelievable the last six months. England gave some foreign aid money to Malawi and the president decided to buy a jet instead to improve poor countries situation, and England put out the founding. Now Malawi don’t have enough money to buy patron and the prices have increased radically (1L is around 6-8 dollars) and still increasing all the time. The tourism has stopped since it is really hard to travel through Malawi and to have own car is impossible. Everything is about black market and people try to survive on it. The public transportation is quite expensive and just few busses connecting the biggest cities. The fuel crises have leaded to raising price in the food etc, for example since we have been here so in two days the fish price has increased 10 times more (from 100 MWK to 1000 MWK per small bucket). This is horrible because people already cannot survive and what it will be after this.

During our time in Malawi something strange happened and we couldn’t understand but now we have been explained. In the bus stations in Lilongwi and Mzuzu the women who were wearing trousers were attacked by men. They were ripping off the trousers of them in middle of street… well this was kind of strange and horrible. So now we have heart that the president don’t like that the women will wear trousers because it is giving wrong vibes to the men. The women who are wearing the trousers and happens to be raped so it is their own fault, and they cannot complain to the police. This statement don’t make any sense to us but they explained that the trousers show the body lines and you attract the men to rape you. We heard that the women who were attacked in middle of the day and got the pants off felt worse than to be raped. Well this is Malawi and the government is spreading this kind of mentality.

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22nd January 2012

Shocking details
I was always doubting the 'Africa light' stamp LP put on Malawi. Interesting to hear how the fuel crisis has affected everyday life, hopefully for the people of Malawi it'll be getting better soon. The thing with publicly ripping off women's trousers is absolutely despicable, though, no matter what twisted justifications they come up with. There's no excuse for misogyny. Cheers, Jens
24th January 2012

27th January 2012

What I have read about trousers make me shock.

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