Blantyre - the business capital of Malawi

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January 29th 2019
Published: February 11th 2019
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Where were we? Oh yes, arriving early for our bus from Dedza to Blantyre. Well, it's a good job we did as it turned up a good 40 minutes early and didn't hang around for any stray passengers! It was comfortable and almost empty so we had sooooooo much space. You know where you can stick your minibus rides after this!! We didn't even stop to pick up or drop off anywhere along the way. You might have guessed We were so early we had to wait for the guy from our B&B to come and pick us up. What a novelty.

Bonifant Lodge is new. You can tell it's new because it still smells new. Despite being collected from the bus, our arrival seemed to be a surprise to them. We managed to get the cheap room we had paid for and it was really nice, but not without its issues. Breakfast was excellent though, but we could have done without them sweeping the garden just inches from our bedroom window at 5.30am. Why do they have no consideration for paying guests? The website advertises "free wifi" which you have to pay for. Apparently this is an error that they know about but they are still waiting for their web designer to change the page. The website also mentions "digital satellite TV" but the only channel available was whatever was being watched in reception. After we had left Russ got a message to say they could have changed the channel if we had asked! Our final gripe isn't unique to this place. We were charged for an extra breakfast each day. Apparently the room rate is the same whether there is one person staying or two, but if there are two an extra breakfast is charged. We have yet to see reference to that anywhere!

We had no real plans for our time in Blantyre. It was just a stop to get a few things sorted out and rent a car so we didn't have to travel on those minbuses again. The B&B was about half an hour's walk from the CBD, the Central Business District, where most of the banks are and a few smart hotels. We walked there and had a great curry at the Bombay Palace before getting a taxi back as there is a distinct lack of street lights for walking.

After a good night's rest (interrupted by the gardener!) we took a rather scenic walk through some of the city's green districts. Google Maps took us alongside the edge of fields of maize which was a bit of a surprise. We made our way to Mandala House, a national monument of a house built way back in 1882. The artwork in there is amazing but we were too full of breakfast to stop for anything in their cafe. Then we eventually managed to find the office of the car rental company, Anna's, which was harder than expected as they had sent the wrong location on WhatsApp! After sorting everything out in advance of collecting a car, they took us out to Chichiri Shopping Centre. It's really not much of a shopping centre and their underground cinema closed its doors last year. We were there to pick up some essentials in Shoprite though, a massive South African supermarket. After queuing for ever to get cash out of the ATM we then boarded another minibus (!) to get back into the centre.

The next morning someone from Anna's picked us up and we were soon on our way with a feeling of independence from having our own wheels. First stop was Shoprite again and then the Museum of Malawi. The reality of it being a national museum was not as great as its title might suggest. It was a dusty collection of interesting artefacts but they were not telling their story very well at all. The lighting could have been better too. Outside there is a collection of rusting old vehicles including a train, a traction engine, a fire engine, and a really old bus. They provide a passing interest but without more information about them, that's about it.

Blantyre and Limbe are technically two separate cities but they are pretty much joined together. The Independence Arch marks the boundary but it was so forgettable that we didn't even stop the car to take a photo. We then crawled through Limbe's commercial centre which is gridlocked thanks to the number of minibuses which go through there. As we crawled beggars came to our window and knocked on an alarmingly regular basis. Then we were free and out into the Malawi countryside. It was beautiful.

Our destination for the next few nights was Game Haven Lodge, just half an hour away. As we were turning onto the dirt road leading to the lodge, disaster struck. Well, you didn't expect it all to go smoothly, did you?! An idiot in a jeep decided to overtake us at high speed and smashed into the front wing of the car. It was a 50kmh zone with a solid no overtaking line. We actually suspect he was on his phone and hadn't seen us until it was too late to stop. Luckily Russ saw him at the last moment and was able to move the car and deflect the blow, minimising the damage. Damage there was though, and the jeep went a further 100m down the road before he could stop and turn around. The boss from the lodge came to make sure that we were not taken advantage of and we waited for an hour or so for someone from Anna's to come and sort the mess out. They did not want police involvement which left us questioning the legality of our rental. It would certainly explain the price! The other driver insists that we were at fault and not indicating as we turned. Besides that being untrue, how could it possibly be anyone's fault but his? Still, all's well that ends well and it all got sorted out whilst we were staying at the lodge, but that's for the next blog!

Additional photos below
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11th February 2019

Interesting architecture
12th February 2019

Health and safety!
It doesn't exist.

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