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Published: November 7th 2009
I think I’m reaching a point now where I can get around pretty much independently, which is good lets me get out and not stay cooped up in the office or at home. At work I often go out with Fred during the day, to visit the businesses or schools we’re working with. We travel in the minibuses (also how I get around on my own) that provide good coverage for most places (all round Blantyre, but also to Zomba, Mangoshi and the Mozambique border), these are tiny little Toyota HiAces, 11 seater cabs, sitting 3 or 4 abreast, of somewhat dubious safety (no seatbelts, smashed windscreens, big dents down the side). They cost MK 50 (20p), to get anywhere, this is good when travelling from Blantyre city centre to Limbe in one trip, but somewhat annoying when you have to stop on the highway on the way. These are good for inner-city and generally safe, but not so good for the longer (and faster) distances; there are plenty of reports of accidents, and I’ve heard them called ‘mdula moyo’ (life shorteners). We got into a small bump on Wednesday; a car pulled out without looking and hit the minibus we were in sending us into a ditch. Everyone was fine, it was lucky really, we had just crossed a bridge across a stream, about 5 seconds earlier and we would have gone over the edge.
For the longer distances there are bigger coaches, the larger companies are AXA and United Bus Companies, they run trips between the cities. There are also coach services from Blantyre to Zimbabwe and South Africa and from Lilongwe to Zambia and Tanzania.
The main roads, better quality than in the surrounding countries, are mostly well tarmacked but with potholes, these are repaired by guys without jobs that fix them up then ask for donations, which I like. Better than begging. Off the main roads it gets worse, dust roads are common with big old rocks sticking up, it can get bumpy. I remember on the way to the lake the driver misjudged the size of the rock tried to drive over it. It scrapped all along the bottom of the car; we had to stop to check for any damage. There are police checkpoints along the main roads looking for illegal behaviour, though most of the time we’re just waved through.
There are many cars about (really more than the roads can handle, meaning traffic jams at peak times), some saloon cars and smaller cars (I saw a Matiz the other day), but there seem to be a lot of larger people carriers especially Toyota Hilux’s, I suspect to cope with the quality of the roads, however this has been reduced in the last week due to a diesel shortage that’s taken a lot of the bigger cars off the road.
There is also a railway service run by the Central and East African Railway, though according to the guidebook ‘travel by train is not a viable option except for the desperate’ but I haven’t tried it myself so I don’t really know. At the lake there are regular ferry services running, that travel all along the lakeshore and to Mozambique, north from Monkey Bay to Chilumba and south on the opposite route. Malawi Airways flies domestic and some international flights out of the 3 big cities (Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu). It boasts as being ‘Africa’s friendliest airline’.
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