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Published: February 3rd 2012
Heading down south to Blantyre we managed to hitch a lift with a couple of nice truck drivers. This was our only option since the three busses that were supposed to be passing by between 4-5pm arrived three hours later all completely packed with around 20 people standing in each.
Well normally this would be fine for us but since it was going to be a 12 hour trip over night we thought better of this and gave up on our hope to go that night. We are not really sure if the busses are like this all the time but the fuel crisis (and every other crisis here in Malawi) has put too much pressure on car owners and they have no option but catch the public transport also. As well our impression of some locals haven’t been good since they are trying to cheat on every corner, for example we have paid for the bus and they didn’t let us know that it is just standing places left, and we decided to wait for the next bus. They gave us back our bus tickets’ money but in a cheeky way 1000 Malawi Kwacha just disappeared in a lady’s
pocket. Luckily we have counted again and we were demanding to get our all money back. This kind of stuff is happening daily and everyone is trying to survive the day in own way.
It is only when you stay for a longer time here in Malawi and talk to locals that you realize that the trouble that Zimbabwe had over a decade ago could be sneaking slowly in here as well. Locals who were living in Zimbabwe and moved here when the trouble started are seeing similar signs, more slowly, but they are there. The reason it is heading more slowly is that Malawi people are less irritated and not prone to violence than the Zimbabweans but over the last few weeks cracks are showing in the people’s tolerance. Several large protests and one resulted in 12 people getting shot and the police claim that they didn’t realize they were using real bullets and thought it was rubber. That is really what they said, seriously!
Some interesting things about how the currency here is going, well you can hardly get any both local and US! Banks rate for the dollar is 1US to 167 Malawian Kwacha and
on the street (or the black market) it fetches for 265 Malawian Kwacha. Hang around the bank area for few minutes and the sellers of Malawian Kwacha will surround you like bees around a honey pot. In a distract way the guys are asking if we would like to change the money and if you say “yes” so they are running to a narrow street in a tiny apartment to get some money, and they are giving you money with the hand down so nobody would see it. Make sure to get a good rate first before you are giving them money, and calculate the money you get from them once again before you are giving some dollars.
Oh some information about people going to Mozambique who need a visa. Get it done in Blantyre as for some reason on the border it costs 80US but depending on how you go about it you get for 25US in Blantyre. It costs 6700Kwacha but is you get cash from ATM you get the bank rate but if you lucky enough to have some US notes to exchange on around town (black market), well it is very cheap. We have heard
that the visa for Mozambique varies from which country you enter which seems bizarre but mostly from 60-80US but if in Malawi do it in Blantyre.
So the country is not in a good position at the moment and is steadily going backwards and it seems the tourism industry is also. We are Couchsurfing at the moment but went to a local hostel and it is dead quite and they said it is never like this even for the rainy season. We think people who come here find it way to difficult to get around the country now because of the fuel, tourists who have a car fill up before arrival and go right on through to the more tourists friendly countries such as Tanzania, Mozambique etc.
Well anyway Blantyre was our final city which is the financial heart of the country, not a great deal to do. We were planning to hike Mt Mulanje but the weather has been terrible with the cyclone going on in Mozambique so we have been stuck indoors for a few days which turned out to be over a week. We were lucky enough to be staying with a wonderful Couchsurfer. So
good that we were planning three nights and turned out to be ten. It was really nice to be in one place for a while and get away from the energy consuming backpacking on a daily basis. Cooking, movies and discussions were the treat during our stay with Elaine and it was the best way to finish up our stay in this in troublesome country.
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Mood in Malawi
Thanks for sharing all the information in your Malawi blogs. I currently live in China and haven't seen or heard anything about this on cnn.com (my only real source of news). It seems to be a country in desperate need of new leadership in so many ways.