Jill's African Adventure
* Its a Small World (Blantyre and Beyond)
* The Night Bus: From Nkhata Bay to Zomba
* Lake Malawi
* Reflections on East Africa
* The Long Road to Malawi: Part 2
* The Long Road to Malawi: Part 1
* Parc National des Volcans
* Kibale Forest
* Back and Forth from Kampala
* Rafting the Nile
* Murchison Falls
* A Day in The Life
* Hell's Gate
* Nairobi and Around (Part 2)
* Nairobi and Around (Part 1)
* A Dhow Trip From Lamu
* Watamu: Ruins, Monkeys, Shrews, and Jellyfish
* Hiking in Lushoto
July 28, 2005
The Night Bus: From Nkhata Bay to Zomba
From Nkhata Bay, my next stop was the town of Zomba, in the south of Malawi to do some hiking. From reading my guidebook and talking to people it seemed that the best way to get there was to take go from Nkhata Bay to Mzuzu, catch the night bus to Blantyre, and then take a minibus from Blantyre to Zomba. That was my plan. And it even seemed a good one.
I left my backpacker's hostel in Nkhata Bay around 9:30 in the morning to begin the half hour or so hike to the bus station with my full pack in the hot sun. The hike was fairly uneventful and I soon found myself on a matola (pick-up truck shared taxi) in the comfy front seat rather than in the back with a bunch of other people. Sometimes it is good to be a mzungu. Even better, I only had to wait a few minutes for the matola to leave for the uneventful ride to Mzuzu. Buying my ticket for the night bus to Blantyre went off without a hitch and I ran into a Dutch guy I had met on the ferry to Usisya who told me where I could leave my bag so I didn't have to carry it around with me all day.
So, at 11am I was all set to head to Blantyre on the 5pm bus. I just had 5 hours to kill before the 4pm reporting time. I went all the way across town to look at what turned out to be a very small pottery shop where I was able to buy some postcards. Then walked all the way back to town to have lunch. Tried to go to an internet cafe, but failed. The cheap one was closed and the other one was charging Mk25 per minute. I don't remember exactly how much that is, but I think it worked out to over $10/hour. Foiled in my plans to check e-mail, I found a bench and spent the next couple hours writing postcards and reading my book. After that, i bought some snacks for the ride and, finally, it was time to head over to the bus.
In a somewhat surprising turn of events, the bus showed up on time and I soon found my seat. Which was not the window seat the ticket lady had told me she would give me. I was not pleased. The woman in front of me told me to just sit by the window and that no one would care. I was not convinced that no one would care; it was a long ride and the window seats are, I think, much nicer. Still, I sat by the window thinking that the worst that could happen is that someone would ask me to move. Happily, I got to stay in the window seat for my whole voyage.
The problem over assigned seats happened on the other side of the bus. Apparently, despite all of us having assigned seats, most people did not sit in them. One man got on and was assigned to a window seat which someone else was sitting in. He asked him to move. The man refused. The man sitting next to me joined in and told the man who had just gotten on to find any seat, but the man, quite understandably I think, wanted his window seat. The stewardess was called over. She was unable to resolve everything. In true African style, many of the other passengers on the bus loudly began to voice their opinions that the man was being unreasonable and should just find any seat. (I did notice, however, that no one offered to give up their window seat to resolve the problem.) This argument went on for quite a while in both English and Chichewa and the end results were thus: a) the man sitting in the window seat did not move; b) the man assigned to the window seat got off the bus; c) the bus left almost an hour late.
We finally left and the stewardess came around, collected our tickets with the seat numbers on them, and handed us each two unintelligible slips of small paper which, presumably, meant something to someone. I was on a luxury bus, so there was a TV. It was playing a weird (presumably Malawian) show that featured a witch. It was soon replaced with Hard Target, which I believe is a Jean-Claude van Damm movie. In any case, it was the sort of action film I don't generally watch unless I am on a bus. Trying to understand what was going on was a challenge, but I had nothing better to do.
When the movie ended I decided to try to get some sleep. In this I failed miserably. The movie was replaced with a program in Chichewa where the only word I understood was HIV. HIV was mentioned a lot in this program. As the program was keeping me awake, they must have feared that I would fall asleep anyway, and came around and checked our tickets. Then there was a roadblock. We all had to get off the bus and wait for the police to check our luggage -- and the luggage of the two busses in front of us in line. I ate some of my chocolate bar. Eventually we got back on the bus. I tried to sleep again. They checked our tickets again. The Chichewa language TV program switched from one where all I understood was "HIV" to one where all I understood was "Thank you Jesus." This phrase was repeated a lot. In case anyone was wondering, "HIV, HIV" is easier to rest to than "Thank you Jesus, Thank you Jesus." Eventuall the TV was turned off. There was another roadblock. I ate more of my chocolate bar. We got back on the bus. They put a movie in. I saw the "Universal" screen come up and though that since there was no way I was going to manage to fall asleep with the movie on, I might as well watch it. I hoped it was something good. It was Hard Target again.
Part-way through the movie my seat mate leaned over and said to me, "We are in Zomba now." What!?!?!? I hadn't known the bus went through Zomba. I thought I was going to have to go to Blantyre and catch a bus to Zomba from there. So, at 3am I got off the bus. Since it was dark and there were no taxis around, however, I got to spend the next three hours waiting in the bus company office. I finished off my chocolate bar. Finally, finally, around 6 in the morning it was light enough to walk to the hotel I was staying at where I immediately went to bed and slep until around noon.
Posted by Jillian on July 28, 2005 04:27 AM
Category: Southern Africa
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