38 – Lilongwe to Lusaka

38 – Lilongwe to Lusaka

We were only in Lilongwe for half a day, which we spent buying bus tickets, a few souvenirs and stamps. We therefore know very little about the capital of Malawi, other than the bus station is also a fish market and the post office employees are lovely and smiley.

wooden globe
One of the few souvenirs from our trip: a wooden globe from a craft market @ Lilongwe's Post Office.

We took a tuk-tuk to our Airbnb (the first one since Ethiopia!). Our hosts, Trish and Kal, were a couple of British expats living in a chic area of Lilongwe. Though they had not seen our booking (their internet was down – a regular occurrence here!), they still welcomed us with open arms and free burgers! We had arrived bang in the middle of their Christmas party; the place was buzzing with a joyful crowd! Trish and Kal scurried back and forth to the kitchen, chatting to us as they passed. The “mad house” (as they called it) gradually emptied. Each of the guests stopped to exchange a few words with us on their way out to their pub-crawl.  It is a pity we could not stay there longer. A welcoming home is a happy home!

Our Airbnb (which we actually only saw at night!)

The Airbnb was now empty of partygoers-cum-pubcrawlers. Temporary residents; a northern-Irish guy in his fifties and his two daughters, were left behind. Despite being in the middle of Africa, our conversation (unwillingly!) turned to UK politics. Heather and the Northern-Irish guy may both hold a UK passport, but they have little else in common! He has spent much of his life in what he proudly still refers to as “Rhodesia”, celebrates the success of Boris Johnson and was delighted for Brexit. We had a heated but polite discussion together and, at the end, concluded our visions of society were at opposite ends! The pub crawl would probably have been much more fun!

We did not get much beauty sleep that night as we were up before sunrise (again) to catch a bus (again). We were now completely at ease with travelling around Africa by bus. We knew the routine! For instance, whilst Arnaud dealt with the luggage, Heather hunted down two seats next to a window which opened (an important detail which always needs to be tested prior to sitting down).

The sun had barely risen when a large crowd gathered around piles of fish, laid out on tarpaulins on the ground. The fact that the buses were parked right next to the fish did not seem to bother anyone. Usipa-fish smoked in a cloud of exhaust pipe, on a bed of sandy dust, anyone? The flies were certainly happy.

Crisp European mornings were a distant memory. Here, the sun was up at six and ten minutes later it was sweltering. Thank goodness we had open-window seats.

A few hours later we were at the border. Immigration went smoothly: we got two stamps in our passports for 50USD each. A couple of girls joined our bus for the next leg of the journey. They sneakily tried to take photos of us on their smartphones. We used the next stop to buy a Zambian SIM card, then it was a straight, long road to Lusaka.

The views did not change much. We could tell it had been raining a lot recently as the roadsides were boarded with thick green bush. It must look so different during the dry season! We even passed the Lower Zambezi National Park, but there was no chance we would spot anything through the vegetation!

As we approached Lusaka, traffic jams and massive, swanky malls appeared. It was night-time by the time we finally pulled into Inter-City Bus station. Being one of the city’s main transport hubs, it was overflowing with people. It felt like every taxi driver there offered us a taxi! We grabbed a chicken pie at one of the bus station’s stalls, then made our way to our backpackers’ hostel, where Wayne was going to collect us the next morning.

A group of Chinese businessmen were in the room next door to ours. They spent their evening smoking and drinking in the corridor. Nice. Despite having our windows open and our door closed, our room was like a fumoir. Nice.

We had a good giggle the next morning when they attempted to have an in-depth conversation about money with the hotel manager. It was a three-way conversation: them, the hotel manager and a translation app on their phone! The Chinese would say something, they would all wait a few minutes in silence, then you would hear the telephone’s mechanical voice speaking in incoherent English. The hotel manager then spoke back to the phone in English (with a strong Zambian accent), before waiting in silence until the phone rattled off in Chinese. Judging by everyone’s expression, it was not working too well! Haha. We hoped they did not have anything else planned for the day! The Chinese may have set up business all over Africa, but a few hurdles remain for some of them!

2 Replies to “38 – Lilongwe to Lusaka”

  1. I note the use if ‘nice’ twice in quick succession and I’m pretty sure you did not mean nice either time!
    Phew, that was a long bus journey, after a night rehashing disappointing politics. Nice!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *