Mama Rula was the name of the camp that we stayed at on our last night in Zambia. It is just outside the city of Chipata, which is close the Malawian border. We knew we would be getting in late as the time in Lusaka with the Land Rover crowd had chewed up travel time. About an hour out of Chipata we phoned ahead and made sure they had place for us and the , Beatrix, offered to prepare some steaks for us so that when we arrived we could eat. Her website says that she has the best T-bone steaks, and Stefan agreed after licking his plate and leaving very little of the 500g hunk of meat behind. The camp layout was casual, grassed and the ablutions were ok. A little run down but functional.
We had noticed and mentioned before that it seemed that a large portion of daily living was moving water from its source to the peoples homes in various containers . These containers, normally 25litres drums, stood in groups on the side of the road and now and then we saw a large truck filling the containers, so we thought that some entrepreneur had a water delivery service to a pre -determined collection point. Often heavy duty wheelbarrows are used with car tyres as the barrow wheel for further transport. Our finding was soon to be dispelled. As we neared the border we found the real story. Its Beer! Yes beer! Traditional beer is delivered in container trucks that is then poured into these containers for further distribution and home delivery. What a service! I could do with this at home.
We left Zambia with thoughts about how friendly the people are, what beautiful countryside they had, how brightly the ladies dressed and how they made the most of what ever they had and seemed happy with it. At no point did we feel uncomfortable threatened nor in a difficult situation.
The border process leaving Zambia was super fast, with a stamp in your passport and a stamp on the Carnet and off you go. The thing about these border posts is you are not always sure where to go as there are trucks and people everywhere and at the same time there are hustlers trying to change money and show you what you should / must do so it’s a little mad and you just need to stay super cool and go through the process.
On the Malawian side it took a little longer and the process was unclear. The first guy to see was the immigration officer who was polite and stamped my passport after I had completed a small form. He is now the proud owner of my Siemens Healthineers pen. When Stefan paid for his visa with 100US$ the officer asked if he wanted change in Malawian Kwacha and Stefan agreed once a rate had been defined. Little did we know that this transaction and the fact that the officer has a fancy new white pen were help us later. The carnet processing makes life a lot simpler and that was duly stamped and then I was taken to a small shed at the back of all the buildings to purchase 3rd party insurance. It looked totally dodgy and I trusted no one but to get this insurance disk they only accept Kwacha and that meant I had to change US$ into kwacha and with no ATM and not wanting to use the touts there was only one option left and that was to go back to the immigration officer and ask him if he could change 100US$ into local currency. A rate was agreed upon and the transaction was duly done. Now where else in the world would the immigration officer be exchanging currency? Africa makes a plan.
The drive to Lilongwe was relaxed with police stops every 20 minutes or so. At one of the stops the female officer was really friendly and after the opening chit chat she stated that she was looking for a white man and if she could come and join us at our camp site!!. Well we were both so shocked and gobsmacked that we made a little joke and she smiled and waved us through. Sheesh.
Along the way we stopped for some sugar cane and bought a stick for 50 euro cents. The kids were really excited and I gave them all pens and Stefan had is first bite of raw sugar cane. We duly paid and were on our way again.
By midday we arrived at the Lilongwe Golf Club that had been recommend to us as having a good camp site. Their campsite no longer existed, and they sent us around the corner to a place called Mabuya Lodge. We were greeted by a huge magnificent Boerbul cross ridgeback dog that checked us out with interest. We checked it out too and then the campsite and as it looked good we agreed to stay. We chatted to the owners who were distraught as 5 hours earlier one of their buildings had been raised to the ground due to a fire. I really felt sorry for them and felt even better that we were staying there and offered to help if there was a way. We bought a few groceries in town, got a Sim card and had a haircut and came back to set up camp. Stefan and I then took a walk into town to enjoy the local scene and took a Tuk Tuk taxi back to Mabuya.
We braaied and had dinner together with a young couple that have been travelling through Africa for a few months and will do a few months more. Nice people and we were envious of their free spirit. The lodge did our washing and we stayed for breakfast hoping that our small expenditure would go a way to helping them out of their predicament.
Before leaving Lilongwe in the morning we had to stop by the local market. This was an experience and with no packaging and everything laid out so beautifully it made you think of the savings to the environment without polystyrene and clingwrap packaging. Much fresher and cheaper too.
Driving North we will go through the city of Kasungu and then head east to the lake and continue up North to Nkhata bay.
Chat as soon as we get connected again