After the very late and tiring drive the day before, everyone enjoyed a lazy start to day 11 of the General Tyre 4×4 African Adventure. We set off from Mama Rula’s campsite at 10 am, and stopped in the bustling town of Chipata from some quick shopping.
Then it was off to the Mwami border post where the formalities were completed without too much hassle. The Mchinji post on the Malawian side was also expedited with little fuss, although it did take the local insurance agent ages to process the obligatory road insurance – after having to find fuel to power up the generator, then start his PC and eventually produce some high-tech insurance certificates on Microsoft Access for all 10 vehicles. Africa truly is a land of astonishing contrasts.
Similarly, it’s always fascinating how a man-made boundary can create such a different look and feel to each country. Where Zambia boasted largely unspoilt landscapes with only a handful of small rural villages and the odd town every now and again, the moment we crossed into Malawi, the view was of non-stop houses, shops and high-walled compounds interspersed with cultivated lands for corn and tobacco.
Even though the road was in much better condition, there was little respite from the constant stream of pedestrians and bicycles vying for the same piece of tarmac as the cars, trucks and buses.
A worn-out sign at the border stipulated that the maximum speed limit for Malawi is strictly 80 km/h, and just 50 km/h in built-up areas – which made slow going on the road to Lilongwe. Due to the Easter Weekend, the shopping expedition for supplies proved largely futile, and the filling up of vehicles rather frustrating as none of the filling stations take fuel cards. So everyone had to stand in long queues to draw cash.
We eventually departed Lilongwe at 5 pm, and aimed for Lake Malawi. If the daytime driving wasn’t challenging enough, then the narrow roads to Senga Bay certainly made up for it. Despite little evidence of electricity, the steady stream of villages seemed to literally come alive at night, with bustling markets, packed cafés and thriving bars. It seems that the cooler evenings are when everyone comes out to play, meeting around the open roads to interact and catch up with their families and friends.
We were constantly dodging the thousands of taxi bicycles (indeed, typical African bikes with padded seats on the back for carrying customers), hordes of people walking in and across the road, and erratic cars and trucks with varying levels of functioning lights.
It was with a sense of relief that we arrived at the Steps Campsite in Senga Bay, adjacent to Livingstonia Hotel. As the tents were erected and supper prepared, we were greeted by a spectacular moonrise over the vast lake. The cameras whirred into action as the kids played on the smooth sandy beach in the darkness, and everyone enjoyed the sound of the crashing waves before tucking into one of Wimpie and Retha’s typically fantastic meals – this time tasty curry and rice.