Continued from HITCH HIKING IN ZAMBIA – PART VI
On the Malawian side I was stamped with 30 days for free.
“Extensions are $25 USD per 30 days for a total of three months,” informed the customs officer.
“Cool,” I said. Same as Zambia. My stomach growled. “Where are your toilets?” I was directed in the direction.
I headed back out and hit the road. The road that was empty. Not a car insight. Indeed, not even a truck. The only cars were taxis.
The nearest town, Mchinji, was 12 K’s away. I hiked about 3 Ks, greeting locals that were staring at me, some laughing and pointing (the beard has its powers), before I reached a police roadblock.
“Uli bwanji?” I greeted in Nyanji (which is almost identical to Chichwei, the local dialect in Malawi. “Would you be able to help me get a ride to Lilongwe?”
“Wait,” said the commanding officer, the first African I met who didn’t smile. I plonked my gear down and watched as a taxi pulled up.
“Where are you going?” a wide-grinned driver asked me.
“Lilongwe,” I grinned back. “But I don’t have money.”
“No money?” his grin didn’t’ falter. “Not even a little bit?” he smiled.
I explained my way of living. He nodded, seeming to understand. Still grinning.
I took a chance. “Unless you wanna help me?”
Then he said those three magic words I’ve grown to love in Africa, “OK, let’s go.”
Gerald dropped me off in town at the bus depot where I had to fight off the bus and taxi drivers. This hitching spot didn’t look promising but, keeping a positive outlook, I stood by the road and attempted to flag down a car.
A taxi pulled up with a senior muzhungu woman riding shotgun.
“Where are you going?” she asked, her blue eyes looking through red-rimmed glasses while munching on a packet of crisps (also known as chips).
“Lilongwe,” I grinned.
“Well, come on then,” she said.
“I don’t have money,” I said, about to give my spiel when she cut me off with:
“That’s fine. Let’s go.”
Four free taxi rides all the way to my destination. I couldn’t thank Irene enough. She was working for an Irish NGO in the field of children’s services. Her driver was Nelson who stopped for a police officer who needed a ride.
“Our own private police escort,” I grinned at the officer who laughed.
130 K’s later I was dropped off outside the Kibobo Town Hotel where I was to meet Desiree, the Dutch manager who I met through Facebook through Lia, another Dutch girl I met in Koh Samui this time last year.
“If you’re ever in Malawi, look up my friend, Desiree,” she had said at the time.
And so the circle closed with Dezzi offering me a free night in a double-bedded room with an ensuite bathroom, cable TV, fan, aircon, mosquito net and breakfast (after she shouted me a Carlsburg – “Green” – and lunch) at the hotel she manages.
Malawi is my 13th country since I left on May 13th, 2013.
And they say 13 is unlucky.