Katja Lachmann


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Trip from Chimoio to Mulanje (Malawi)


Sunday, 15th August I left from Chimoio at 4:30 a.m. in the morning. I got again a lift from the Italian Stefan to Inchope. Arriving their I got immediately a mini-bus to Mocuba. The price I was told is 400.000 MT what at the end worked out to be 320.000 MT. Anyway, I was asked to pay 370.000 MT until later made the driver aware that he must be wrong as 150.000 + 170.000 is 320.000 MT. He agreed, laughed and I got the 50.000 MT back.

I planned about 4 days to travel from Chimoio up to Mulanje as I was told that the road I have to pass will be the worst existing in Mozambique. People were totally wrong as the roads until Mocuba have been the BEST! I have seen during my whole time in Mozabique. If you leave Inchope via Gorongosa to Caia for crossing the Zambezi by ferry you will have no problems. It is a very good and new road easily comparable with the roads you can find in Germany. To cross Zambezi was quite fast although I first did not see any ferry. We waited only 15-20 minutes until we could go on board of the ferry. It was a bit problematic to get the cars on but in the end, after lots of people standing around the ferry and discussing the situations when a car got stuck everything worked out well. Unfortunately, for saftey reasons, I put my camera in the my bag that was in the car. Without having time the car was driven onto the ferry and another car parked so close that I could not reach my camera. Pity, but anyway, it was not that spectacular as I expected. It was a river and we went from one to the other side. That is all.

Arriving on the other side we had to wait a long time until the mini-bus went on. I do not know what was the problem, but I guess they were searching to fill up the mini-bus with lots of people earning some money. Until Zambezi we have not been more than 6 in the mini-bus what was quite nice. I was sitting in front, thus it was very comfortable. The driver was the father of the whole family sitting in the back of the mini-bus and it was quite funny having a little boy being at the same time interested and scared about this white something sitting in front - I mean myself ;) During waiting for the bus driving on after Zambezi I just watched life around the market. There were people also washing clothes inside the river, washing food, cooking...and I waiting for the driver coming to the car that I can enter. I was stupid leaving my back inside the car, but well, I learned after I nearly fainted because of the heat and no water. Everything was allright and after about 2 or 3 hours waiting the bus drove on having got lots of passengers to pay for a ride to Mocuba.

Arriving in Mocuba it was already dark and I was happy being helped by the driver to find a place to stay. He was first laughing when I said I cannot afford a room for 400.000 MT (about 20 Dollar) a night. Later on he helped me after spending im a Fanta in a bar. I payed at the end 200.000 MT what was the cheapest we could find.

On Monday, 16 August, at 4:30 a.m. I was guided to the bus station. I was told the bus to Milanje on the border to Malawi leaves at 5:00 a.m. Arriving there I was told the bus will not leave before 8:00 a.m. Well, Africa again, and I was patient waiting for the bus leaving. Actually, I did not expect to leave the bus at eight as it usually takes longer because they are waiting as long as the the truck or mini-bus is over-filled. When arriving at 4:30 a.m. at the bus station I made a price of 120.000 MT for sitting in the front. I was told to pay 150.000 MT but I knew that the price for the mini-bus is 120.000 MT. As it was a truck, less space and the driver was laughing when telling me having to pay more, I doubted it was right. Thus I bargained with him and at the end we made a price of 120.000 MT. One hour later another truck was coming, standing in front of the truck I was supposed to go with and three guys shouting loudly at the truck driver coming out of the other truck. They ordered all people on the truck and me, too, to change the car. I was asking why and what is going on that they are so aggressive but there was not clear answer. I was just told to change the car. Still doubting I listened the discussing and I found out that they have been the "first" truck there. That means they were first suppossed to get customers not the truck I have been in. I asked them if the price will be the same when sitting in front and waited for a clear YES. One guy gave me the clear YES and thus I changed. For me actually it did not matter with whom to go, just hopefully to leave somewhen. After changing I was asked to pay 150.000 MT what made me a bit angry. I mean, I made the price, I asked, I had before to pay in front 120.000 MT and this time I was asked again more. As the other person was going down with the price without problems, I wondered if it is just about me being white and supposed to have lots of money. I discussed with them but they did not understand my spanish-portuguese mix of words. Later on a person speaking English, very nice guy with his family, helped me to understand that they did not want to cheat me. It was the price for sitting in front and I accepted. I payed and everything was allright.

During waiting the truck to leave for Mulanje I had time to watch life at the bus station and the market on the street. Actually, I was the attraction but after two weeks in Africa you just ignore being watched from all the people. Some of them came, especially children, asking for money. When watching the market, after some time, I saw a man standing in the middle of the road, being dressed just with an old dirty shorts that could be kind of underwear. He had a stick in his hand and was shaking on the whole body. All people passing him were just ignoring him or even laughed at him. He was standing there for at least two hours, sometimes even sitting, sometimes trying to steal food from out of peoples bags. He must have been very hungry, shouting something to the people (I could not understand as it was too far), swaying the stick to people, looking angry and not moving anyhow. He was like stare, no matter if cares were blowing a horn or nearly tried to roll over him. I was stare watching him and I wished to go there to give him some food. But I was not sure if it is right to do as everybody was so strange behaving to him. As I am already strange for them I did not know if acting in form of giving him food would have been advisable. Thus I just watched the situation. Once he has got a little bread of somebody, eating it that you could see he is hungry, very hungry.

The truck left at 9:30 a.m. and we went a terrible road up to Milanje. I was told this to be a good road and hitch-hiking would be possible without problems. This was a very bad road in reality, or better still is, and hitch-hiking is in from my point of view not possible. I have been waiting 5 hours for the truck to leave and on the way to Milanje I have not seen any other car than after a few hours the truck coming from Milanje heading towards Mocuba. For the ca. 213 km we needed about 5 hours.

Arriving in Milanje I was surrounded by about 20 young guys trying either to change money with me or to offer a bicycle trip to the Malawian border. After telling them to leave me a second to think, some took care that I got some space for me and my backpack. I asked them many times if it is really not possible to change any Mozambiquean Meticais (currency) on the border and the claimed it to be that way. It was too much for me and as I was not prepared for leaving the same day to Mulanje, Malawi, I have not got the Meticais out of my back. I thought what to do and first I decided to leave that crowd of people getting a ride on the bicycle with the first guy that had offered me a ride. Sitting up on the back of the bicycle, my backpack still on, riding about 1 km we stopped again for changing money. I had to trust the person giving me a ride and thus I had to find all my Meticais out of the backpack. I found them, but had to open in front of them my backpack. I had no other chance, but nobody did anything bad. I also did not feel in danger, thus I did. I did not find all meticais, but most and changed to Malawi Kwacha. Then arriving on the border I payed the fee of 55.000 MT to the bicycle boy, knowing it is far overpriced but I did not mind, I just wanted to leave the country.

Entering Malawi I took a mini-bus for 70 MKW to Mulanje and checked-in at Mulanje View Motel. I choose camping at the back of the motel with a great view to the mountain as it was 200 MKW. A single room with just a bed and a chair would have cost me 420 MKW what I thought to be too much. The motel has got very nice staff that always helped me out whenever they could. Be aware that you have to pay beforehand.