Monday, December 29, 2008

Crossing into Malawi (Dec. 11/08 - Lilongwe, Malawi)

Our notable lack of giraffe sightings in South Luangwa National Park was fulfilled as we pulled out of camp this morning, as 14 of them were hanging out near the campsite entrance. It was almost like a final trophy telling us it was ok to leave - we have seen virtually everything at this park! The long bumpy drive back to civilization seemed just as long as on the way in, though we were relieved to not get stuck in any of the lakes on the road that resulted from the other night's downpour. We did manage to rip off half the rear bumper though, easing down into an especially deep, mud-filled pothole - and it was the half that wasn't bent on the way in! Oops. Add a little welding job to Raymond's to do list! We were headed back through Chipata to the Malawi border, which turned out to be the fastest and least busy border crossing yet! Another stamp in the passport, and we were on our way, eastbound for Lilongwe - Malawi's capital.

So far, everything about Malawi seems to be about the same as Zambia was. Green treed countryside, little towns where every other store bears the neon pink and blue cell phone company's logo. Goats on the road, people on bikes, kids selling mangoes one at a time. The exchange rate is certainly different than Zambia's currency though - one US dollar will buy you about 160 Malawi kwacha (as opposed to over 4300 Zambian kwacha!). When we drove into a Lilongwe grocery store for errands in town, guys with armloads of necklaces, carvings, paintings, etc. swarmed the truck, shouting up at our windows before we had even stopped! We prepared for battle and walked out of the truck, having to step around the eight people crowded around the steps just to get down. Apparently they were on their best behaviour though, as there was a security guard standing behind them with the meanest looking bull mastif on a leash, ready to kick some hawker ass. A few people checked out the impromptu crafts market lining a nearby street, but they said that the hassles were so incessant that the salespeople were more high pressure than any car salesman. I hope that we find Malawi's famed warmth and hospitality when we leave the city, because it's definitely not like that here!

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