In a world where the average wage is one dollar per day, a new Xbox or Gameboy is not an o
I spent the morning in the South Luangwa Game Reserve dodging elephants, watching a hyenas gnaw on a three-week-dead hippo carcass (one of the most nauseating things I've smelled), and smashing a few dozen killer flies before departing for the Malawi border. The primary dirt track back to the tar road was fairly good, and the mix of foot, bicycle, and goat traffic reminded me of my night drive a few days earlier. I was flagged down at one point by a few villagers with a goat strapped to the back of a bicycle. It was for sale-and only 120,000 Kwacha (about $40 U.S.). I could have fresh goat for dinner (yes, it was alive). After a bit of bartering, the price fell to 100,000, then 90,000 and finally 80,000. And they'd tie it to my roof rack for free. When I explained that I had no means to slaughter the goat, they offered to sell me a knife as well. I respectfully declined.
Malawi and the Zomba Plateau
October 8th, kilometer 6900: Malawi has marked itself as being the friendliest country in Africa. Entering the country was as no more of a hassle than ordering a pizza. I provided the Carnet de Passage for the Hummer, paid $37 U.S. for local insurance, and a few bucks for a visa-no carbon tax, no road tax, nada. However, there were a couple of local men hanging out near the immigration office in hopes of exchanging their Malawian Kwacha for my U.S. dollars. And considering I was their only client at the moment, I received their undivided attention (they won't leave you alone). But their rate was fair and they were polite-and they wanted the U.S. greenbacks. We made a deal, shook hands, and I had a handful of colorful Malawian currency. I liked Malawi already.
It would be hard for most Americans to believe that there are parts of the world where bui
A villager showed up while I was making coffee, then another with a bicycle. Within 30 minutes I had 30 new friends, all with bicycles. From the far side of the river, three men maneuvered a small wooden boat to a muddy landing near my camp (the Shire is about a mile wide at this point). Two men jumped out and began loading bikes on the bow, then people on the stern to counter balance, then more bikes, until the boat took on the appearance of a lopsided penguin ready to capsize. The captain, Mr. Kaste, insisted that I come with them for the day to the village on the other side to visit his family and friends; I could return on the afternoon ferry.
I assessed the stability of this overburdened vessel while remembering the crocs and hippos along the river's edge. I politely declined the offer. The oarmen pushed off as the last passenger scrambled over the gunwale and they drifted away. The rest of the day was spent exploring the banks of the Shire and watching hippos, crocs, fish eagles, and several species of undulates.
A friend in Cape Town had suggested I visit the Zomba Plateau in Southern Malawi. Rising from rolling hills and fertile valleys, Zomba towers above like a monument to the gods of the sun, wind, and moon. The nearby city of Blantyre, a fuel stop, was a throng of congestion and hustlers. Stopping in a parking lot to review my route, I was approached by three men. As usual, they wanted to be my guide, guard my car, exchange money, sell me jewelry, wash my car, etc. It was like a mobile one-stop superstore. Though polite, they were persistent to the point of annoyance. I eventually got back behind the wheel and moved on. What a pain.