Monday, January 10, 2011

January 10, 2011

I survived the Sun ‘N’ Sand Resort, Cape Maclear, Monkey Bay and the Mvuu Lodge all in mosquito infested areas without one bite. But one night in the best hotel in Malawi and I am scratching like crazy.

And the cushions wouldn’t organize themselves last night so I fought with them the whole night – not a really good sleep.

But we got up in time for the breakfast in the hotel dining room – a buffet – what else did I expect.

We had invited Hastings and his wife to join us for dinner tonight but I wasn’t able to let Margaret know last night so we walked over to the Mt. Soche and left her a note. Then on we walked to the Jambo Africa office just a block or two down Glyn Jones Road. We met Max our friendly travel agent who had made arrangements for us to have a driver take us to see the Tea plantations and Mt Mulange.

Into the car with Vincent and we started to drive south and east towards the Mozambique border. The main highways in Malawi are two lanes, quite well paved and packed with cars, trucks, bikes and people walking, playing, talking, and just sitting.

Blantyre is right next to Limbe – probably one municipality. Our driver pointed out that Limbe used to be the commercial centre created by the Indians (who don’t like to work in offices) but that now commerce was everywhere.

The scenery in Malawi is always beautiful – flat areas, bush, wooded areas – always with the mountains somewhere in the distance or sometimes right up close.

I learned something today – all those bikes with a man peddling and either an older man , child or woman sitting on the back are really bike taxis – I thought it was just one person giving someone else a lift.

We passed through a number of towns with markets on the road – dark, cement or brick buildings that look like they are abandoned with people milling around in front hawking their wares – usually maize, fruits and other vegetables – confusion and a little intimidating.

We stopped at one of these to run into a People’s to get some water. Helene chose to sit in the car and by the time we got back she was being visited by a man begging – he had stumps at the end of his wrists and you could tell that the rest of his body was much better. A harsh part of Africa and Malawi and is always disturbing when you are encountered by it.

We saw tea plantations, macadamia groves and more tea plantations – acres and acres and acres. Most of the tea fields were being harvested by people with cutters in their hands and bags on their backs. Harvesting tea is backbreaking work and we were told that the harvesters take home 125 Kwachas a day – about 80 cents for 8 and a half hours of work.

We stopped in Chitakare for lunch and went to the pizzeria suggested by Max. Our driver disappeared and Helene and I sat and ate our cheese and olive pizza – not bad considering where we were.

Pictures of Mount Mulange – well not actually pictures – we took videos – my digital camera has failed me – it may be time for a new one – will have to see if I can get it fixed at home.

We stopped at a tea plantation and spent an hour with a young fellow that told us all about how tea was harvested and processed – an intricate and scientific procedure.

We got back to Blantyre in time for the rush hour around 5 p.m. but made it back to Max’s office and walked to the Ryalls. We had a drink in their bar, a quick lie down and then dinner with Hastings, his wife and Margaret at the 21 Grill. It was very pleasant, good conversation and some real insight into the difficulties and opportunities provided in Malawi. Besides being a lecturer (professor) at the Polytech Hastings owns a ranch and a private school which has 1000 students. We talked for a bit about how to provide scholarships to deserving poorer students who demonstrate potential.