Tales of Transportation in Malawi

I’ve been given a lot of advice about commuting through and around Lilongwe. Advice is great however the truth is when you find yourself in need of a ride, there usually isn’t a lot of options to avoid potentially dangerous situations.

MUSCCO's 'trusty' company car

MUSCCO’s ‘trusty’ company car

Most of the time I’m on foot, walking on wide well beaten paths around Area 3 and Old Town. For work I’m often in a company car or on a coach bus going to Blantyre or Mzuzu and the surrounding SACCOs. For an evening out it’s a taxi, for a day of exploring it’s a mini bus, for a work function it’s a small green hatch back with my coworkers Violet and Zione.

I’ve had a lot of funny moments in the last two and a half months, so without further ado please enjoy these misfortunes and unanticipated adventures.

That time our taxi ran out of gas…

In celebration of my birthday I decided to go out for Indian Food at Country Lodge (HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT if you’re ever in Lilongwe). One of our regular taxi drivers Johnny had suggested the place to us one night about a month ago when we went for Indian at Bombay Palace and they had no tables available. So we called up Johnny again who for once came quite quickly to pick us up. After dinner when we were almost home, instead of going all the way through the round-about Johnny branched off left. I was starting to question if he was taking us home ‘the long way’ so he could charge us more but then the car died…
We coasted to a stop and Johnny did his best to turn the key over… next thing you know he was getting out and trying to push his van, with Kelly and I still in it. I asked if he’d like help and he set his pride aside, a little embarrassed and said yes please. We got out in our skirts and flip flops, Kelly and I in the back, Johnny at the wheel and driver’s door and we pushed the van all of 5 meters when we decided this just was not happening. After some standing around on a dark abandoned street and trying to push some more he grabbed a small container from the back and said he would just run and get some fuel so we could carry on. Victory.

That time I hauled my drunk ass into the back of a truck…

The type of truck we climbed into it might not look that big but believe me it is.

The type of truck we climbed into in the dark haha it might not look that big but believe me it is.

One night I ran into Gift and Moses at Mabuya Camp and we ended up drinking a 2-6 of “PowerNo.1” which is some horrendous vodka meets gin concoction that puts you in the dancing mood. The guys invited me to go to Culture Club for the first time… a huge bar that is always packed and pounding good tunes out in the village. Sure, sounds fun.

We left Mabuya and walked to the road, to hail a car you just stand on the side of the road and kind of put your arm out and flap your hand. Sure enough, it wasn’t more than five minutes and a truck stopped. Moses climbed in quite easily. With my small town girl pride, I stepped up onto the tire, grabbed onto the box, ready to pull my skirted self into the truck when I lost a shoe, lost my balance, started laughing, lost my grip and fell off the parked truck. I moved to the other side of the truck to try again, feeling like perhaps the truck was slanted to one side… again – fail. Embarrassed, intoxicated and keeping the truck driver waiting I moved closer to the cab so I could grab on to something. Next thing I know I am pulled by Moses from inside the truck, pushed up by Gift on the ground and am pathetically hoisting my leg over the side to get in before flopping inside the box like the classy lady I am – and off we go to the club. #TIA

That time I was proposed to on the bus…

Selfie on the coach home from Blantyre

Selfie on the coach home (from Blantyre)

The first time I traveled by coach to Mzuzu, a 5 hour bus ride through beautiful hills and plenty of police check stops – I received my third or fourth marriage proposal. Waiting for district police to check the bus, it happened.

Many people with candies, sodas, cigarettes and other goodies wait along the road for travelers and take advantage of this pause in their journey to make a sale. As I opened the window  to buy a bottle of water, my snack-man took off his flat beak baseball hat and looked up at me with nothing but love and endearment in his eyes and asked if I could please be his wife. It really was a cute gesture until other bus passengers got irritated with how long this young guy was taking to sell me a water when they were also demanding service. I laughed and we talked and when he finally had to walk away the other vendors thought I might have softened up and they also tried their luck. It was short and sweet.

That time I got on the minibus at 5:45am in a village… 

IMG_4053The minibus is a great place to observe all kinds of Malawian culture. After an extremely late night of birthday dancing at Culture Club I had taken up a room at a village rest house because it worked out to be less expensive than cabbing it home. In the morning my friend Gift met me at the guesthouse and escorted me back to town so I could go to work. At 5:45am, in a very busy area of the village we found many minibuses half loaded with passengers and found ourselves a spot in the back of a van.

A minibus is just a big van that carries about 15-20 people. There are few designated stops and there’s certainly no schedule but anyone with any kind of cargo can jump on. At this time of the morning there was a young woman breastfeeding a baby, two old guys telling jokes, an old woman with a massive bucket of potatoes, a guy with a bundle of firewood, an older gentleman with live chickens, the driver cranking reggae on the radio, a few others and myself and Gift causing all kinds of rumours about who I was and what I was doing there en route to town so early. Even with a chitenje and t-shirt on all evidence pointed to ‘racey’ rumours I’m sure.

the traveling salesman

the traveling salesman


This entry was posted in Africa, Lilongwe, Malawi, Transportation, travel, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s