Friday, March 4, 2011

Day 140 - Chimoio, Mozambique to Blantyre, Malawi

Well, another 650km day as there was nothing really worth sight seeing.  Tell you the truth I just wanted to get out of Mozambique.  Passed many villages along the road with their grass huts and selling everything from pineapple to fuel out of jugs.  

Arrived at the border where I was accosted by these money changers.   Reminiscent of Central America.  I think there were 8 in total.  Immigration and customs were easy but these money changers were a pain in the ass.  The security at the gate warned me to count my money if I did change any.  I did, as I had 2000 mets left (about 60USD).  They gave me an exchange rate of 4 to 1 which I found out later was ok.  I couldn’t check it before hand on the internet as it was out at the place I stayed in Chimoio.  Anyway, they hounded me and I handed over my 2000 mets and they gave me a pile of Malawi kwacha 200 bills.  The guy, Alex even befriended me.  Nothing worse than that and then being ripped off. I counted the 19, told him it was wrong and he gave me another. My math was way off.  Not sure what I was thinking but I accepted.  Should have been 8000 Kwacha not 4000.  The only explanation I have is I was worried about one of the 8 delinquents lifting something of my bike and with all the commotion I counted incorrectly.  No wonder one of the other guys badgered me to change more money.  I guess he thought I was a complete idiot.  I was.  

On the way to Tete,  I was stopped by an armed “official” at a road block.  I asked what the barricade was for and he said I needed to wash my hands with chlorinated water from the 45 gallon barrel placed in the middle of the road.  I asked why.  I had just travelled through a Cholera designated area was the reply.  OK.  

Stopped to fuel up about 100 km from the border at what was a fairly new petrol station.  I parked in the shade close to the pumps for a break and immediately an armed security guard approached me and said I couldn’t park there.  After some conversation he asked for some money for a drink so I replied, "As long as I can stay in the shade".  He agreed so I gave him 25 mets (about 50cents) for a coke.

At the Malawi border again, the same thing, money fixers, except this time half of them were drunk and each one of them was trying to tell me different a story.  The drunks saying I shouldn’t pay for services and the sober ones saying the others were drunk, don't listen to them.  Immigration was a snap again and customs was down a long dirty dilapidated corridor where I had to explain how the carnet worked while my entourage waited for their prey, me.  Didn't need these guys.  The whole process was dead simple.  The one guy had kept saying,  "I only ask whatever you give just out of the goodness of your heart."  At the end, I handed him a 200 kwacha bill (2USD) for doing nothing and he laughed.  He asked for 1000 or 2000 kwachas.  I told him to take a hike (not in those words) and left.  Really getting tired of these border parasites and the officials do nothing about them.

First thing I noticed in Malawi was the absence of huts.  The buildings, although in disrepair, were all adobe or brick but no huts.

Arrived at Doogles Lodge (recommended from the SA guy in Chimoio).  Funny, I turned off a paved road onto a dirt road which led into a bus terminal with all knds of ratty stands and I'm thinking, "What the hell kind of place is this Doogles anyway?"  I was greeted by a friendly reception clerk but thats where the hospitality ended.  Even Lonely Planet describes the lack of hospitality here.  Yet another place I won't leave too quickly.  Bed at 8pm outta here at 6am.

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