Malawi- Mozambique: Journey from HellJanuary 31 in Malawi ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C
Today, we must cross from Malawi into Mozambique, a journey we’ve been dreading, given the huge distances, and what promises to be a difficult border crossing.
We say our goodbyes to the staff at Mayoka, Beaura the tailor, Machine the rasta jewellery seller and everyone else we’ve made friends with here. Honeyman sends us off with a bag of banana bread that he cooked for us at home.
Our journey starts by taking a taxi to the police checkpoint outside of town. There, the police promise to flag down the correct bus to take us to Blantyre, Malawi’s second city, close to the Mozambique border. We wait for around 2 and a half hours, whiling away the time chatting to the (assault-rifle-wielding) policemen, who are very charming and talkative. Malawi is often called the warm heart of Africa, and it’s impossible to disagree. I don’t think we’ve met a single person who didn’t want to stop and chat or help us out. We love it here and are hesitant to leave.
Nevertheless, we reluctantly board the coach to Blantyre. Our first challenge is to find somewhere to sit. The bus has come from the nearby city, and not only are all the seats full, but there isn’t much standing room left. We end up in a small aisle space next to an extremely drunk 20 year old Malawian. He loudly (and, to emphasise, extremely drunkenly) shouts that we have to stand in order to experience the real Malawi. He slurs that we westerners love to write about our travels, and we should write about the real Malawi. Sure enough, here we are. At one point, he gets up and offers Chris the seat. Chris insists that Katie should get the seat, but he screams that in Malawi, the men get precedent over women, so Chris should sit. We refuse the offer, and sit on the floor. After a little while, we get an upgrade from the floor to an upturned bucket (for Katie) and a slanted wicker mat (for Chris), which he keeps sliding down. Later still, Katie secures a seat, whilst Chris now has a child’s head buried in his ribs, another drunk man leaning on his back, a family at his feet and- what’s that? did the baby there just do a smelly poo? yes, yes it did. At 2.50am (not counting or anything), Chris gets a seat and manages to grab a wink of sleep or two.
At Blantyre, we take another bus to the border. The first (comfortable looking) coach refuses to take us since we don’t have visas- apparently we need to get them at the embassy: but today is Saturday, and the embassy is closed. We hop into a minibus and make for the border, to risk it.
At the Malawian border, we explain that we need to get Mozambican visas, which is met by a skeptical look and an explanation that visas are extremely hard to get at the Mozambican border. Once we are stamped out of Malawi, that visa is cancelled, so we would need to fork out another $75 each to reenter.
Nervously, we stamp out, and make our way across no-man’s land to the Mozambique side. The border is chaos, with hundreds of people being processed by two flustered looking immigration officials, whilst their hawkish boss prowls the desks, occasionally pressing a printer button or casting suspicious gazes over the crowd of people. We get his attention after a while, and he gives us some forms to fill in. A little later, one of the lower-ranked officials give us the correct forms. With the right forms filled in, Katie is invited over to the counter and is painlessly issued a visa. Chris’ visa takes much longer, as the system crashes, and we have to wait for the computer and network to reboot. Whilst Katie is waiting, a Ugandan man asks for help with his form. Apparently, the senior official refused to help him, and instructed him to ask the foreigners for help.
With our visas almost issued, we get chatting to Ian, who had been on the same bus as us, and is also going to Tete. He asks us if we are Christian, and Chris explains that although his family is Christian, people in the UK don’t really go to church much. He looks at us in disbelief and asks “so you are like the animals, Godless?” I suppose so?
The journey isn’t over yet, though: we still need to get to Tete, before a 1,500km journey to Maputo. To get to Tete, we get into another small minibus. It has four small benches, three fold-down seats, and picks up 31 people. At one point, one passenger is stooped over the others, with his bum out of the minibus. It is African travel at its most challenging, and we decide to fly the remaining distance to Maputo.Read more