Today the bus actually left on time. Actually, it even left early. The Lilongwe to Lusaka bus was scheduled to leave at 6:00am and once the clock struck 5:59am, we were on our way. This is the first time in Africa we left under an hour past the departure time.
The day didn’t start out this bright. We woke up to the sound of our alarm at 4:00am and prepared to get ready for our walk to the minibus and transfer to the business depot in downtown Lilongwe. At 4:30am just as we were about to depart we saw how dark it was outside and realized that it would not get light until 6:00am. We promised ourselves upon arriving in Malawi that we would only take local transportation (meaning no expensive taxis). This morning we were going to have to break that rule. A 10-minute ride to the bus depot in an African taxi cost us $15. $15 is more than our entire food budget has been during our stay in Lilongwe. Well, you live and you learn, and you do what you can to stay safe. Although the taxi was expensive, as I looked out the window and saw empty streets with only drunkards and haggards, I was glad we let the $15 go.
(Below: Andrew’s post)
Kylie and I woke early this morning, feeling a little nervous about getting to the bus station. As we packed, dressed, and generally finalized preparations for the journey, we went back and forth about whether to walk and catch a local bus, or to take a taxi. The real issue was safety, but price came into play as we learned the taxi would be nearly 10 times the amount of the local bus. My number one priority was to ensure that kylie would be safe, and she was nervous to take the bus (unless I felt okay taking the bus). To be honest I had trouble making a decision for us. Maybe fatigue or stress was coming into play, but I didn’t know the best course of action to take. After a lot of back and forth, a lot of frustration, we came to the decision we would take the taxi.
So glad we did.
As we rode out with Winston, in the early morning darkness there was not a bus in sight. The streets were dark and there was no one out. It was a little eery.
As we drove into old town, it became apparent that the taxi choice was the best option. Old town was completely deserted except for a few individuals huddled around a few trash/wood fires that roared in the darkness. I imagined walking through these groups at 4am and was relieved we chose to play it safe.
We boarded our bus and set out for our next adventure.
For the first time ever, and I mean ever in Africa, our bus left on time. It left 1 minute early in fact. I’m still in shock.
The ride went smoothly enough until we arrived at the border where we were detained by one of the border officials. Turns out our visa was for 30 days and since we were leaving on the last day (31) we were out of luck. The official threatened that we’d have to go to court in Malawi where we could make a case for the 31 versus 30 days stay. Kylie was very stressed and her voice showed it.
After speaking with the official for some time, he permitted us to stamp out of the country after paying a fine $20,000 kwacha, ouch. We dashed out and paid our border crossing (now we only had enough for a single entry visa instead of the dual one we planned on getting). We boarded our bus stressed, a little lighter (less cash), but ultimately relieved we weren’t going to court and were on our way again.
While being out in total $100 USD more on our trip than we expected (by the time we make our way back through), I’m still relieved everything worked out. Definitely thanks to the prayers we’ve been saying.
The rest of the ride went smoothly, albeit we were delayed by a ton of road construction along the only road to Lusaka from Zambia. We arrived about 2 hours after our scheduled time (due to all the delays). Thanks to the kind people sitting around us, even though my phone died unexpectedly, I was able to call Colin, get his address, and get in touch with his friend Ali who was to give us a ride.
We made it. Safe and sound. I honestly am so grateful for prayer. The entire last leg of the journey I’d been praying constantly that we would find a way and that we would be kept safe. Both prayers were answered, and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Tomorrow, our Lusaka adventure begins.