Day 13: The journey to Malawi

Today it was time to leave the lovely Wildlife Camp and make our way into Malawi. Our journey ended up being a bit of an adventure in itself – the heavy thunderstorm from the night before left the dirt roads in even worse shape than our journey in, and I could tell Thabani (our driver) was apprehensive about the route back. And lo and behold, about an hour into the journey, we were stuck.

The road was just saturated. Thabani did an excellent job of staying in the middle of the ground was firmest – it seemed just wide enough to fit the width of our truck – but all of a sudden we all felt a slip to the right and immediately knew we were in trouble. We all got out to assess the damage and within minutes there were about 50 villagers crowded around to see the entertainment! Thabani and Godfree (our guide) immediately got to work with a shovel digging out the wet mud from around the tires and we all started ripping out tall grass to put in front of the tires to help give us a bit more traction.

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As all of this was going on, a smaller truck impatiently decided that they could get through on the left of the road – but they got stuck, too! Once we got the smaller truck out of the way (we were able to help push it) and we felt like we had a chance to get Lennon out so all waited with baited breath as Thabani tried to drive out of the ditch.

The bad news is that it was a failed attempt and we were even more stuck than before…

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The good news is that we saw a very large Caterpillar bulldozer parked along the road a few miles back (being used during the week in the construction of the new road that will replace the dirt track we were using).

The great news is that all of a sudden the bulldozer was driving towards us.

20130204-210708.jpgIf you’re thinking that the villagers must have notified the driver and he was coming to save us, remember that TIA (this is Africa). Actually, the truck was coming to pull out two Land Rovers that were stuck further down the road from us and we were just INCREDIBLY lucky to be in his way. Thabani and Godfree thought that the best case scenario would be many hours until help would arrive. So, we were effortlessly pulled us out and we were on our way, praying that we wouldn’t get stuck a second time.

Further up the road we were stopped for about 45 minutes while the original stuck trucks were being freed. We happened to stop in front of a “government school” and even though it was Sunday, the headmaster was in his office and happily showed us around his school. What we learned is that the headmaster was actually expecting students in the afternoon (on a Sunday!). The school had a boarding facility so the boarding students come in on Sunday afternoons. Boarding facilities are necessary in this area because the commute to school each day for children is just too far. Zambians work on their own plots of land, which are very spread out, so many children live very far from the school.

During this 45 minutes, we also met a whole group of doctors from Cincinnati! They were volunteering in Malawi, but spent their weekend in South Luangwa. Rich was wearing a Cincinnati Reds baseball t-shirt that Lauro gave him in this year’s secret sant exchange. It’s normal to see a Man Utd or a Chelsea t-shirt, but Cincinnati Reds was unique enough to spark a conversation. You have to love such coincidences.

So we continued on our drive through the rural villages of Zambia before heading to the border to make our way into Malawi. This gave rise to an event that others (especially Rich) think is one of the most amusing events of the trip so far…

Generally we’ve been waving every few minutes to the excited kids we pass along the road. We “mzungus” (white people) are generally really excited to be seen – and the younger kids in particular will run from their homes to give us a wave (and hopefully get a wave back). It’s nice to be able to, very easily, acknowledge them and give them something to smile about.

What might be frowned upon, however, is to taunt the lovely children. That is, however, what I accidentally did. The waving was almost constant… and you don’t want to miss waving to a kid. They get SO excited! But as I was having a snack I accidentally waved with the hand that had a nice biscuit… Of course Rich noticed right away and shared with the entire truck, who thought it was HYSTERICAL. I, of course, was so embarrassed and the only reason I’m including it in this post is because Rich really wants me to. He’s still chuckling about it!

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