Sunday, July 24, 2011

In Malawi and are fine

Tallulah and Jo had the same plans we did, so we traveled together to the capital city of Malawi, Lilongwe. The morning we left Malula Lodge Jenny called a hostel for us to make reservations and, to our later surprise and chagrin, during this phone call not a word was mentioned of the political situation there. Turns out we unknowingly entered the capital on the pre-planned day of the president’s speech which incited planned protests from the opposition groups, which incited protests from the president’s supporters, which led to violence, rioting, the army being called in, and 18 deaths. The hostel didn’t utter a word about this, though the trouble had already started when we made reservations.

Our ride dropped us at the border, we got our stamps, and walked into Malawi, one of the most peaceful countries in Africa. We had to catch a taxi to the nearest town in order to catch a minibus to Lilongwe. The driver was charging exorbitant rates and said there was a petrol crisis and they could only get petrol from Zambia so it was very expensive. We talked him down a little bit and got in. Then in Mchinji there were no buses or minibuses and some locals said there was a big meeting in town about the petrol prices, so we had to take a metered taxi all the way to Lilongwe also at an exorbitant rate. On the way there the cab driver told Anne that buses weren’t running not because of a meeting but because of riots in Lilongwe.

The hostel manager explained what was going on and said that the protests led to riots but everyone expected things to be fine by the next morning. All the shops and restaurants in town were closed. In the morning more rioting started and they couldn’t get hold of any taxis on the phone. We were told of a way to take a few minibuses to get out of town and avoid the areas where the riots were. As we walked down the street we heard shots (which turned out to be tear gas), saw several young men running, and were stopped by some neighbors who said that the fighting had reached this area and it was not safe, so we headed back to the hostel.

The violence seemed to be only in a few large cities. All of the villages along the lake were peaceful, so that’s where we wanted to be. The hostel couldn’t reach any taxi drivers they knew, and we thought we would be stuck there indefinitely, but luckily a taxi showed up to take two people to the airport and he called a friend for us. We got dropped outside the city and took a minibus to a turnoff where we scored a hitch with a wealthy Indian man and his Malawian friend. The former got out of town to be safe and picked up his buddy, and they were heading in our direction. They were planning on stopping about 130 kilometers before Kande Beach where we wanted to go, but they were bored and decided to take us the whole way. 

The next morning we heard news that the violence had stopped. It was lucky we got out of the city just in case. We hung out on the beach all day and headed from there to Nkhata Bay where we plan to relax for a while and wait out any possible aftershocks. Word around town and in the papers is that things have cooled off. It’s unclear if any of this week’s events will have any effect on the current president. For details about Malawi’s current political/economic situation check out this site:

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