Monday, 26 September 2011

Malawi #1 - The Epic Journey

Good afternoon dear reader! Today begins a series of posts about the incredible trip I took this summer to Malawi with a group of Scouts. I'm moving house soon (I told you that already!) and I figured it would be good to ensure some regular posting whilst I'm all tied up with that. So for the next 3 weeks or so, every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you will be supplied with my over-long and somewhat tiresome dazzlingly funny stories about what I got up to in the warm heart of Africa.
*Note: I didn't actually manage to schedule the posts properly so they were not posted in order, but they will all be linked at the end of each post in the series, so you can still read them in sequence.

Disclaimer: All photos were taken on disposable film cameras. Therefore they are pretty crap. Unless they are ones which I nicked from people off Facebook, in which case they will be appropriately credited.

Our epic journey to Malawi began on Thursday 30th June, 2011. And you probably read epic and assumed I was exaggerating, but that wouldn't really be fair. For a start, there were 10 leaders and 34 young people (aged 15-18), 45 kit bags, 1 large plastic box, 1 guitar, and 14 enormous canvas tents. Well, we were going for 4 weeks, so we couldn't really help but have a whole heap of crap with us!

But yes, the epic journey began on Thursday, when we left Edinburgh on a coach at 7am (roughly!) to begin our first leg, on the motorway to Heathrow. So far, so blah. It was like getting the megabus, except you knew everyone, and you were allowed to wear your pajamas...

We arrived more than 9 hours later, at half past 4, queued for a very long time to check in, spent a very long time getting through security, and then spent a very long time waiting for our flight, which was around 9pm.

Our first flight was the red-eye to Addis Ababa, which took about 8 hours and arrived at 7am (5am UK time). So we were knackered, achey, travel sick, but excited. We weren't there yet but we were in AFRICA! Yuss!!

A few hours later we hopped on a shorter flight to Lilongwe, which is the capital city of Malawi. I sat between to lovely America missionaries and we started off having a conversation, but they'd been travelling as long as we had, and so all three of us fell asleep in about 20 minutes and barely woke up until we started our descent. THAT knackered people. So sleepy and disorientated that I, in fact, left my best ever jumper that my mum knitted me under the seat on the plane, and did not even realise until like 2 weeks later when I wanted to wash the other jumper I had with me that I had actually brought two jumpers with me out of Edinburgh. Well, what can I say, it's hot in Africa. You don't need jumpers that much! But yeah, I shed a few tears, I won't like. She is making me a new one though, because she's an official babe.

But yes, we arrived (less one jumper) in Lilongwe, and met up with some of our old Scout friends from my 2007 trip (more on that another time, perhaps) and some new ones, and hopped into another coach and to the Korea Garden Lodge. It was great. Nice clean rooms, and GREAT food, and a swimming pool which was FRICKIN' COLD! But good after all that hot sweaty travelling. One of the kids, who's pretty tall, decided to dive in across the ways (parallel with the short side) and zoomed across and hit his head off the wall. Idiot. He had this massive cut on his nose, and our resident nurse was out at the Scout HQ looking for a geocache *eyeroll* but we patched him up and he was fine really.

The next day (this is Saturday now - I was confused too) we were up early again and onto our trusty coach (they had to open the hatch to the engine to get the thing started!) We had to stop for diesel, police checks, toilet trips and all kinds, so we got the opportunity to oggle the locals through the window, and see the gorgeous scenery as well. These adorable kids were at one of the stops, and at another one, this teenage boy was trying to propose marriage to some of the girls through the window. I was amused.

Our final stop was in a place called Liwonde, which is right down to the south of Lake Malawi, where the Shire River and the main road cross over. We stopped for a juice, and we were hoping for something to eat, but the cafe didn't really have the capacity to feed all of us. But some helpful person told us there was a "supermarket" which was "just round the corner". Half an hour's walk later, we arrive at this miniature Cash and Carry - different from what you would get in the UK or the US I imagine - and just about managed to buy enough bread, bananas, peanut butter and pilchards to feed the crowd, as well as a whole stack of paper plates and some knives. After a lot of confusion due to a lack of phone contact, the bus eventually arrived to pick us up and so the grand sandwich adventure began. I don't know if you've ever tried to make sandwiches for a bus full of hungry teenagers, on a paper plate in your lap, on the bumpiest road known to man, where one of the kids is somewhat allergic to the peanut butter you're trying to feed to everyone else. I would recommend it. Although we were laughing at the time, probably to stop us crying...

An hour or so after that, about 4.30 or 5pm, I reckon, we eventually arrived at the Makwawa Scout Campsite. Huzzah! Fourteen hurriedly pitched tents, one massive pot of spaghetti bolognaise, and a check under the toilet seat for scorpions later and it was pretty much time for bed.

Love and hugs

Part 2 - The Daily Grind
Part 3 - Not Your Average Sunday Morning

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