1 August 2008
Eileen and I left Lilongwe at 8 AM with a driver named Godfrey in the vehicle we rented from Sputnik Car Rentals. (Not, I hasten to add, the same Godfrey as the nurse in Embangweni who used to be a driver.)
Almost as soon as we left Lilongwe, you could see the vegetation changing. More water, more fertile. We stopped in Dedza to see the pottery factory there. Nothing earth-shattering but good quality nonetheless and a nice-looking guesthouse. Actually liked the tiles in the women's restroom the best.
Then we worked our way south on the M1. There are people along the highway practically the whole way—bicycles, pedestrians, the occasional ox cart—although the ox carts became fewer and fewer the farther south we went.
Asked Godfrey about the lack of oxen compared to the north and he said that after the arrival of multi-party elections in 1994, there was kind of a free-for-all in which many people thought democracy was the freedom to do or to take whatever you wanted. As a result lots of cattle were stolen in the south and they've never really recovered. That would be a good story to check into further but alas I don't have the time and it really doesn't have much to do with my project on nurses.
Anyway, there were plenty of trucks, minibuses and pickups packed with folks sitting in the bed on the road. Just so much humanity. Plus chickens, goats, cattle and the like.
We stopped in Blantyre to pick up a few snacks for lunch. Still don't quite have the hang of making lunch ahead of time for the trip. Sandwiches or the like. Haven't really found cold cuts or lunch meats. Godfrey stopped at a supermarket in an area crawling with street kids and others who started begging before we were even able to get out of the car. Lost my appetite right then and there.
We drove through Blantyre. Saw the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and the College of Medicine from a distance. Could see new construction at the College. Billboards from various donors announcing their participation in funding this building or that.
At Limbe, we took the slightly longer route in order to go through the tea plantations. Beautiful light green, rolling hills. Godfrey pulled off in one area so we could stroll a bit between the tea bushes and get some photos. Later we saw some of the shacks that the workers lived in. Although they were stucco, it reminded me of sharecropper-cabins I had seen in Mississippi when I was a kid in the 1970s. Long blocks divided into living quarters for different families.
At any rate, we made it to Mulanje about 4:30 PM. A good day's travel. Glad I wasn't driving.