Arriving in the frontier Mozambique-Malawi – Km 17,204
“You will not enter without visa! Go back from where you came or go to get the documentation to Maputo“, the customs officer told me, seriously. I was in the Malawi . Mozambique border, and the capital city of Mozambique, Maputo, was to 2.000 Km from there. At once I thought: “go back 2000 km. with the bicycle?…¡Be kind, please!!“.
Not understanding what he was yelling at me, I stayed looking at him without knowing what to do, I told him about me, of my trip, but the officer didn’t seem to be interested.
Discouraged and almost beaten, I sat down in a corner near the border crossing. Several minutes passed until this thin man of advanced age came closer and told me: “Come back tomorrow, today is Sunday. We will call to Blantyre, migrations, and if they authorize it you will pay a multiple visa of 110 u$s in the city“.
The price of the visa that I needed didn’t make me happy, but I didn’t seem to have many more alternatives. I returned to Milange, in Mozambique, where some Argentinean missionaries had received me very well.
On the following day, very early, I returned to the frontier. The same officer called to migrations, from where they authorized my entrance. They want me to arrive to Blantyre, at 130 Km. of distance, before the department of migrations closed (at 4 p.m.) so I could pay what they already considered my debt. After a hard negotiation with the customs officer, who definitively didn’t like neither the bicycles nor the travellers, I could enter Malawi but at once a strong rain forced me to stop.
During my way to Blantyre, I was ascending and lowering several mountains with the same cultivation: tea. Hundreds of people were spread along kilometers with big baskets on their backs. In them they put the leaves of tea they took off with their own hands during the day of work that, as they told me, began on the dawn and finished at 4 p.m.
Blantyre is the commercial and industrial center of Malawi, a clean city with paved streets. After I arrived, I found the office of tourism, where I was well guided quickly.
Then I stayed in a small hostel where Havesting, the woman in charge that showed every year she had lived in the wrinkles of her face and hands, advised me not going out at night. The reason: the danger of the streets and being a white man. Although as in all big cities I am more careful, here I felt safer than in other African cities.
One morning, while buying something inside a shop, I heard many screams. When leaving to the street I could see a special show: dozens of people pursuing a thief. That night Havesting would tell me that, in older times, they threw gasoline on the captured thief and set him on fire.
My stay in Blantyre lasted some few days along and I was surprised every minute. In an occasion, when the lunch, I found a restaurant where they served typical food of Ethiopia. It was in the middle of center of the city and most of the people there were wearing jacket and tie. I looked at them and noticed something strange in them. After a couple of minutes I could realize what got my attention: all of them were eating with their hands.
They ate nsima, a typical African dish made with corn that is served in great quantity, sometimes accompanied with some sauce or with some meat. It has the consistency of mashed potatoes, and it is kneaded in the hand before being taken to the mouth. I had liked to take some pictures, but for respect to the people I didn’t do it.
The last afternoon of my stay in Blantyre I returned for third time to the department of migrations, where finally I could get the multiple visa of courtesy.
Biking for the interior of Malawi
Malawi, I said it, it is a small and very poor country. Their population doesn’t overcome the 11 millions. There I could manage myself with the English language, but in the interior most of people only speaks the dialect called chichewa.
In my trip I met John, an English man that lived there from 1964, when Malawi got its independence. He told me that the population was duplicated so far from that year, and that the government works arduously in different programs to reduce his growth and the rate of natality, although it is difficult to change the idiosyncratic of people that still considers a big family with many children like guarantee to leave ahead under the uncertain conditions of the country.
Heading for Balaka I had a new surprise. I had been biking for a long time and I was very hungry. To the side of the road, some boys sold food and I came closer to them: the offer consisted on brochettes of seven roasted mice to the price of 20 Kwachas (1 u$s = 79 K). I checked this way what John had told me: the lack of food is one of the main problems of Malawi.
The following day I stopped in a school of the district of Dedza. The teachers told me that the grade of illiteracy in the country is too high, and that it is this one of the main causes of the early maternity in the women. Almost half population from Malawi is under 15 years old.