(No Trains) Just Automobiles

By this time our taxi-drivers, Shem and Lansum had found us, after buying some toothbrushes and water we set off (about two hours late) for Lowani. We saw the usual Malawian road-side sites, kids selling roasted mice on sticks, overloaded push bikes being used to transport 10 foot high stacks of all sorts of things, dodgy driving and a combination of suicidal people, goats and chickens. Since we were running so late, the sun went down as we reached the lagoon. We’d already passed through Salima which is a fair-sized town before sunset and headed on towards Nkhotakota in the hopes that it would still be daylight when we got there and some shops might be open for those of us without luggage to buy a change of clothes. Alas, it wasn’t to be and although we got out and had a look around, there were none (or nothing decent) to be had.

Sunset over the lagoon.

Eventually, then we decided to cut our losses and just head for Lowani, with a plan to try either Kande on the Sunday or possibly Chintheche market on the Monday. We finally arrived at Lowani at about 8.30, had some food and pretty much went to bed. After a family crisis in the middle of the night, we ended up having to say goodbye to one of the team who was forced to fly back to the UK as soon as they could, unfortunately, the morning after they had arrived.


We flew out of Manchester to Frankfurt on a brief hop with Lufthansa and arrived slightly late, due to a delay before we took off. As a result, we had to power march from one side of Frankfurt Airport to the other, as we only had about 30 minutes left to catch the next flight. We arrived at the gate with about 5 minutes to spare and got comfortable on our long flight to Johannesburg. Thankfully the part of the plane where our seats were, was only half full, so most people managed a seat with a gap next to them.

The flight itself was uneventful, especially as we were flying at night, and we arrived at about 8.30 on the Saturday morning. We made our way directly to the gate for the connecting flight to Lilongwe and were able to board relatively quickly. This was a much quicker flight and we were in Lilongwe within a couple of hours.

Source: Flickr – I forgot to take a photo when we got off the plane.

Having made the same trip last year I’d prepped everyone to have their visa forms pre-filled and we managed to be at the front of the line for the Visa applications which went quite quickly compared to last year. There were three officials each in their own booth, so you would assume that each would deal with a single applicant and do all of the steps of the application. But no, each person has their own role, and they basically do that then pass the application to the next window, as you can imagine this slows down things immensely. In computer science terms they are processing things in serial not parallel and this introduces a bottle-neck. Eventually, I was through and could make my way to the baggage reclamation area.

I waited next to the carousel for a while as the bags whirled by, then the others gradually joined me. Sophie and two of the others managed to get their bags no problem. After half an hour of waiting as more bags were loaded up, we sent the others on through customs and continued to wait. There were still bags being added to the carousel and we were hopeful that ours would appear soon. Unfortunately, they never materialised and we were forced to go and find a random person to report it to. Eventually, we found someone who had no information for us but took all of the details and filled out some paperwork to get the ball rolling.