Our bus was supposed to leave at noon from Chipata to Lilongwe.
We arrived at around 12:10 at the bus station, but luckily (for us) the bus was two hours late.
When it finally came, we got in and were driven to the border of Malawi, where it took a while until we got our visas.
The visa policy had recently been changed and we had to pay 75 USD for it.
As annoying as it is, having to spend so much money at the border- as worth is it to spend it on Malawi! But we only realized that later…
In Lilongwe, an English couple (Tom and Sarah), who had also been on the bus, asked us to share a taxi to the Mabuya camp (the place where most travelers go, as it’s about the only one there is).
We did and we all got along very well, so we spent the time in Mabuya playing cards and talking.
We all had planned to head in the same direction- to Nkatha Bay at Lake Malawi- so we walked through the town to buy the bus tickets.
We noticed quite soon that Malawi is a very friendly and welcoming country and it reminded us a lot of South-east-asian countries, with its Tuk Tuk’s, the crowded streets, the honking, the markets, the music playing and the politeness of its citizens.
Apparently, there was only one bus going from Lilongwe to Mzuzu (the town where we had to get off to reach Nkatha Bay), so we had no choice but to spend 8400 Malawi Kwacha (12 USD) for one ticket of this supposedly 5-star bus.
We noticed that it was a huge hassle to get in the bus, when one of the other lines appeared, so we were prepared to have to push our way through to get in.
What happened next though, was more than we’d ever expected.
People were not simply pushing each other- they were grabbing each other’s clothes and pulling people out of the door, blocking the way to the entrance. It seemed as if they were trying to suffocate us. One of the fellow passengers said: “This is how we do it”.
Okay, fair enough.
To our surprise, the conductor was selling more tickets while people were already trying to get in.
Nici and Sarah were of the first ones to reach the door (while René and Tom were loading the luggage on the bus) and were supposed to reserve seats for them.
However, when they got in, all the seats had already jackets or bags on them.
Nici managed to get two seats in the back of the bus, but they were far away from each other.
When more people were coming in and pushing their way through the corridor, Nici and Sarah decided to sit down already.
René and Tom almost didn’t get on the bus and there was no way for them to get to the back, where Nici and Sarah were waiting.
One man sat down next to Nici and proclaimed that her seat was reserved for his friend, even though there had been nothing on it.
He was really unpolite and tried to get Nici off the seat, but she refused to move.
René and Tom were left to stand in the corridor- and it was supposed to be a 6hour bus ride.
When the motor went on, we closed our eyes and tried to make the time go by as fast as possible, but when the bus drove around the block and back to the station, we knew that our hope was wasted.
The staff informed us that the bus was too heavy and that they had to offload everyone who was still standing. They said: “Don’t worry, there will be another bus… in four hours… maybe”
Tom and René refused to get off the bus, because obviously, we all wanted to stay together.
About 20 people were told to leave however and then finally, we were on our way.
A nice lady offered René her seat when he was starting to look pale, and at about 6pm, lots of people got off in some town and we finally all had a seat.
*By the way, we found out, that the reason why all the seats were already reserved is, that people throw their stuff through the windows from outside… one woman even put her baby through one of the windows…*
After that hell of a ride, we didn’t feel like enduring the same procedure again from Mzuzu to Nkatha Bay, so we took a taxi instead.
We had planned to stay in the Big Blue Backpackers, but it was closed.
So we booked dorm beds in the Butterfly Space
instead, which was very rustic, with drip-toilets and no electricity in some of the rooms, but after one good night of sleep it turned out to be very beautiful and comfortable- facing beautiful Lake Malawi.
It had no self-catering kitchen, but the food was very cheap and they had many vegan options, so we were happy.
Again, we spent our evenings playing cards and drinking beer.
Nkatha Bay is a very beautiful place with almost no tourists to be seen in the streets.
People sell fresh vegetables and not so fresh fish on the side of the road- and incredibly cheap!
We paid about 150 Malawi Kwacha for a big avocado, which is less than 20 cents.