September 12, 2013

Lilongwe, Malawi

Filed under: Russia,Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 5:19 pm
Tags: , , ,

After my big trip last year to Africa and Russia, I wasn’t planning on doing much at all this year. In fact, I still haven’t blogged much of the African part of the trip last year, so going on another journey so soon wasn’t even on the radar. But sometimes our best laid plans change, so when I was asked by a couple of friends to go to Malawi, after a bit of hesitation, I was convinced to go. Of course you can’t go to Africa for a couple of weeks, so this trip became a hastily organised, rather short 5 week trip! That brought the total to more than 12 weeks of leave I’d taken within 12 months, so yeah, this time I REALLY won’t be going anywhere for a while until I accumulate a bit more annual leave again…

So where did I go this time? Back in mid May I headed off to Malawi, Uganda and Madagascar. The onward journey home saw me spend a bit of time in Kenya as well! After numerous requests, I have finally got around to posting about some of it – or at the very least, I have made a start.

Relaxing in Bangkok Airport

Relaxing in Bangkok Airport on an extended stopover

Just to get to Lilongwe was an effort – I went via Thailand, Kenya, Zambia and finally landed in Malawi at Lilongwe. It was great to get off a plane into brilliant sunshine. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before I was wishing the brilliant sunshine would be hidden by a cloud… Three planes of people happened to arrive at the same time. This airport wasn’t big enough for 1! It took more than an hour to get through customs, and half that time was spent just trying to get into the airport itself. No problems getting through customs once I got to the front of the queue and I collected my luggage, not so fortunate was one of my friends whose bag did not make the journey to Malawi today. Met up with the rest of our group, Andy and Malee, at our accommodation, Korea Gardens Lodge. After some lunch, a trip to the bank and the supermarket filled in the rest of the day. In many ways Lilongwe was a lot like Kampala – dusty, plenty of rubbish around, contrasting lives of the rich and poor and the sales guys harassing you to buy at the markets. But it was nowhere near as chaotic, nowhere near as many people and (the Ugandans won’t like this), but the people seemed more friendly in Lilongwe. It was a much more relaxing place to be – I felt safer there and it didn’t feel like I needed to look over my shoulder every 2 seconds for somebody trying to rob me (like in Kampala or Ulaanbaatar) (although it always pays to be alert).

Wet Cement surrounding the ATM at the bank in Lilongwe...

Wet Cement surrounding the ATM at the bank in Lilongwe…

The next morning the familiar African smell of burning plastic drifted through the window welcoming me back to Africa. No need to worry about breakfast, the Korea Garden Lodge served up a great breakfast, which was included in the price of the room!
Today’s agenda was simple – take a look around Lilongwe and get some supplies for the next part of our trip. We caught a private taxi to the Lilongwe Wildlife Center, a refuge for animals (and people) in the middle of the city, mostly a place where they’ve taken in some injured animals and look after them to release them (if possible) or give them a home. Everything from owls, crocs, lions and monkeys dwell here, to some natural park area alongside the Lingadzi river. The river flows through the middle of the reserve and also separates the Old Town and City Centre of Lilongwe. We were shown around by a young girl who knew her stuff about the wildlife – whatever question we threw at her she could answer – hopefully she is able to find paid work (she was volunteering full time) as she did a very good job.

Lingadzi River

Lingadzi River

The taxis go right past the wildlife center, but not many had room for the 4 of us on the trip back. Not to worry, a smaller car pulled over and offered us a lift – we negotiated a price, then as we opened the door, to our surprise the drivers wife (who was laying down on the backseat) sits up looking a little startled that people were now climbing into her car. It was rather tight (even by African standards) in the back seat there, but they made some money out of a journey they were making anyway and we didn’t have to walk! Back to the old town center for some pizza for lunch and then a tour of the supermarkets so we could stock up. I made a mental note to be sure I came back here for some of the cakes they were baking fresh in the store!


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