It was just before 1:30 when we got to the bus station to board or bus to Lilongwe from Lusaka. We had booked our tickets in advance and were due to leave at 2pm on a journey that we were told would take 10hrs. We decided to get there early to avail of the front seats again and imagined the journey to be just as luxurious as the previous journey, considering the price. We had no idea what we let ourselves in for.
The chaos started as soon as we arrived and saw everyone waiting for the bus to arrive with tonnes of luggage everywhere. When it arrived I looked for someone to put my bag under the bus but couldn't see anyone doing their job. I asked an employee who took my bag and told us to go and find seats. We waited in line for the doors to open and after 45 mins or so I noticed the employee walking round and round with my backpack still on him, strapped into it properly and everything. I began to get frustrated as he kept disappearing so I told him to put the bag in where I could see it. I was worried it wouldn't make it to Lilongwe. When the doors finally opened, the mob of people pushed their way through the doors to get a seat which confused us. Surely there was enough seats for everyone? When we finally got on, there were no seats left and there were people jam packed down the aisles which left is panicking and claustrophobic. We squeezed our way out and began venting our frustration at the various employees to find us a seat. We had paid a ridiculous amount for this ticket and to have no seat for 10 hours was out of order. It seemed that no one could tell us what was going on or even give us an answer at all, leaving us more and more angry. We watched as they loaded juice crate after juice crate onto the bus to fill every bit of space but yet they couldn't give us any space. Outraged, I ordered the employee to give me my bag and as I went to put it in the bus they asked for 20 kwacha more. I couldn't believe it. I denied of course, and rushed onto the bus. We were stood in the only space available at the front by the driver, until we were ushered out of the bus and into a taxi and told to leave our belongings behind. Angry, I rushed down the aisle and grabbed my bag, not knowing where the taxi would take us.
We drove in the taxi for about 15 minutes before being left at the side of the road at some 'station' to wait for the bus that could now possibly have space. Which it didn't, of course! Once again we got back on the jam packed bus and I was out sitting on a metal railing while Elise was sat on a crate on the stairs. We sat like this for 6 hours believe it or not! I took video after video to document the entire scenario and by the end of it all we couldn't help but laugh about the chaotic situation.
Along the way, a woman, squeezed to the front, walking funny, and got off the bus in a hurry. When she returned, we could smell her before we could see her. It had turned out that she had shit all over her arm and while walked back to her seat, she had wiped it onto Elise and a poor man sat near me. Both their faces looked on in horror as they both reached for water, tissues and disinfectant to wipe away the disgustingness. The whole bus was in shock that this had happened but nevertheless the bus carried on and we suffered with the lingering stench. We couldn't help but feel sorry for the people sat next to the lady. We hoped that she wouldn't get off next and they would give us her seat.
We carried onwards and stopped a few more times for roadside toilet breaks and food. We were bombarded with songs on repeat from James Blunt, Celine Dion and believe it or not.. Westlife! We couldn't help but try and forget what had happened and just sing along for the whole bus to hear. After 6 hours of pain and a numb ass, we finally got offered seats at the first major stop, close to the border. We took the seats and before long we were ushered off the bus to complete immigration check points etc to enter Malawi again. Once back on the bus around 2am, we had been in transit for almost 10
hours as it was and we were due to be in Lilongwe at this stage, but we hadn't even left Lusaka until 3:30pm. We at in our seats for a few hours before we got to Lilongwe which no one ha even told us. We woke up as the bus was stopped and realised that we were in Lilongwe at 4:30am. We took a taxi to Mabuya camp where we would hopefully sleep for a few hours and then take a further 7hour trip back to Mzuzu with our friend Renny in the back of his landrover the next morning (which wasn't so bad even with no windows or fresh air). When we arrived in Mzuzu the next day having had a few hours sleep in one of the dorms for half price, we were thoroughly exhausted but our bodies were still functioning not knowing what rhythm or routine we were currently in! We calculated that we had taken at least 25 modes of transport during the whole trip to and from Zambia and by far the 'Zambia to Malawi' company was the worst! Nevertheless we are safe and sound and even with a bruised ass, I can now look back and laugh at the situation.
Malawi I'm glad to be back!