Once again, we needed to keep the wheels turning, this time heading towards the border with Malawi.
First, though, we had 2 car issues to sort out. One tyre has had a barely noticeable leak since Morocco. The rough roads in Namiba put a little more strain on the weakness, and so the leak was now a fast leak – note: not a puncture – and needed repair. Conrad, manager at Wildlife Camp, was quick to the notice the lower pressure in the tyre and offered for his staff in the workshop to fix it for us for a small fee. It makes a big difference having the right tools – it was done in no time at all. Excellent customer service – and the tyre was sorted.
The other issue was a burnt out relay switch in the fuse box. In the grander scheme, not a major issue as it only affected the headlights, and since we don’t drive at night, not a show stopper. We decided to have this looked at once we arrived in Lilongwe, Malawi.
So, off to Chipata.
On the way down, we stopped at Tribal Textiles, an export operation creating hand painted fabric which is made into home furnishings. It is absolutely stunning, and we were shown around the outdoor manufacture area – factory would be too formal a word. Everyone we met was all smiles and very friendly – they were very proud of the work they were producing. We really would have loved to buy an item or two, but the prices are very definitely aimed at European tourists, so we had to make do with feasting the eyes.
The road to Chipata was not the tar we were expecting. Rather, there were stretches of tar, and many stretches of gravel. In between, the Chinese continue to lay fresh tar. In a bizarre way, we were given a very stark demonstration of Africa’s high birth rate – a large number of women walking along the road, most of whom had babies strapped to their backs. As we passed homesteads, many toddlers and young children playing.
Our arrival at Mama Rula campsite in Chipata around lunchtime was rather strange – aside from the guard on duty, there was almost not another living sole! Managers and other people with helpful information were only expected back at 4pm. Fortunately, one of the other guests – a local really – was able to answer some of our questions, and so we headed in Chipata to take care of business.
We found the Afrox distributer and filled our empty Cadac gas bottle. Then off to Shoprite to stock up on groceries before reaching Malawi. On the way, we also stopped past the local vegetable market – so much better looking produce than in the supermarket! The stalls were dotted along the roadside, with very persistent punters escorting Viking Explorer from the car to the stalls and back again. Lastly, we filled fuel to the brim! While we were reasonably sure that fuel shortages no longer plague Malawi, we wanted to arrive with a full tank just in case.
By the time we returned, there was more life at the campsite, and so we settled in for the evening. We also picked up useful information on insurance (best to get it before crossing the border), money (try to change Zambian Kwacha before leaving the country) and other titbits.
The campsite was very pretty, and we chose a spot in the back on beautiful green lawn. We could also hear the sounds of a very talkative parrot, and a little investigation revealed an African Grey parrot and a very big Macaw (I think). The menagerie was further expanded by an assortment of cats and dogs – all very homely.
Next morning, we headed back into Chipata to buy insurance. After 2 stops, we were told to buy it at the border, and were given the name and phone number of the agent. Super.
Finally, we were on the last 30km stretch towards the Mwani border post – Malawi awaits!
(see border crossings for details)