Jon and I are hoping to purchase our car today and be on our way upto Mzuzu. In the mean time, we have had some fun times taking the mini-buses around town. Sheila's Lodge, where we are staying, is about a 30min walk from the nearest stop. On our way, we pass beautiful flowering trees, bright red and yellow birds, butterflies galore, and LOTS of people. There are all kinds of foot paths darting every which way off the paved roads...the Malawians call them "shortcuts"…they usually lead through the maize fields that are integrated into this semi-urban landscape, and off to neighboring villages. The women carry all kinds of things on their heads, 40lb sacks of grain, sugar cane bundles, and loads of firewood...not to mention a baby strapped to their back! Like Jon says, they are stronger than ants. Even though we are staying in a neighborhood where many expats live, the kids get a kick out of seeing us walking down the road (I guess most white people are using cars around here). As we approach kiddos we hear them say "ooo...mzungus!!!!" Mzungu is the word for foreigners or white people. We get a kick out of it too.
The mini-buses are old Toyota mini-vans...you know, the kind with no front-end b/c the engine is under the bench seats up front. There are four rows of bench seats and I think they can cram about 20 people inside. In Africa, people can make just about anything run, so these vans are quite a sight! They usually have no interior paneling remaining, in order to open the door you have to reach inside and pull a lever, most of the windows have been replaced with cracked plexiglass or scotch tape, and for some yet-to-be-known reason, they don't fuel-up directly into the tank, but send the door guy over with a gas can.
We took our first ride on a mini-bus just before dark, when everyone was heading home. I ended up smooshed in front with a few people and my ice cream cone, and Jon was even more smooshed in back with a guy on his lap and a bunch of Malawian women staring at him. I am not sure if this is what Jon envisioned when he said he wanted to “get to know” the locals.
While we hope to have our own car soon, we really have found that we enjoy the mini-busses too much to abandon them completly. There are surely many mini-bus adventures to come…