These roads though (14 of 52)

Sunday, March 26, 2017
Mzuzu, Northern Region, Malawi
On Sunday we drove to Mzuzu to visit the Kachali family and other members in the area. The Kachalis fed us a delicious lunch after our six hour trek. Then Lewis held a Bible study before we made the long journey home.

I have to explain about the roads in Malawi (and I'll do so through two incidents that occurred this week) . You see, only about 20% of the roads are paved. The rest are (generally) packed dirt that occasionally turns into mud rivers during the rainy season; once dried out they turn into rutted traps of death... okay, maybe not quite that bad, but I've feared tipping over on multiple occasions.

There are two types of "tarmac" or paved roads in Malawi. There are those in the cities that are riddled with potholes or maybe more pothole than tarmac; and then there are the "highways" that run between the cities. These roads generally don't have too many potholes, but they are relatively narrow for a highway (two lanes) and the edges are eroded, so there is zero shoulder. This wouldn't be so bad, except you share the road with a number of motorbikes (usually a cross between a moped and a dirt bike); tuktuks (three wheeled motorbikes with a cover); bicycle taxis that seem to believe they have more rights to the road than cars; the occasional oxcart or herd of cows or goats; and finally all of the pedestrians .

Like all places, vehicles breakdown on the "side" of the "highway" (remember how I said there was zero shoulder on these roads). To let oncoming traffic know that there is a broken down vehicle ahead, the very conscientious will place bush/tree branches on the road leading to the vehicle. The non-conscientious do nothing. In Malawi, it must be noted, the "highways" are not lit by anything other than the stars and your headlights. As you can imagine, between dodging stalled cars, pedestrians, and bikes, driving on these roads (especially at night) can be quite hazardous.

Now that you understand a little about the roads I'll get to the incidents that took place this week. On our drive home from Mzuzu we happened upon a vehicle in the middle of the road, crunched in several places, and the airbags deployed. We quickly saw several folks sitting in the ditch by the road. A gentleman (the driver) came over to us and we asked if we could drive them back to Mzuzu (about 30 kilometers); he said yes . You see, he was fine, but one of his passengers was bleeding from the head and was having pains in her stomach (she was {hopefully is} four or five months pregnant). As we were preparing to move the lady a minibus from the opposite direction pulled up; since they were already going to Mzuzu, they agreed to drive the injured couple there.

It didn't seem safe to just leave the busted car in the middle of the road, so us, and a few passengers from another stopped vehicle, worked together to literally pick up and inch the car towards the edge of the road so at least one lane was clear. It turns out a tire had blown and the man had lost control, over-corrected and ended up flying off the road into an embankment and then bounced back onto the road. The lady's door had flown open and she was thrown from the car. I don't know what happened with her, but I pray she is mending and her baby is safe in her womb.

The second incident happened Friday evening. We had dinner with two young men from Nkhotakota (they're not members of our church, but they're interested in becoming) and our friend Juliana. After dinner we dropped the young men off at their guest house, and then we drove Juliana home. On our way back from Juliana's we took our typical route home, nothing out of the ordinary. The road was dark (per usual), but there was a police truck taking the same road and there were pedestrians aplenty . When we came to the T junction we stopped and all of the sudden the police officers in the back of the truck jumped out and came over to our van. They asked us where we were going. We informed them that we were going to Area 3; our home. They wanted to know where we were coming from; we explained we'd just dropped our friend off at her home. They gave the van a cursory glance and told us that we (despite following them on the same road) had been driving the wrong way on a one way road (I'm still skeptical of their claims as we've driven on this road before), and that we would have to follow them to the police station.

We said okay, and they all jumped back in the bed of the truck. Then another officer came from the cab and said, never mind, you don't have to come with us, just take this as a warning. They quickly took off and we were shortly behind them. The next road up we were cut off by a minibus, but we were still traveling in the same direction as the police truck when we came to a roundabout (this is all taking place within 4-5 blocks) . In the roundabout, but pulled over as far as possible, was a broken down vehicle. The police truck stopped next to them and jumped out (we assumed to help push the vehicle); meanwhile, the minibus in front of us decides that waiting for this car and truck was taking too long and proceeded to turn the WRONG way on the roundabout; literally into oncoming traffic; cars were honking and dashing out of the way. As we're watching this happen the police jump back into the bed of the truck and take off; ostensibly to pull the minibus over... or so we thought. But no. They just let these guys, who were quite obviously breaking the law go, while we were stopped for a rather dubious charge of going the wrong way on a one street; which they were doing themselves!

And that, my friends, are the roads in Malawi.

The rest of the week was spent working and going to visit members.
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Sandy Abrell

I am praying , for both, of you. Thank you, for serving. hugs sandy

Gayle Hoefker

Well, indeed another reason to keep you all in our prayers. I suspect that the police may have been looking for a bribe of some sort, somewhere.


WOW! Thankful for your safety.Thanks for sharing your colorful stories. Continued prayers for God's safety and blessings.