The day after we visited Nkhotakota, we awoke early, packed the van, headed to the office for a brief stopover to print a few things and buy a few road trip supplies, and we headed off towards Blantyre and the southern region of Malawi. Our trusty navigational system told us that we would have to actually head west through Salima before heading south toward Blantyre. M1, one of the main highways that runs through Malawi, runs near the border of Mozambique, but doesn't actually go into the neighboring country at that point. Our digital map wasn't aware of the facts, but we were and disobeyed in favor of a shorter, more direct route southward. We stopped off in Dedza so Brennan and Michala could also enjoy the paper company and the pottery that we had ourselves only recently experienced for the first time. We had a delightful little visit to the mountainous area and then headed off to see Chiku's grandparents in Ntcheu.
Again we found ourselves in the mountains
There are some really nice, smooth roads and highways in the South of Malawi. Many of the small trading centers and villages look much like anywhere else in the country, but different areas are known for their own unique produce. There was one nice long strip where makeshift wooden racks were filled with watermelon. I love watermelon! We stopped and bought one melon at the fifth stand down
Although we never stayed in one place too long on this particular trip, it seemed we were falling quickly behind of schedule. We ended up arriving in Blantyre, the commercial capital of Malawi, just as the sun was setting into the Sabbath. Traffic was heavy and it took us at least four times as long to cover the same distance once we were in the city itself. The drivers behind us were terribly impatient and would pass in no passing zones quite frequently in unsafe manners with oncoming traffic. Sad to say, it was a sad first impression of the city that so many love. The landscape was quite beautiful. The city streets lined with palm trees and mountains in the backdrop reminded us of some cities in California
Gracious Mpilangwe met us at the Shoprite near our guesthouse so he could show us where we would be staying since we were so new to the city. He had to rush off to save his wife from the rain and we got comfortable in our home away from home. The next morning we ate breakfast, got ready for services, and were greeted once more by Gracious who led us just around the corner to a school where the congregation rents a small room for services while their new building is under construction. We were greeted by the congregation with a song. Lena was presented with a bouquet of flowers and I was given a boutonniere to wear. It was a very warm welcome and we could feel the love from the brethren. We heard a fantastic message from a long time member of the church
The next morning we were again met by Gracious who led us to see the church property where the new building is under construction. The piece of property isn't too expansive, but the space is large enough for a good size church hall, parking space, dormitories (for camps, feasts, visitors, etc.), a water tank, and a small guard house. The property is fenced in by a brick wall, but the neighboring mountains can still be seen from nearly any spot on the property. That particular area used to be a forest filled with trees and shrubs. Most of the trees are gone due to over cutting by locals who burn the wood to cook their meals and keep warm, or sell the wood to make money. This is not the only place in the country where this happens
The next morning we got up early, said goodbye to Gracious (who again came to meet us as we left) and headed south to an area called Thyolo where tea plantations cover the landscape. We drove through the countryside through small towns and tree lined highways to an area that reminded me of driving through country roads in the US in places where wheat fields grow next to forests. The forests and trees were lovely and beautiful, but the rolling hills of tea were absolutely breathtaking! We had chosen to visit the Satemwa tea and coffee plantation which is actually one of the smaller tea plantations in the country
We stopped for lunch in Blantyre, got lost on a few of its streets, and took a short accidental side trip which nearly led us to Mozambique. We had taken a wrong turn and (being new to the area) hadn't noticed that the scenery had really changed since much of it looked the same. There was a road that appeared to head in the right direction and connect back up with M1 without crossing over into another country, but a friendly police officer at a checkpoint told us we had to turn around and go back the way we came because the road did in fact go through Mozambique. It was another long evening of driving in the dark of night through the highways of Malawi. At least the roads were dry and God protected us all the way home. And I only hit one chicken (actually maybe just his tail feathers).
Today we leave for Zambia.
Blantyre and Beyond
Wednesday, March 01, 2017