Twilight Zone Script – Lilongwe, Malawi

Writing on the truck doesn’t work, so the writing will just have to be done when it’s possible. That’s the only really frustrating thing about being on the truck – you sit there for six hours at a time and are unable to write, unable to read, unable to do anything but drink and look outside as the truck bounces around on the Third World roads too much. Before we get too far behind (or ahead of ourselves depending on how you look at it) we need to do some housecleaning and write about some of the countries we’ve already left. Let’s start with Malawi some more.

I can’t seem to say enough good things about Malawi, which suits me just fine. Great memories abound. Just take note that my carved Malawian table cost K18.00 (US$3.25). little did we know when we arrived but Malawians eat goat here. One of the S.African guys we met was having a birthday BBQ on the beach, and the guest of honor was Mr. Goat of the nearby village. I guess the S.Africans have these types of BBQ’s all the time. These guys had purchased a live goat that morning, killed it, drained the blood, skinned it and put it on a spit for the locals to cook over an open-pit fire on the beach. Amazing – the goat turned out OK; it definitely tasted like wild game of sorts. Salty and definitely different.

Now you’ll recall we travelled to Blantyre, then Lilongwe before our return flight to Harare. That last night in Lilongwe, Rich and I stayed in the rest house near the bus station. We were both worn down from our bus rides and Rich wasn’t feeling too well, so we decided to be mellow in our hotel room. We had a bit of a cob left over, which we had to dispose of before leaving the country, so we disposed. We then proceeded to pull out my travel radio and tune to Malawi’s sole radio station.

It was so surreal – we were sitting on a bed playing cards, watching the African mothers walk by with their babies tied to their backs in a sarong, and the orange African sunset in the background. Amazing. We started to play cards when these really bizarre radio ads/programmes came on, only adding to the surreal experience. Rich commented that this would be the perfect intro to an episode of the Twilight Zone.

[Opening Credits.]
[Twilight Zone Intro]
Voice Over: Two men, sitting in a balmy hotel room in the middle of East Africa, playing cards and relaxing listening to the radio. They’ve just begun their African holiday, but it won’t be a holiday for much longer.

[Wide shot of hotel room, zoom in to close crop shot of actors on bed.]Voice Over: Their only source of information from the Western World, their link to this isolated world in one of the darkest places on the African continent, the hand held FM radio tuned to the sole station in the country – Radio Malawi.

[Actors playing cards, listening to radio. Radio announcer interrupts programming with bulletin.]Announcer: The News. Radio Malawi. The continental United States has just experiences a major earthquake on an undiscovered fault running from the east to west coast. The quake has been classified as a 10.2 on the Richter scale, but this reading is not accurate as the quake was greater than any ever experienced on the planet. As a result the continental shelves have separated and the continent is sinking at a rate of five meters an hour into the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. Millions of people are estimated dead from the initial shock with an infinite number in danger of drowning as the continent sinks. The earthquake has caused tidal waves in all directions heading for Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia, and aid is unable to reach the survivors on North America. All U.S. citizens are urgently required to contact their closest embassy or consulate so the U.S. Government can tally the number of survivors and establish a new government.

How about an episode that went something along those lines, eh? Notes to continue: Denver, capital city. New world power emerges. Expats to form new government.

Alright – that winds up everything I wanted to write – I think.

We flew back to Harare and went right back to the Sable Lodge. When we arrived it was like we were back home. The reception dudes all welcomed us back and come of the people we’d met before we left were still hanging around the Sable. I’ve met some really interesting people – one of them who had the most amazing story was this Russian guy named Serg.

He was about my age, 23, and he had fled from Moscow when Russia was still very communist and they weren’t letting people travel yet. Serg had had his passport taken from him so he decided he needed to get out of Russia. He bought his friend’s Russian passport, went to the airport and got on the first flight out. The only flight leaving the country was to Lusaka, capital of the nearby country of Zambia. Serg got on the plane and he said he had no idea where Lusaka was. He thought it was in Latin America somewhere – he wasn’t expecting Africa at all. He said he got to Lusaka, knew barely any English and just had to figure out how to survive. He said he bought another passport on the black market and came to Zimbabwe because he didn’t need a visa to get in the country. He had lived in Harare for a while and during that time he asked the Russian embassy to issue him a passport (this was before the coup) but the embassy declined his request. Immediately after the attempted coup in 1991 he asked for a passport again and got one issued that would allow him to travel only back to Moscow and no where else. He thought staying in Zimbabwe a bit longer sounded like a good idea. It’s wild – the stories you hear from the travellers who cross your path. They’ve done a lot, but so have we so we can always reciprocate a story.

Upon our return to Harare Rich and I desperately needed to mail home the five to six kilos of wood carvings, tables, etc we’d picked up in Malawi. Hit the post office, which was so efficient. For Z$7.00 (US$1.15) you can ship anything that’s two kilos or under. Amazing! Plus, the packages sent from Zim usually make it home. After our post office escapade (that took us two hours to package and send, etc.) we dropped by the Air India office to set our date leaving Nairobi. That done it was back to the Sable Lodge where we met the other three guys who we’d be on safari with us. Earlier that morning (the 19th) we’d attended our pre-departure meeting for our six and a half week safari from Harare to Nairobi where we’d met these guys. After an evening of talking to these guys it was off to bed.

Maybe it’s a good idea to introduce a few of these guys since they’ll be features prominently over the course of the next six weeks. There are two Aussie guys – Jim and Tom. Jim used to work at a bank – Citicorp, and he’s off to London to work for a year on their two year work visa thing. Tom is taller and not as bright, his last vocation being a plumber, but he was en route to London as well.

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