My preparations for my trip to Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe, had many problems even before I booked the tickets. I was going there on a work assignment that was not even in Malawi but in Zambia’s small town of Chipata.
I would be meeting people in Chipata who hadn’t responded to their emails and was worried that they were not going to answer their phones even when I got there. But the tickets were finally booked and the cameraman and I were already boarding the flight.
As we boarded the flight we were greeted by a huge smell. It was definitely not from any of the flight attendants because we had passed them when we started getting the odour. As we got to our seats Muzi mentioned that the bad smell was coming from the tall man who was wearing a black suit. I told him he couldn’t be certain of that as it could have been coming from anybody, but I was also suspecting the same person. Muzi had not left South Africa before that day and I wanted him to stop thinking that the rest of Africa was about horrible armpit smells.
The journey was short but when we arrived in Lilongwe we discovered that Muzi’s luggage had gone missing. He thought it had been stolen, but I knew that luggage goes missing anywhere in the world but we reported it anyway. What further irritated him was that everything is done manually in Lilongwe and airport staff wanted us to open our bags so they could check them as they don’t have any scanners, but they eventually told us that we could enter the country without our luggage being checked as we worked for the popular South African Broadcasting Corporation. I was to discover its popularity later with a lot of people recognising me and screaming my name all over the place. I never receive that reception in South Africa.
The issue of the missing bag was sorted out the following day when we found it at the airport. But there was something that kept on following us. As we left the check-in area at the airport we were greeted by a smell similar to the one on the airplane. No matter how much we ignored it, it just kept on following us. The people in the area were extremely friendly, but that didn’t matter. Soon it went away, or maybe we forgot about it, because we chilled a bit, enjoyed ourselves and did a bit of work in the country.
On our second day in Malawi we were at the border crossing to the small town of Chipata in Zambia. We saw a beautiful policewoman at the border and both gravitated towards her. She smiled and seemed happy that we were walking towards her. As we arrived at her counter Muzi and I wanted to run for our lives. We couldn’t speak much and couldn’t even tell her how pretty she was. That is all because of the horrible armpit smell. She clearly had a massive bush underneath there and was not using any deodorant in extreme African heat.
As we were driving back into the country we met another policeman who wanted a lift to the nearest residential area. We stopped and picked him up. He spoke to us in Zulu and said he learnt it during the year he spent in South Africa with his father who lived in the country for over 20 years until his death. But soon a smell we couldn’t stand came our way and we tried to switch the air conditioner of the 4X4 we had hired on. That didn’t help. We then opened the windows and that didn’t help either. We couldn’t even communicate in Zulu as this cop had learnt Zulu in South Africa. As he jumped out of the vehicle we stopped, breathed in some fresh air, spoke and laughed about it. We then continued with our journey.
Malawi is a great country though with beautiful scenic views and great people. Much development is needed in the country and would probably be an investor’s haven in many sectors; I met a lot of Afrikaans speaking South Africans who said they were doing business there. Two young men in their twenties said they were there to make money when I asked them what they were doing in Lilongwe.