I was visiting Lake Malawi, starting at a small town on the southern shores called Monkey Bay. I had no plans, but the name looked cool when I saw it on a map. The problem was, a few days into my visit, I was broke and there was no ATM in town.
There wasn’t a bank or ATM in nearby Cape Mclear either I was told, so the closest one was in Magochi, about an hour bus ride away. I found a minibus that would take me there for 300 Kwatcha, about $1.78. It was so packed that the hour seemed like 3. It was very hot and stuffy, and besides the constant honking and swerving around potholes, the blaring music, anything from Bob Marley to Eminem, didn’t do much to make for a nice journey. I was having flashbacks to my nightmarish mini-bus ride in Mozambique.
Once the nightmare was over and we arrived in Mongochi, I killed as much time as I could, dreading the horrid trip back. I was almost resigned to my fate when I noticed a small pickup truck getting ready to head down the highway towards Monkey Bay. I ran over to hitch a ride, and they agrees to take me for 300 Kwatcha. I hopped into the bed of the truck feeling pretty pleased with myself. This was a much better idea.
As we sat on the side of the road, i started to wonder what we were waiting for, but before long I knew. The 5 people in the truck turned into 20, then 30, and at last count 40. I was standing at the front looking over the cab, because i thought it would afford the best views of the ride, but as the truck filled with people, I became packed in like a sardine, unable to turn left or right, or bend down to sit. I was completely smushed against the cab looking into the wind. If someone wanted to pickpocket me, there would be no way to stop them.
We finally left, and i hoped it would get less crowded as we dropped people off along the way. No such luck. they just kept picking up people as they went along. They stopped so frequently that the ride turned into a 2 hour ordeal. for 2 hours I was stuck standing in the back of the truck, facing foreword into the wind over the cab, getting burnt by the African sun.
When we arrived into town, I was a sight to see. It seemed like the whole town stopped what they were doing to come stare at me; the crazy looking white man. I was hot and tired, and didn’t really care, but when I passed by a mirror I grew an instant understanding of why i was the new main attraction.
I had been sweating all day, so my hair was wet, then at the same time had been standing in the windy truck bed for 2 hours, so my hair was standing straight up into a Mohawk I looked like Sonic the Hedgehog, and the Reyband sunglasses didn’t help. Besides being the only white guy in town and having crazy hair, I was also wearing a shirt that a local guy made me that was black with crazy yellow, green and red stripes going everywhere. It’s a helluva ugly shirt that doesn’t match anything known to man, but it’s comfortable. Somewhere along the way I had list a flip flop, so was walking around with only one.
In other words, I was probably the most interesting and strange thing to come through Malawi since Madonna. Someone even called me the king of Monkey Bay. Kids and adults alike would stare so hard and long they would only be pried away when they ran into something. At first I was embarrassed and wanted to run and hide in my hostel, but the people are some of the nicest in the world, and I realized they mention no harm.
After only being in Monkey Bay for a day or so, everyone in town knew or recognized me, and I have to return greetings every 10 seconds, when walking around town. People will yell out things like, “hey big boss, are you fine today?” or “howzit friend?”. Sometimes from way down the street they yell for me, and want me to come marry their sister or just have a coke. I guess this was my 15 minutes of fame, but hey- This is Africa.
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