Distance: 250km (Cumulative: 19 557km)
Moving time: 5:33
Average speed: 45km/h
Road surface: 99% Tar (potholes on Malawian side after border)
Hakuna Matata Camp - R65 p.p
Basic campsite with proper ablutions, South Africa owner
We left at 09:00 after another big breakfast in the hotel. We drove north to the T10 from Uyolu as we wanted to skip the roadworks to Mbalizi. The road was very beautiful with rolling hills and valleys covered with tea plantations. There were, however, way too many towns which made the going slow.
We eventually got to the border town of Kasumulu at 12:00. Plenty of men started gathering around the vehicle again knocking on the window and jogging next to us as we slowly drove through the chaos to the immigration building. Exiting Tanzania went smoothly and quickly apart from telling 10s of people we don’t want to exchange money and we don’t need insurance.
There were trucks everywhere, but we made it passed the immigration building just to be told that the road is completely blocked we have to wait. We got to the exit gate of Tanzania which was about 300m before the bridge that we could not see. The road had 5 columns of trucks facing our way with no drivers in them and no way to get passed. Looking between the trucks the line went as far as the eye could see.
We thus parked next to the gate and settled in for the long wait. Messaging home we got the reply that sometimes things like this could take a whole day to clear. We got out some lunch and as we were eating the driver of one of the trucks in front returned and started moving. About ten trucks came passed, but we could still not see the end of the line. These trucks then basically just blocked the exit road as they still had to go through immigration on the Tanzanian side. We were thus stuck in the middle and couldn’t even leave if we wanted to.
Slowly the trucks and cars could move along one by one. After two hours a small lane was cleared which we could use to cross the bridge. There we still hundreds of trucks parked on either side facing both directions. On the Malawian side our carnet was again just stamped without entering any details into a book or computer and our passports were stamped without any questions or visas necessary. Nothing else was even payable for the vehicle.
At 14:20 (Malawian time, UTC +2) we could finally set off in the 9th country of our trip. The road from the border was very potholed and there were frequent police checks. We were mostly just let through or just asked where we are heading.
In Karonga a fairly large place with lots of banks we stopped at the Standard Bank to withdraw our first batch of Malawian Kwatcha. We managed to get a whopping 80 000 Malawian Kwacha, the maximum number of notes an ATM can give, given the 40 notes limit. The biggest note in Malawi is the 2000 Kwacha which is only worth R40. So you can only get R1500 at a time, which will make our banking costs ridiculously expensive as Capitec charges R50 for every foreign ATM withdrawal.
We also bought a Airtel simcard and got it in a record time as they didn’t capture any details. Simply paid 400 Kwacha and walked away with the simcard. We however also bought 6000 MWK airtime to purchase a data bundle with.
We got to Chitimba at 17:00 and drove in at the Chitimba Beach Lodge. The facilities looked really nice, but there were already two overland trucks with their little safari tents and outdoor kitchens.
We saw on iOverlander that the campsite next door is even cheaper so we went to the Hakuna Matata campsite. We were the only campers and the campsite is in a very poor state compared to next door. The ablutions are however very clean and South African like with enough space to put your things down and hot water, etc.
Willie Louw the owner is a South African and we could speak Afrikaans again with someone else. Later the evening 4 backpackers arrived, including a French couple who we saw at the border, who could just walk through all the parked trucks. We read online that Irma Louw who played a big part at the campsite had to leave due to do an illness. Their cook Maggie apparently also died of Malaria.
Caro made rice and beans again for dinner while the wind kept blowing strongly until after we went to bed.