Day 22 (June 2013)
Before we left our first destination at Lake Malawi we witnessed an intriguing task performed just outside the building next to our car. A worker stuck two wires into an outside electric outlet and to fasten them in place he used a pencil in each hole. He then proceeded to walk into the lake with an electric pump attached to the long electric lead. The lead had been joined with exposed wires. He stood in the water holding the pumped above the surface of the lake while it pumped unfiltered lake water into the water tank. We were aghast that he was expected to do something that we considered to be dangerous and hugely relieved that we always boiled our water from day 1 of our travels for safety reasons.
As we left there we discussed our day: we aimed to explore, as well as find an ATM, mobile airtime, petrol, food and another lodge. I wanted to check out the chitenje. Chitenje/Kitenje are material wraps with colourful African prints which can be made into clothing. They are normally used for: breast feeding, carrying babies, funerals, table clothes, and covering up after swimming. I was wondering around the village shops on the main road comparing prices while Derek had gone on to look for an ATM when Duncan, an enterprising young local, spoke to me, telling me I should go with him as Derek was looking for me. He spoke perfect English. I was bewildered by the instruction as I wasn’t expecting anybody other than Derek to talk to me.
A little earlier Derek and I had gone in different directions and eventually Derek couldn’t find me. Duncan approached Derek and asked: “are you looking for something? Can I help?” to which Derek had abruptly replied, “no you can’t, I am looking for my wife.” Duncan looked surprised as he had heard Derek say “I am looking for “A” wife”; his facial expression said it all: “We don’t buy and sell wives here.” Once they had ironed out their misunderstanding Duncan managed to spot me easily as I was the only other white person around.
Duncan offered to take us on a tour of a real African Market and led us through to behind the shops into the market area. It was unlike any other market I’d seen. We followed him down compact little alleyways leading left and right; getting narrower and narrower. It was an unexpected and memorable adventure: tables with clothes; smells of dried fish and fresh fish morphing into fruit and vegetable aromas, and so it went on and on until at last there was a “butchery”.
Derek felt a little nervous, thinking that we might be robbed in a “dark alleyway.” I apprehensively turned around and couldn’t see the car any more; I was worried because in Zambia we had been told never leave our car unattended. But we were absolutely fine and enjoyed the experience very much.
Finally at the end of our market visit Duncan told us that we could find an ATM in a town 90 km away.
It was a medical university town, called Mangochi. Once there Derek had a sudden brain wave. He wanted to find a hardware store – not an easy quest. The locals directed him down the road to Mangochi market and as Derek had just experienced a market with Duncan he felt confident he would manage on his own. I was not up for another adventure and decided to stay in the car. I was stared at by everyone who passed the car and I began to feel like I wanted to sink down further and further into my chair. I wondered if it would have been better to trail along with Derek.
20 minutes went by and Derek wasn’t back yet. Worried thoughts crowded my mind:
- “How many people there speak English?”
- “Maybe we were only safe at the other market because we had Duncan with us”
- “What if Derek gets mugged and doesn’t come back; I’ll be stranded”
- “How would I know if he was mugged and how long would I wait?”
Derek came back elated with his endeavours having bought all the necessary items to make up a long-long extension cord for using when we needed electricity at the camp sites.
If we had stayed on at our initial destination we would definitely have asked Duncan to be our “tour guide” but we went on to Palm Beach that afternoon.
That was our experience of two markets in one day. More about our travels next time.
Here are the links to:
The first part of the journey through the Northern Cape before we left South Africa you can find all the link here: Scenes of the North Western Cape, en-route.