It was with heavy heart and anxious thoughts that we lay down to sleep on our last night in Ruarwe. We knew that our vacation was coming to an end, and that despite a serious fuel shortage, tomorrow we’d be on the road home. A dangerous, uncomfortable and brutally long series of interchanges that could only be described as … Unique.
We packed our gear that morning and by seven we were waving goodbye to the friendly staff and boarding a small boat that would soon be literally crawling with people. Every nook and cranny until there were people sitting on top of each other and more luggage piled up on top of them. It was an experience.
The sun had just risen, and it’s cruel rays heated the heap of humanity and dried fish until it could only be described as hellish. Three painful, soul crushing hours later we made land at a small port town – the first of the journey back with a road and without hesitation jumped from the entangled mass of people into the waters and decided to take a canter truck (small semi) to the town. The truck would arrive at 02:00 and we’d make it to Mzuzu at 06:30. It was 10am and we were on an adventure. Freed from the torture of the overwhelmed boat we stretched on land and went about locating our transport. We were frustrated by a few false hopes, ended up eating a fabulous dinner and taking a swim, and refreshed but tired were able to secure our seats by 1:30am.
The canter experience rivalled the boat in crowding but added a significantly more terrifying factor. I can swim,but I cannot in good conscience say that I could survive a 60meter cliff drop on a flatbed canter into rocks and the lake.
The canter wound up what would be best described as a mountain donkey path – just wide enough to fit the truck, multiple times we slid, and I felt honestly afraid for my life 25-30 times. I nearly pissed myself when we rounded a corner to a 15% grade and the driver gunned it, only to be bounced by a washboard and slide into a blind jackknife turn.
Needless to say, those four hours were a mixture of horror, terror, prayer, and excitement (it was the most frightening and exhilarating ride I’ve yet taken.)
We pulled into Mzuzu, and immediately boarded our next instrument of torture – a marcopolo inner city transit bus retrofitted to make the 8 hour run to the capital. 70 bodies crammed into narrow seats, and 22 standing in the isles and we were off. Without a whisper of flowing air or a breath that wasn’t chock full of unwashed humanity, some livestock and fried grease.
We arrived in the capital exhausted but excited, we boarded a minibus and took the three hour ride to the border town, then a taxi, and another taxi and we were on home turf. Zambia, beloved Zambia. We arrived a the Provncial house, grabbed our first meal of the day, found a hotel room and crashed.
At 4 am the next day we were back on the road. A 5:30 am bus to Lusaka, without people in the isles, and complete with the luxury of chips and a soda! By 12:30 we were in, and after a quick bite of lunch at 15 I was on a night bus to Mansa. I arrived at 2:45am, hopped in a taxi, and stumbled into the office. Dehydrated, exhausted and hungry… But home. I heated a hot cup of water, drank it and promptly passed out.
In the next few days I had a lot of recovering and work to do, in order to rehabilitate my joints and stiff muscles.