I arrived in Lilongwe last Saturday night, the 21st, after approximately 26 hours of traveling. That's 4 flights, 5 airports, and 3 continents.
|Stairs leading to gate 3
|Past the security checkpoint
On board, I found myself seated in front of the two women I mentioned earlier. We chatted a bit about where we came from and where we were going: the woman I'd met in the bathroom earlier was travelling outside the US for the first time, off to spend 5 years teaching at a rural school in Malawi, while the other worked for a Seattle-based NGO and was travelling on to Lusaka for work. As the plane pulled away from the terminal, our conversation was interrupted by an announcement over the PA that they would now be spraying the cabin with insecticide, and though this would not be harmful to us, we were welcome to cover our mouth and nose with a handkerchief. The other Africa newbie and I stare at each other, clearly both wondering if we had heard that right. Now (and bear in mind I toured a handful of WW2 sites in Poland a few summers ago), I immediately pictured insecticide pouring out of the overhead vents, but it turned out to be lower-tech than that: a crew member ran up and down the aisle with a bottle of bug spray in each hand, Africa's version of the de-icing ritual familiar to anyone who has flown in Canada during the winter.
The rest of the flight was largely uneventful, and I arrived in Lilongwe more or less on-time, at 10:55pm. Most days there are only about half a dozen flights coming into Kamuzu International Airport, and we were definitely the last one to arrive that day. Half the lights in the terminal were off (this might be the case during the day, too, but it sure felt like they were just waiting to go home), and customs was not particularly thorough: people wandered back and forth past the desks, and I got my passport stamped without being asked a thing.
About a dozen pieces of luggage were already making the rounds on the belt, including my backpack. Hurray, I thought, my luggage made it! I waited a minute, hoping my suitcase would also show up, until a nearby airport employee informed me (and others) that all the luggage was already off the plane. Sigh. No suitcase. A form was filled out, my hotel's number was left as a contact, and off I went.
|Would you let this
book into your country?
Daniel, the IT manager from MUSCCO, was waiting for me outside the security area, and we hopped in his car for the drive into town. It was the middle of the night and there are no streetlights here, so there wasn't much to see, but apparently we passed the site of Madonna's ill-fated development project. Dan apologized for the state of the roads, but honestly, the road leading to the airport was not bad at all. Not as nice as a Canadian highway, but equivalent or better than a large portion of residential roads in Montreal. Now, the alley leading to the hotel entrance was another matter - a dirt road with potholes filled in with bricks.
(Courtesy of tripadvisor.com)
I'll be posting more stories and impressions of my first week over the next few days. More pictures will be coming, too - unfortunately for this blog post, there wasn't much to take pictures of in the middle of the night, and I was worried about pulling out my camera too much inside the airport. (It would probably have been too dark inside the terminal, anyway.)