Around nine in the morning, we exited the minibus at the dusty, crowded bus depot in town. Carrying our backpacks, bag of raisin bread, peanut butter, bananas, and umbrella, we were ready for this adventure.
In search of the bus headed to Kasungu, we stepped past other large buses with destinations like Blantyre, Mzuzu, and Dedza. Sydney pointed us in the direction of the bus. We stepped on, climbed over bags of maize, waded through the almost-filled bus, to find three seats in the very back. Expecting we would leave soon (silly me), I got as comfortable as I could, wedged between David to my left and another guy to my right. A few more minutes and we noticed more people boarding the bus, even though the seats were filled. Sydney explained that they would have people stand in the aisle also. Real safe (!). A little later, when the bus was full, Malawian standards full, it started its way out of the busy depot. As it inched forward, we were sure that it would bump into another bus; fortunately, it did not. Even though the ride was a bit squished and a slight aroma of sweat and body odor filled the air, we did find a little girl to make faces at and enjoyed her giggles and smiles. In addition, the scenery outside the windows was green and beautiful.
We arrived in Kasungu about three hours later to a smaller and slightly less crowded bus depot. We walked past some remaining passengers, over the bags of maize and out of the bus onto the dirt road that led through the market. We turned a corner to find a flatbed truck that was ready for us to board. Sydney had called the guy ahead of time to make sure the visitors would have the two seats inside the cab with the driver. We got our stuff in and my legs rested on top of one of the backpacks while the other sat on my lap. David went with Sydney to buy some drinking water, as we weren’t sure of the water availability in Chamatao village; I remained wedged inside the vehicle. Using the bit of Chichewa that I had learned, I chatted with the driver while the bed of the truck was slowly filling up with people. At one point, it started to rain and I realized I had the umbrella in my hand; a few minutes later David came around the corner and jumped in next to me, with the case of water. We were ready for the next leg of the trip.
First, we went smoothly on the tarmac roads, stopping here or there for this or that. Each time we stopped, it was twenty or thirty minutes. Somehow, the truck continued to fill up with stuff and more people. It was reminiscent of Mary Poppin’s bag with more and more going in, not quite sure how it all fit. The next segment was a bit bumpier than the last. Eventually, we turned onto a dirt road that led further into the bush. Since it’s the rainy season, there was plenty of muddy water that filled the potholes. The tricky part was knowing how deep the holes were; good thing the driver had been there before. Each time we came to another puddle I wondered if we’d get stuck, but we never did. The vehicle slowly got lighter as people arrived at their destinations and disembarked.
We passed through Chamama trading center, and the road took us directly to Sydney’s home, which sat near the church building and was surrounded by open fields of groundnut and tobacco plants. A flock of children came to meet us, out of curiosity for the azungu who had come for a visit. We had made it!