October 13th 2010
Woke up early to catch a shared taxi to the border, which took about 1 hour. After taking care of business with Malawian customs, I walked across the Songwe Bridge into Tanzanian territory. There were plenty of ‘money-changers’ hassling me to change money. The guy who ran the hostel in Nkhata Bay told me to change my Malawi Kwachas to Tanzanian Shillings the moment I crossed the border (if you do it in the main cities in Tanzania, they give you a 1:4 rate, whereas the black market will give you a 1:7.5 rate, even if the official rate is supposed to be 1:10!) so I tried negotiating with these guys. They gave me a far better rate than I was told I was going to get so I got pretty excited and tried to change all my MKs to TSs. At one point, they handed me TSs and I handed over my MKs but the guy immediately changed his mind, saying I was changing far too much at once. I decided these guys were crooks so I walked back to the Malawian side, tried to change money with the bank there, but they had a hefty commission fee, so I crossed the border again and after taking care of business with Tanzanian customs ($100 visa?! IN-frigging-SANE!), I found the black-market changers right on the side of the road. I had counted 4060 MKs earlier but now I only had 3560 MKs…those sneaky asshole money-changers on the bridge must’ve stolen 500 when I wasn’t looking! Luckily that was only worth about $3.50 so I wasn’t mad about it, but they pulled a fast one on me. Ok, enough about money-changing.
After doing the 2 km walk to the nearest bus stop, I caught a sardine-bus to Mbeya just as it was about to leave. The journey to Mbeya took about 4 hours. I had planned to stay the night in Mbeya as it was the biggest city south-west of Tanzania. After my 1-day ordeal in ‘Karonga Prison’, I was happy to find a nice inn right across the bus station that was clean and even had satellite TV (my God, what a treat). Hung around the city center that afternoon to eat and use the internet before spending my night watching all kinds of wonderful TV programs (they had BBC, CNN, ESPN, Discovery, and National Geographic!). Why I only stayed 1 night in Mbeya is beyond me but I wanted to continue my methodical march to Dar Es Salaam so I left the next day to Iringa.
October 14th 2010
Caught an 8:30 am sardine-bus to Iringa. What was supposed to be a 5-hour journey turned into an 8-hour one, due to all those multiple drop/pick-up stops we made. My butt muscles were sore from all the stationery sitting. But we eventually made it to Iringa, a city in the highlands. I arrived at the bus station and was eager to get to the inn I planned on staying at. It had been a long journey. I spoke to a taxi driver and he was so bad with explaining how to get there that I agreed to let him take me to the motel with his taxi (it was relatively cheap) but after I got into his taxi, he took a right turn out, then another right turn and 5 seconds later, we stopped in front of the motel. I was confounded. It would’ve taken me 1 minute to walk there and this taxi-driver got me to pay him 2000 TS ($1+). Well-played sir, well-played. I think he felt bad about it so he tried his best to tell me where to find ‘Hasty Tasty Too’, a popular local joint which I was looking forward to eating at.
After checking in, I made my way to ‘Hasty Tasty Too’, armed with furious hunger. I arrived and guess what? The place was closed! I was extremely disappointed. Apparently it was a public holiday of some sort, according to a guy who works next door at a wood-carving shop. I ended up eating at a joint next to the inn and filled up on rice and some meat. Then I went over to the supermarket across the street to pick up some Snickers for my dessert. I opened the Snickers bar in my room and found a weird looking piece of chocolate staring back at me. The texture looked faded and rough, not the nice smooth creamy texture that I was accustomed to. I checked the expiration date, and turns out, this bar of chocolate had been expired since March 2010. I marched back to the supermarket, and the guy offered to exchange it for another bar of chocolate (Cadbury Whole Nut). At least he was nice enough to do that as I expected him to tell me to go away as I had already opened the wrapper and taken a bite of the chocolate (Yes, I took a bite because I had to find out if it was just the outside that was all messed up. Nope, the insides were really old too. And I ate it.) The Cadbury Whole Nut was just as bad in terms of taste. I can tell because I’ve had a few bars the past few weeks. Where is this Iringa guy getting his chocolate anyway?! Whatever, sucked it up and ate the whole thing.