Day 38: 4 September 2002 10:00 pm
Tom and Penny confess to their tour leader that they are leaving the truck in Mzuzu, causing our tour leader to wail, ‘What am I doing wrong?’
This morning we were given the option of going on the hike to Livingstonia –
we declined and started planning our route through Malawi to Zimbabwe.
Tom broke the news gently to our beleaguered tour leader that we were
leaving the truck tomorrow. It had been quite a shock to lose Natasha and
Jason although we were told that Natasha had severe psychological problems –
I had never seen any evidence of this and I wasn’t sure if our tour leader
wasn’t just being plain bitchy. We explained that it was not due to the
group (Aussie vets excluded) and was in no way a reflection on how the tour
had been run – it was just a case of feeling comfortable enough to travel on
our own and having the flexibility to decide where and how long to stay at
any given place.
Before we told our tour leader, I had a quick word with some independent
travellers that were camping next to us. They said Malawi was perfectly
safe to travel round and we should visit Zomba and Blantyre.
Our tour leader kindly agreed to transport our souvenirs to Harare where we
can pick them up and return the remainder of our kitty money. We were also
offered updates by email on the situation in Zimbabwe and other pieces of
useful information about Gweru. This was generous and we were grateful for
the extra help extended to us by our tour leader.
When the others returned from their hike, our tour leader broke the news to
them. Beth wasn’t surprised we were going to take off on our own but others
were. Belinda agreed that at times the trip is a chore and restrictive.
Rose confided that there is not enough free time in the itinerary and hated
erecting the tent in the dark. However, Rose pursed her lips in disdain as
she obviously did not agree with us receiving the rest of the kitty money.
Poor Beth – I will be sorry to leave her behind. I feel that she is having
a tough time at the moment, yet she is so easy going and good-natured. This
morning she deliberately didn’t go on the hike so that she could avoid
Roberta (who spends most of her time stoned). On the truck they barely
speak to each other and sit apart. Beth was venting her frustration with
Roberta at breakfast saying that she was inconsiderate, dogmatic, arrogant
and never kept her highly controversial opinions to herself even when they
were likely to offend. You could see that she had been bottling up her
feelings as they now flooded out. Beth is cutting her trip short and
leaving in Victoria Falls to catch a bus to Jo’berg to fly home.
We accompanied Beth on a shopping expedition to buy Malawi chairs, hoping
that our combined buying power would secure a good deal. Beth is the queen
of souvenir shoppers – if we thought we were bad at buying souvenirs, Beth
is ten times worse – she cannot resist buying trinkets and carvings. She is
also excellent at bargaining and after a tortuous haggle, together we bought
three Malawi chairs and a salad bowl. Our Malawi chieftain chair decorated
with the ‘big five’ cost us US $20 including wrapping. Beth had convinced
herself that she needed a pair of chairs but we agreed to tell the group
that she had only bought one chair.
We have discovered on this trip that people tend to have a love affair with
one continent and for us that is Asia not Africa, which may explain why we
already feel that we have seen enough National Parks and game to last a lifetime.
I wouldn’t be adverse to returning to Africa when we are middle aged and
treating ourselves to a luxury safari in lodges.
Our last dinner with the truck and we listened to an outline of what would
be happening at Kande Beach, relieved that we were leaving. Our tour leader
said that there had been an overspend on the budget due to the ‘big seafood
nights’ at Dar Es Salaam, so the group would have to consider buying their
own lunches at Kande Beach and having the village meal one evening – you
could tell that no one was excited at this prospect. Roberta pointed out
that at the last village meal it was the only time that there was any food
Roberta was obnoxious and rude, especially to Beth at dinner – it didn’t
help that she was stoned and I think Beth might genuinely miss us when we
go. I hope Beth doesn’t have to put up with too much more grief from
Positives: Freedom nearly in our grasp – no more Big Brother!
Negatives: Breaking the news to our tour leader.