An improving situation – buses in Malawi

I have had some horrendous bus trips between Malawian cities but there is a new dawn. A new company, Sososo, came into the market a year or so ago. They offer road-worthy buses which leave on time. That is not half as amazing as being allocated a seat, which really is a seat and which no-one can take off you, no matter how much bigger than you they are. These buses book up early so you need to get your ticket a few days ahead, especially for a morning bus. As well as all the luxury of a real seat, passengers are given a snack and drink. The drink (hurrah for sparking pineapple Fanta) is in a can, which is astonishingly difficult to drink from on a bouncy bus. A road-block or three give me a chance to enjoy it.

The other bus companies are reported to have sharpened up their act considerably in the face of this hugely popular new service. The older bus companies are still a little more expensive (yes, really) and that difference of approx. £1.00 is significant for most Malawians.

Another major change on this new bus is the content of the music videos. On the Axa bus, the ‘old’ ones, the videos are religious people singing hymns – unrelentingly. The bus journeys can be as long as 12 hours. On the Sososo buses the videos are mostly of young people singing and performing modern music. You still needed to wait for several hours before seeing a woman in trousers on those videos. But it did happen, eventually. Wearing trousers, for Malawian women, is a cultural issue here. Msungus (white people) can, and do, wear whatever they like. Musing for another post.

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Invisible buses

I have to say that bus travel in Ireland is just grand when you are used to the particular bus. But not otherwise. The bus that I wanted had a clear timetable online and a bus stop in the real world, which clearly said ‘X20’ on the route I wanted. However, ‘everyone knows’ that it goes from a different place. That I had checked out that different place and still couldn’t find the X20 probably reflects my diminishing powers of managing out there in the world.

Anyway, I got a three-wheeler thing that went through all the villages imaginable. I think that they built some of them just to make the bus trip longer. At the end of it was a warm welcome and a catch-up with a friend from childhood. That I messed up our communications too is just one more indication of seniorhood. The great joy is that it doesn’t matter at all.

Another joy is that Spring thinks it has arrived here in Ireland. Gorgeous magnolias are bursting into life in Maynooth and you can go for a walk without a hat and gloves.

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How to scare away boars

‘Tacca’

Everyday problem, right? Here’s an elegant solution from The Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island.  A stream runs into a bamboo cane, blocked off at the end. When the water in the cane reaches a certain level it tips over and empties. It then crashes back onto a strategically-place stone, making a gong sound. It clearly works as there are no boars in sight, other than this elegant sculpture. He is called ‘Tacca’ after the artist who made him and he is a copy of ‘Porcellino’ who resides in Florence.

Bike on front of busPS – these gardens are gorgeous at any time of year and worth a visit. Buses run to and from Victoria and you can take you bike on the bus. What’s not to love? Wouldn’t it be amazing to be able to pop your bike on the front of a bus in Edinburgh? *sigh*

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