In Malawi, villages go on for miles before merging into the next village. As a result, we have to ask permission to camp and are directed to the Chief of the district’s house. Getting to his house involves driving up a narrow dusty path full of busy market stalls. Big car, awkward space, lots of people watching – Woocash takes on the challenge of manoeuvring Cleopatra through.
I am pleased to discover that the Chief is Muslim and his wife is Christian. Coming from a mixed religious and cultural background myself, I think they are going to be my kind of people and they are. The Chief is away for the week but his welcoming wife insists that we must stay with them.
As Robert begins setting up the fire to cook, a small crowd of children gather, maybe 20. I find them entertaining but we worry they will fall in the fire. We are constantly saying, “Move back, move back.”
The growing circle of children, there must be 50 now, around us wobbles back and forth as they push each other with excitement. Curious hands reach out to touch, poke and pinch. The naughty pincher is corrected on his behaviour and all the crowd calms down for a bit, they are a little embarrassed by their over excitement, telling each other to behave. When I pull out my camera some hands go up to cover the lens. Half of this group doesn’t want photos the other half are pushing to the front. I put it away as it’s causing more chaos.
Robert has to stay by the fire whilst I wade through the noisy crowd, that, happily, only come up to my shoulder, to fetch ingredients and tools from the car. Being a youth worker, I can’t help myself, and end up chatting with the children, giving them small jobs to keep them entertained. I make the mistake of telling them my name.
Woocash drives back down the market to fetch Emma and Mike. Returning, on his 3rd trip along the lane the stall holders are a little fed up of the giant car bumping her way through, dusting their produce.
Emma is tired and the big crowd of children fascinated by us and wanting our attention takes a lot of energy. Kindly, the Chief’s wife offers us a school room to eat in to escape the pressure and close window shutters on curious eyes.The children surround the room, banging, calling and chanting my name, “Aysha, Aysha”. Typically British, I’m embarrassed by the attention. There must be at least 100 by now. The Chief’s wife says that she doesn’t even know most of the children; they have come from miles around. She does not know how they found out we are there. She tells them off and they quieten a little. Enough so we can eat.
A nice custom across this region of Africa, is that we share food with our host, we win in this, as she brings sweet mangos for us. We talk softly and try to be as boring as possible for the children outside. The time is getting later and we pretend to go to sleep. Eventually, the children go home and I can at last cross the school yard to the toilets on my own.
Number of Days: 73
Total distance run by Emma: 3087 km, 1918 miles
Daily average distance run by Emma (including rest days): 42.3 km, 26.3 miles
Distance run today: 58.39 km, 36.28 miles