Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Roads of Malawi

During this trip I have been lucky enough to travel along the roads of Malawi, especially as i don't have to do any of the driving. (Thanks Saeed!).  The roads here are unlike anything i have ever experienced, well to be more accurate, what is alongside the roads are unlike anything i have experienced.  I think i mentioned already how people use the roads to travel to and fro by either biking or walking, but the more i travel down them, i realize that so much of Malawan life seems to be conducted on the sides of the roads.  

The homes are usually not more than 10-15 feet from the roads, the fields are right alongside the road, and on more than several occasions we have had to avoid livestock (goats and chickens) as they graze and forage along the roads. Groups of children walk along to roads, presumably to go to school, and large marketplaces where they sell anything from dried fish, to flip flops (i bought a pair for less than $1) are right alongside the roads.  Children will sometimes hold out branches of a variety of dead animals to sell as snacks, and women are often seen sitting along the side of the road with a couple of bunches of tomatoes or mangoes.  I can't help but feel as if i am witnessing  cross section of life in Malawi. 

You may be tempted to think that i am mainly referring to sections of the road, that there maybe a bustle of activity for a few hundred feet, and then empty spaces along the road, sort of like the U.S. highway system, only broken up by rest stops or occasional  small towns.  But that isn't what i mean. We have driven several hundred kilometers, spending something like nearly 12 hours of just driving, and driving at 80-100km/hr, and there isn't a clear stretch of road without human activity during ANY part of our drive.  IF there weren't children walking, there would be people hauling firewood, or small stands of vegetables, or small farms with goats foraging.  Pretty remarkable. 

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