As everybody knows by now, we love the Republic of Mangochi. And each time we have an opportunity to come here, we make the most of our visit. We visit places with the Namizimu strip as our favourite. We meet Mangochians and non-Mangochians. We swim in Lake Malawi. We wallow in Lake Malombe. We dip into the mighty Shire River. Our favourite spot on the western shore of our majestic Lake Malawi is not what most people visit. It is the Pambiche, as the Palm Beach area is locally Yaolised.
Pambiche is the tail end of Lake Malawi and the beginning of the Shire River. From here the eastern shore side of Lake Malawi appears too close for one not to visit by swimming. But our local brothers always warn us that this apparently peaceful place is a harbinger of danger: crocodiles. Even though we have fair reptilian knowledge that crocodiles mostly attack in the early morning and early evening as during daytime they spend hours recharging their systems, crocodiles have been recorded to attack during the day as well.
So, we agreed to abide by the advice of the Pambiche barman not to swim in the lake, our Lake Malawi. He arranged a table for us outside the bar facing the Eastern shores of Lake Malawi. I asked for my favourite Castel Fantakoko while our leader of delegation, Professor Abiti Dr Joyce Befu, MG 66 and MEGA-1; Nganga Maigwaigwa, PSC; Alhaj Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC, and the Most Paramount Native Authority Mandela asked for their favourite Castel Ginger.
“I feel like eating some grilled pork and chips,” I said, facing the barman, “I know in this republic, pork is haram, but I am really salivating for it.”
“Me, too,” Abiti said before the barman even responded to my request.
“Same, here,” Nganga said, waving his right index finger like someone on political campaign trail.
“Ditto!” said the Most Paramount Native Authority.
“Ok,” the barman said, sighing deafeningly, “I keep some pork. But I only serve it to my special clients who have vowed never to mention, under any condition, that we ever serve pork here. I will also serve you, hoping you are gentlemen and a lady of integrity and Jah-fearing,”
When he was done with the cooking, the barman called us inside the bar to take our meals. All, bones, we were advised, had to be left in the plates because only he knew when, how and where to dispose of them.
In the early evening, we decided to leave our VW Amailoko and asked the barman to call a taxi for us to get into Mangochi town to do what all reasonable tourists do in the evenings.
“There are three types of taxi. Car taxi, bicycle taxi, and motorcycle taxi. Which one do you prefer?” the barman queried.
“The most reasonable and efficient!” Nganga said.
“I will ask for a motorcycle, efficient and reasonably priced!” the barman said.
“Motorcycle! We are five adults. How will we fit on a motorcycle?” Abiti asked.
“Wait,” the barman said.
Within twenty minutes, a LIFO SANLAG motorcycle taxi without licence plates and no taillight was at the hotel.
“Here he is,” the barman said pointing at the motorcyclist.
“Sharp, Man!” I said as I approached the motorcyclist.
“Irie, Biggie!” he responded.
“Man, your motorcycle has no license plates!” I said.
“License plates! What for?” the motorcyclist wondered.
“Malawi laws prescribe that all motorised transport should have license plates!” Nganga said as he approached.
“If your laws worked, we would have been stopped from operating. But the government, the district council, and the police know that we exist. They collect fees from us proving that we are operating legally.”
We shut up.
The taximan advised us how to sit on his motorcycle to ensure we all fitted. One by one we were seated and I was made to sit on the carrier. Abiti refused. Then the motorcyclist, slowly and tenderly stepped lifted his left limb and sat on the motorcycle tank, cranked the engine, and throttled the motorcycle. And we started off, moving slowly at first and reasonably fast, thereafter.
Near the Mangochi MBC studios, the taxi slowed down and someone dressed like a police officer approached from the left side. The taximan threw a small crumpled note before increasing speed.
“What was it that you threw at the police officer?” Jean Phillipe.
“C.O.P!” the taximan answered.
“You mean COF?” I asked.
“Motorcycle Taxi Certificate of Passage! COP in short,” the taximan said.