We woke up rather late. Jean-Philippe blamed our oversleeping on everything and everybody except himself. I politely reminded him that combined, haram drinks, humidity, and sleep, are a weapon of mental and body destruction. Some people die in their sleep; others find themselves in wrong places, wrong beds, wrong arms and with wrong infections.
“Check. Do we have enough fuel to get the Harrier up the mountain?”
I went to the car and switched it on.
“What is the situation like?”Jean-Philippe asked about the fuel in the car.
“Enough,” I answered.
“Fine. Let’s have breakfast and get up to Livingstonia.”
“We can’t get there.”
“Why? Didn’t you say we had enough fuel?” Jean-Philippe asked rather puzzled.
“The needle is at E,” I said.
“You should have said the tank is empty. Why do you Malawians use euphemisms even where you can employ a more precise word?”
“I am not being euphemistic. E among common means there is enough fuel for the car to start off and probably get you home.”
Jean-Philippe shook his and asked me to be serious because he really wanted to get up to Livingstonia and see what the Scottish Missionaries saw that made them love and idolise a bushy area. He asked me how we could find enough fuel to get us to Livingstonia and back. I had an idea. I went to knock at Gomeka Junior’s door and told him about the fuel quandary we found ourselves in.
“Dizilo olo petulolo?” Gomeka Junior answered from inside his grocery shop-cum-bedroom.
“Petrol. Where is the nearest filling station?”
I told him we did not have enough fuel to take us to Chilumba from Chitimba. He suggested that we leave the vehicle at Chitimba, walk up the Golodi Road to Livingstonia and collect it on our way back. By then, he said, he would have bought enough fuel in jerry cans for us to continue our trip. I explained to Jean-Philippe what Gomeka Junior had put forward. Jean-Philippe smiled before proposing that, if the vehicle would be safe at Chitimba, we walk up to Livingstonia as that would have afforded him a chance to see, admire and photograph nature.
“There is a shortcut to Bend One,” Gomeka Junior said as he emerged from grocery his grocery shop-cum-pub-cum bedroom.
“Bend One?”Jean-Philippe asked, “You mean this one here? I want to get up, all the way to Livingstonia,” Jean-Philippe said.
“No. Bend One is right on top there,” Gomeka Junior said, pointing at the mountain top with his head while his hands continued to button up his Mandela shirt.
“Okey. Why do you count in reverse?”
“Initially Livingstonia was the centre of civilisation and commerce. Thus, at that time, it they counted from Chitimba, they would have been counting in reverse.”
“Okey. Are you ready? Let’s get going. We should try the shortcut.”
“Sorry. I don’t want to commit suicide. Kabuha is no joke. It is like going up the Chambe Peak to get to Sapitwa on Mount Mulanje.”
Jean-Philippe felt dejected. He was so disappointed that I had to pamper and cajole him like a foreign prince and princesse. As a compromise I agreed to walk up the Golodi Road with him. Before we started off, Gomeka Junior came and whispered unto me that he had some petrol. I excitedly shouted to Jean-Philippe that we had struck gold.
“I have five litres of petrol,” Gomeka Junior said literally curtailing my excitement.
“Five litres are not enough. Thanks for your willingness to help though.”
“If that fuel can take us up to Livingstonia, let’s go and we will top up the Harrier right there.”
“There is no filling station at Mumbwe.”
“The plateau on which Livingstonia sits.”
“Then, why is it advertised as a tourist haven? Malawi. Nsanje has no public transport. Chintheche has no telephone exchange facility. Livingstonia has no filling station. When will Malawi’s tourism development start? Why do you people ignore free forex?”
I did not answer because only fools answer an angry donor. Jean-Philippe picked his backpack from the Harrier. I also took mine and we started walking towards the sharp bends to Livingstonia.