Cue Carrie Underwood’s Jesus Take the Wheel. But as Laz, our bus driver says, No Problem!
We began our day with a 2.5 hour drive west of Blantyre to Mt. Mulanji. We made our way through the rolling mountains catching glimpses of life in Malawi. Children playing soccer with what they have. Women carrying bunches of sticks on their head and men sitting at their straw huts selling produce.
The town of Mulanji met us as the fog slowly escaped the peak of the mountain and the greenery of the tea fields captured the emerging sunlight. As always, the people met us with thumbs up, smiles, waves, and the infamous Azungu’. Our first stop included walking trails set with Mt. Mulanji as the backdrop and waterfalls and pools that definitely encouraged a plunge although none of us took advantage of that opportunity.
Will you join me for some afternoon tea? Yes. Yes, I will. We made our way to a plantation that began in the 1800s and an estate that was bought by a Scottish couple in 1920. A beautiful estate, with stucco walls and a front yard complete with a croquet set was the setting for our afternoon tea. Essentially it was our five year old self dream come true. We were given finger sandwiches, pastries, chocolate cake and five different types of tea. A tour of the house, watching the sunset on the tea fields and an encounter with fire ants sums up our exit. No need to say more.
Just before sunset, we left the estate to make our way back to Blantyre. We stopped occasionally to hop out and take pictures. The view was absolutely breathtaking. Miles of beautifully green tea fields set on the rolling hills while laughter continued to fill our ears and Laz made yet another joke. It was one of those moments where you want to freeze time and you can’t help but feel incredibly grateful for not only the opportunity ASU has provided, but the people you are now surrounded with. A moment where you look around and say, life isn’t so bad.
The sun had finally dropped and we began to make our way out of the tea fields. And this is where you can start playing Jesus Take the Wheel as I describe the road we are on. Have you ever been off-roading? Have you ever been off roading in a bus? We haven’t either. Until today. A mix of deceiving cliff edges covered in tea and jungle with tree branches scraping our windows. And rocks. Boulders that scrape the bottom of our bus. Water jugs flying across the bus as we rock left and right. Or as Laz said, ahhh the rocks and tires are fighting, but it ok, the tires are winning.
We had just made our way to the bottom when two men informed us we had gone the wrong way. We turned the bus around and made our way back up the hill, the rocking and bouncing continuing. This went on for about an hour. No exaggeration. Now in pitch black. Like a rollercoaster. Space mountain combined with Indiana Jones. We’re starting to think there are worse places to be stuck.
Until finally, a sweet worker approached our bus and began running, our headlights shining ahead, him leading the way out of the plantation. We thanked him with our left over scones so we could share our wonderful tea party with him and now as we make our way to Blantyre we are covered by what may be the most beautiful set of stars I have ever seen.
No need to worry, we are just making memories.