East Bank: The Difficult to Reach Area
On my run this morning a big black mommy pig grunted twice as she crossed my path followed very quickly by ten black cute piglets. I am not sure whether this meant good luck or bad one.
This morning my team headed for the East Bank of the Shire River. The Shire River divides Nsanje District into a smaller northern section and it is around the East Bank which is flood prone. Despite the yearly flooding the inhabitants are reluctant to move away from this region because of the fertile soil where they could grow even though the rest of Nsanje only enjoys a growing season from November or December to April during the rain, the rest of the year the ground is fallow and dry with very little farming. An added bonus for the villagers was when the flooding comes there is an abundant supply of fish.
To reach this area we have to head west to the next district of Chikwawa to a bridge that crosses the Shire towards Blantyre. There was a shorter and more direct route to the East Bank but the bridge had been washed away near Bangula and so the detour. After the bridge, we looped back to the East Bank, the tarmac ended abruptly.
At the turn my team members tried to scare me by telling me, “Dr. Kwan Kew, now here is the real beginning of our journey to the East Bank, about three hours of long of bumpy, non-tarmac road.”
In fact it was a little less than that, not realizing that I had traveled through the remote areas of South Sudan with perhaps similar or worse toads than here. The East Bank is a poor and God-forsaken place but the South Sudan I was in was even more remote and isolated. Here I saw an abandoned Baptist Church, the missionaries had come and gone and the building is crumbling, life still goes on in the village. We crossed many of the tributaries of the Shire River where children romped in the water while their mothers did the washing.
I stayed in Zuwere Forest Lodge up the slope of a hill; the room had large windows which let in the moonlight. The moon was almost full. It was a particularly windy night, large dark clouds racing across the night sky obscuring the moon. A tabby cat meowed loudly peering through the windows trying to get in. Electricity was available from six to nine in the evening. I took a cold trickling shower not knowing that one could ask for hot water, the smoky water which smelled of wood fire.