Of all the sights, sounds and sensations stamped in my mind from my week in Malawi, one stands out above all others: Everlasting’s laugh. Our brilliantly-named driver was guide, companion and entertainer over several hours and countless bumpy miles around this sliver of sub-Saharan Africa, and his protracted guffaws were a law unto themselves. Oscillating from meek titters to all-out howls, they inevitably provoked a similar reaction from everyone else in the car, in turn sparking more from him, and fusing into one constant comic chain.
Everlasting was a font of near eternal mirth: giggling as he pointed out the upturned bottles outside houses that signified a moonshine manufacturer; chuckling as he gestured towards tyre merchants and Catholic churches; and all-out chest-heaving when we asked why he kept ignoring his wife’s calls on one of his mobile phones.
We were visiting the country for the annual Lake Of Stars festival on the southern shores of Lake Malawi, followed by a short safari at a luxury camp in Liwonde National Park, but it turned out to be the unforeseen elements of the trip - the journeys between these destinations, the daytime excursions, the incidental events - that proved most memorable in Malawi.
The five hour drive from Lilongwe’s airport to the festival, for example, went by in a haze of lethargy from either jetlag or the anti-malarials or possibly both, and offered initial glimpses of a continent I’d only experienced second hand. Burnt orange earth banks, sporadic tenements, police checkpoints and bunches of locals selling newspapers and sweets went by in a flash. Curious stares and manic waves accompanied us the whole way from children and adults alike, not least when we stopped at the Boyz Pub - essentially a brick shell with a TV hanging off the wall and a fridge full of beers.