Our six o'clock taxi failed to show so the four of us (Amy and I, and Claire and Ian) started the four kilometer hike back to town. About half way to the bus station a bus pulled over - it was the touts who were trying to sell us a ticket to the border yesterday - when we didn't show they'd come looking for us! The bus was going all the way to the border - unlike most of the transport which would dump us with a seven kilometer walk to the actual border. I'm pretty sure we were way overcharged but it was still only US$ 3 and it got us on our way (and saved us another mile of walking with out packs). The bus started off as a bit of a nightmare - multiple half hour stops - I started to worry about getting to the border before it closes at 6pm. But just when I'd give up (early three hours to go half way) the bus stopped stopping and we were at the border in twenty more minutes.
At the Tanzanian immigration office they wouldn't issue us another visa for our return, but told us we could get one there on our way back - no problem - so we'll keep our fingers crossed. Walked the couple hundred yards across the border under a constant barrage from money changers - theses were real pests. Malawi immigration, health, and customs were all friendly and polite and we passed through quickly. On the other side we were surrounded by money changers again - only on this side they were polite and respectful - much less insistent. I just changed $20 to have some cash until I could figure out what a fair exchange rate is (I changed at 58 Kwacha to the dollar, but we were later offered 60 - I'm guessing that the official rate is much lower). We almost immediately caught a minibus to Karonga (well it left the border immediately, but we stopped for an hour in a nearby village while the car filled up). Got to Karonga around noon and one of the guys from our car showed us the bus to Mzuzu which could drop Amy and I off at Chitumba (where we wanted to spend the night). We ended up having to wait two hours for the bus to fill up - but used the time to adjust to how much cheaper it is Malawi (i.e. a coke is almost half the cost of over the border). After we finally started the ride to Chitumba was only an hour. It should have been much less, but there were so many stops to pick up more people - it's incredible how many passengers are packed on. By the time we got off the ride was getting very uncomfortable. We said goodbye to Claire and Ian (we'll probably see them again in Nkhata Bay), as they were continuing on to Mzuzu - and we started walking.
We'd picked a place outside of Chitumba to stay at, but when we got there it was full. It's mostly a campsite and the few chalets they have were taken. They said we could camp on the beach but it's quite windy (the lake has actual surf rolling in), so we asked if they had a tent we could borrow (or rent) - they didn't. The manager (owner?) agreed to ask some of the overland trucks (there are three staying here) if they had a spare tent and then came back to us with a room key. One of the drivers had given up his room for us. The room was a very cute bamboo hut with a sand floor and little patio area right on the beach - very basic, but also just perfect. We'll even have the sound of surf to fall asleep to!
Spent the rest of the night in the lounge area - drank a few beers and had a good chicken curry for dinner. We asked about options for getting up the escarpment to Livingstonia - there's only one and that's to walk - about ten miles all very steep uphill. We were planning on heading on tomorrow, but we've been traveling so hard the last several days and this place is so nice that we decided to stay tomorrow here then head up to Livingstonia the next day.