By Duncan Mlanjira
A group of Malawians who were born in the 1970s, calling themselves Oldies Connection 70s on a Facebook profile that started in September this year, is organising a fun train ride from Limbe to Balaka on November 30 as a reminisce of the good old days when the country used to have such fun events ahead of Christmas.
According to one of the organisers, Harold Bema, the idea was mooted during one of their get together parties they have been having where many of the members had expressed their disappointment that they have never been on a train ride before.
“It’s also one way we can support our local service provider because it will be a normal service train and CEAR will add a coach according to numbers,” Bema said.
“CEAR has already agree since its a routine service. We are asking a contribution of K4,000 for each interested member.
“It’s one way by train to Balaka and a bus trip back to Blantyre since the routine train service returns to Blantyre after the next two days.
“The initiative has already excited the members and it will be a family event in which they will marvel some of the highlights that they have never seen before on this route.”
The flier advertising the trip entices the members to expect a luxury ride coupled with beautiful scenery of the Shire Valley at what is called Shire North train station.
On the Oldies Connections 70s Facebook profile, the members reminisce of the good old days when the country used to look forward to Christmas.
Bennet Bowazi wrote:
*We used to have VC 10 Air Malawi plane going to London every week
*We used to watch movies at Appolo Vistarama in Blantyre
*We used to have nice parks in Limbe near Unilever and CI, Sunnyside
*We used to enjoy Christmas Fair and train ride from Blantyre to Limbe Auction Floors where Christmas Fair used to take place annually
“What went wrong with this great Republic of Malawi,” said Bowazi, a product of Nkolokosa Township.
To which Mike Lazaro Masina responded, saying December school holidays were something he shall always cherish.
“This reminds me of my childhood in Blantyre when we could either go for Christmas bus rides around Blantyre city, Christmas fair at Auction Floors in Limbe or fun train rides to Luchenza, Balaka or Liwonde.
“It’s funny that my daughter, Precious at nine years old, has never been on a train. How I wish those days were back!”
Ike Mbekeani responded: “You can say that again. We passed a level crossing in Balaka and I told my daughter that it’s a railway for trains. She was surprised asked ‘are there trains in Malawi?’”
Yours truly also wished we could go back in time for the train rides. One day we stopped for the train at the level crossing in Limbe, my then three-year-old daughter Nganisye bragged about it for days.
In another post yours truly posted with a picture went like: “Kids are amazing — on this train trip to my home village at Nkaya in Balaka, my daughter Nganisye (standing at the table) befriended five kids who were on a fun ride to Balaka with a guardian.
“At some point, us grown ups were engrossed with adult chat amongst ourselves when we suddenly heard the children’s hide and seek play cry of ‘Kachere, sanapsye, Kachere sanapsye’.
“Then there were kids running along the aisle and coming to our seats to hide under our feet. One found a hiding place at my feet and I tried as much as possible to look innocent so that I shouldn’t give her away but the kid doing the seeking came straight to my seat and called out her name.
“The kid who was found gave me a playful accusing face like I had betrayed her and I in turn shrugged my shoulders in silent retort of ‘look here, where else can you hide in this coach that you can’t be found?’ They made our day.”
There are many highlights along the train route which hauls over 15 coaches (one a luxury) and passing through Lirangwe, Maleule, Shire North and Nkaya.
At Nkaya Railway Station, there is another railway line that goes to connect to the border with Mozambique as an access to the port of Nacala.
Nkaya is also where the newly-constructed railway from Moatize-Malawi-Mozambique connects.
This new rail line was constructed by Vale in order to haul coal from Moatize as an easier and shorter route by accessing the Nacala Port where the coal is shipped to Brazil and other destinations.
There is so much that the Oldies enjoy reminiscing that include music, football, truancy in school, the way they enjoyed the only radio station, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).
One post on MBC was like: “Oldies generation, ma band akale amene ndinaonela (the performing bands I’ve watched live) — Kalimba 1982/83; Morrison Kalikokha Phuka & New Scene A Band; States Samangaya & Police Orchestra; Makasu with Bright Nkhata; Saleta Phiri.
He also mentioned of international artists that toured Malawi, such as Sam Mangwana, Steve Kekana, PJ Powers Thandeka, Yvonne Chakachaka, Brenda Fassie, Lucky Dube & the Slaves and Kanda Bongoman.
“This was before I hit 20 years old and venues were Mzuzu, Civo and Kamuzu Stadium,” says the post.
Another quoted the way Pamajiga MBC Radio play signed off: “Mu sewelori munali Kennedy Chilimzinja, John Suluma, Alice Matola, Annie Chilundu, Margret Chikwembeya, Kingsley Zigwedela ndi Elson Soko.”
Another reminisced of former Malawi Correspondence College which had famous secondary schools such Mtambanyama, Bilira, Mjamba, Tsabango and others in which those who never made it into official secondary schools could earn some sort of decent education in a correspondence manner.
“Those were the days when boys had their PTM; akuti Promise To Marry,” one jested.
Another member posted a picture of Malawi national football team that had legends such as Jack Chamangwana, Henry Tewesa, Kingsley Tembo, Reuben Malola, Patrick Chikafa, John Dzimbiri, Dennis Saidi, Mosted Siching, Harry Waya, Thom Kazembe, Stock Dandize, Kinna Phiri, Collins Thewe, Jonathan Billie and Barnet Gondwe and Mosted.