As I lifted the fine pottery tea cup to my nose to smell the diesel, the absurdity of the scene struck me. The school children waiting round the corner were relying on me buying this fuel, and soon. I turned to the man who seemed to be the leader of this lightweight criminal gang standing before me to say, as boldly and as much like I was in a movie as I could, 'its good, we'll take it'. I was soon over paying with thousands of Malawian Kwacha to buy litres of black market diesel that looked and smelt to me (I had never really looked closely at diesel, never mind smell it before, but I had certainly collected a few Esso coins as a boy) that it should get us to where we needed to go.
I did however have a nagging feeling that this wasn't the best quality fuel in the world but I could do absolutely nothing about it. I had tried not to let onto our dodgy energy providers that if I didn't pay their extortionate fees that 12 British school children were going to miss their flights home and I was going to have to be the one calling their parents to explain why we were stuck in Africa. My alternative options totalled zero.
Then we were off, leaving the Pottery where we had stopped (hence the tea cup) with a nervous driver and a bus full of tired but over excited teenagers. Their over exuberant discussions revealed that, if nothing else, their Biology teacher had suddenly become a little 'badder' for negotiating with some local African gang members, rather than the norm of arguing with stroppy teenage girls over chewing gum or mobile phone. Little did they know they had been more the Malawian answer to Del Boy and Rodney than the African Krays.
That day we survived two flat tyres, one elephant crossing, avoided one rioting city and only just reached the airport surrounded by a cloud of acrid white smoke from our 'good' diesel. It seems that there had at least been something in that jerry can that kept the engine going and I only hoped our driver would make it home himself.
The kids were laughing and joking about how it had been their most adventurous journey ever, for me however, despite the happy ending, it had certainly been one of the most stressful.

M Lamb

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