Apr 27, 2012


So with two days left to get to Mulanje which was only 85km away the long way round the mountain seemed like a good plan. Wasn't too sure what i would do fo an entire day without riding (except rest, work on bike and washing).

Made my way towards Lake Chilwa, which is much more a swamp than a lake. The detours and shortcuts was abrubtly get short, firstly by the airwing of Malawi with gaurds and no trespassing being rigourisly enforced. The rivers and swampy areas put me back onto the road to Phalombe. The supposedly back road turned out to be a massive tar road (well massive to me in any case), with loads of traffic. Well no vehicles but cyclists. Some times the road was seemed similar to the argus with some crazies heading in the wrong direction.

I've seen a lot of things being transported on the bikes so far, up to 4 people is quite common, flatscreen tv's (on rough roads), overloaded with charcoal, sugarcane, beans, chickens, potatoes you name it. Today had to laugh at the two goats who didn't seem to enjoy the journey that much. Also had a guy with a bike on a bike.

Luckily before Phalombe the road improved (i.e. worsened) and had some fun navigating around potholes, ditches and people. At Phalombe had some chips, before tackling the climb between two peaks. On that note chips on the journey so far just means seriously good fried fresh potatoes, waaay better than any western equivalent.

On the way up a sign pointing to the national monument of Fort Lister piqued my downhill skills. Only 500m so def worth going to see what it is. 1.5km down the super overgrown track got to a river which would have been to much effort to cross with the bike. A fruitless 20minutes of searching saw me heading back up the track trying to figure out where i might have missed the turn off. No such luck. (heard later it truly is an old fort, maybe next time).

The climbing to the top was tricky and quite difficult but found a nice rythm and arrived at the top much sooner than i was expecting. Had another session with the gimmes.
On more touristy areas i can still life with it, but by far the worst part of Malawi has been the children, which is very hard for me to say. Even in the most remote areas, like here (track up just under only 4*4able and on the other side definately not passable with a vehicle. Still the first thing almost every kid would say was 'give me money' or give me your money and other variations of the theme. Finally got too much for me (and not even a mefliam day) and stopped and had a long conversation with one of the kids. Very unsuccesful though, as soon as i rode off heard behind me 'gimme...'.

Hard to comprehend how they get this idea of a white man, i'm pretty sure not a lot of people travel this road, and i hope none of them are the type that throw sweets out of the window or just hand out money or anything. But the grown ups are polite, and not getting the same rude/demanding vibe from them.

The riding was everything this trip was about, a spectacularly hard climb followed by a basicly singletrack downhill for 6-7km. And the mountain vistas..amazing.

So there i was trying to ride all the smooth lines swooping and carving down the mountain (and getting thrown around by the rocky sections) when i spotted through the overgrown grass a troop of baboons sitting in the road. Thought would have a bit of fun and picked up a bit of speed.
Coming round the corner i slammed the brakes, ABS style. Skidding to a halt just before a burnt out bridge, mistook the burn stumps for baboons. Had a precarious walk over with the tree trunk i was on bendong alarmingly. Made it, sigh of relief. Soon afterwards linked up with a bigger road heading towards the border.

The rest of the day was spend navigating the rolling hils with some sketchy downhill sections (one line and everyone going for it). In between trying but failing to focus more on the road and less on the mountain side. Lot of cyclists on the road again. Just before nightfall had chips again. Life will not be the same again, or rather for R3 i will never again eat something that good. The guy certainly knew what he was doing, cutting up some cabbage, tomato, spring onion and some random spices tossed into the chips. If i could camp out there for a few days would make him rich and pick up some weight.

Linked up with the main road which was a mistake, should have stopped earlier, although finding a place to camp inalawi is super hard (excluding Liwonde). People everywhere. And on the main road things just got worse.

Had an interesting few km of riding in the dark before finally finding a semi-secluded foresty camping spot. Well so i thought.

Morning saw me waking upnwith a small group of polite older people coming to inspect my tent. If only the stupid thing wasn't orange, stands out from a mile away and since it was dark missed some detail and i thought bundu bashing 50m into the forest should be good enough. What i didnt realise is that on the other side i was only 5m from the main path between two villages.

So the old people departed, was a bit nervous had a bad run in last night (which to save certain readers i will refrain from writing), and being woken by people outside my tent was not the ideal way to start the day. Soon had a crowd of 10,20 and then i lost count. Mostly kids. One man even carried his baby from the village 2km away to come and see this azungu and his tent. Things got even worse.

Since the start of the trip mornings was bathroom time, and by now the body clock is very much dialled in on this habit. Realised not going to happen here and started packing as fast as possible. Had few moments where i seriously considered just shocking everyone and going right there, cramping and struggling, packing has never been so hard. I really hope those people enjoyed my packing and random comments cause it took a lot of self control and containment to keep the show going.

Packed in 35min, normally closer to 2 hrs. No breakfast but couldnt care less. One awesome old man even cut a track through the forest back to the road for me. So the people are still really amazing but much more inquisitive, also won't try and help like in tanz, or maybe just scared. In any case i was off in a rush to find a secluded spot. Headed off into the tea plantations and as soon as i was out of sight had a very relieving break.

Since i was only 30km from the end of the days riding (made it 50ish) went off the tar road and tried to stay in the tea plantations and next to the mountain as far as possible. The scenery was well worth the extra kms had a ball riding through some natural forests and just loving the peace and quite. Probably much due to the mornings experience.

So at the moment i'm camping out at the foot of mt mulanji at likubula forestry station waiting for my friends to arrive tomorrow when we will do some hiking on Mulanji for 5 days, so there might not be too much updates till then.

Had a look at my maps and ODO. Seems like just over 2000km to go till i hit SA. Lets hope the gears last that long, and bearings, else fixie&singlespeeding. Been on the road for bout 2600 km at an ave of 15.51. Two countries (basically) done, and two to go ;). Might slow down a bit with the sand coming up

Apr 26, 2012

Suicidal Butterflies

So this one never made it through, and only half of the draft was saved so will only be a quick recap of how i entered Malawi.

> Mangochi (waiting for the president)
> Lichinga saw me departing through a less often/never for arungu (mzungu went to mrungu to arungu) used route to Malawi. Somewhere half a lifetime ago i remember using the words, taking the road less travelled. Have certainly been doing so, but the next section was so far off the beaten track that no tracks were to be found, well very little and extremely overgrown at certain sections. Somewhere in the back of my mind i see some crazy people taking on stetteyns...
> But i'm getting ahead of myself.
> At Lichinga i met Keith and Bronwyn (who my uncle rerouted me to), thank you guys so much for the accommodation, food, conversation and saving my panniers. Keith put one of his mechanics at my disposal for a day and i was more than impressed with what could be done with a grinder. Touch wood, but if the current bush-fix doesn't hold, i'm not sure anything would. Will try and send some photos of the beefed up 0.5cm steel joinings on my bike.
> The morning of my Lichinga departure was spend cycling up and down in search of passport stamp. Eventually went to the airport (immigration couldn't/wouldnt help me), and got stamped out. Lady looked a bit puzzled and said no plane today, yes i'm exiting via Meponda. Oh.
> The road to Meponda was quite easy going, dropping about 500m in altitude towards the Lake. Got Keith there, and he once again just said here's a house, stay in in. Really loving the people and unexpected luxuries thats coming my way. On that note, running water (or for that matter safe water), food that doesn't go crunch, a soft place to sleep (grass) very much counts as luxuries by now. Getting something that is cold is so much beyond expectation that it is undescribably good. So stayed over at Meponda after only 70km of riding, but no rush since would wait in Mangochi for packet in any case. Did some serious overhauling on the bike, might not finish with gears, but so far so good. The sand and mud made for some seriiiiious wear and tear. Rode into town and realised my shark teeth gears and the new chain is a no go. Lets see how far the old one goes and then maybe singlespeed to SA.
> The next day saw me heading off through the village and finding Sanjo, a local who spoke quite decent english and decided it would be good exercise to escort me to the border (12km of bundu bashing later). Seriously glad he came along, helped me push/carry some of the hills, and as soon as i would start peddaling he would push from behind on sections i was struggling;) (which made me topple over backwards once or twice since the weight is all at the back). The villagers all said no way for bicycle to border, so had to prove them wrong. Old man escorted me with Sanjo to river, waded through at about half a august in and out.
> Stopped all along the way at the most random villages, where either a aunt or brother or his mother was staying. Treated to amazing hospitality and food. The going was extremely beautiful which was a good thing, even though at times i really couldn't look around was going slow enough to appreciate it. Some very technical riding but lot of fun. If someone could just take a machete and clear the track it would rival even black fountain.

> Staying right next to the lake, and by times on and through it, made for spectacular scenery. Hoping the full hd feature of the ION will do the riding and surrounding areas justice.

> Was saved some facial reconstruction by sludge. On one downhill was forced to stop quite unexpectedly, massive rut and rock garden (would have been chancy to ride without backpack and panniers), felt the front wheel doing something weird. Still in a bit precarious spot, badly balanced on steep downhill, loojed down and saw my tire was sitting next to the wheel and i was stading on the rim. Absolutely no idea how that held, without burp/popping, but extremely grateful and impressed.

> Had some less than rideable sections where the tank just bashed through, with complete disregard to the thicket thorns and me on top. Scratched to bits, good thing for leg hair.

> Finally made it to the border where Sanjo turned back. Not so sure i would have done the same thing, escorting a crazy white man through a semi to very unrideable track just for the sake of exercise...well maybe. A steep down and up and i was in Malawi.

> The track improved, less overgrown, and worsened, more rocks and sand and the riding was about the same. Finally made it to Nsenje where had to cross the river in another dodgy boat. Still not getting the boat fees, every single local seems to cross without paying but not so for me, 50 kwacha, about R1.6 so not too bad but confusing. After the river crossing found a bushtrack, locals said it goes to Mpilipili which was not on any map. Still the direction felt ok so headed off. The previous 22km took around 5 hrs so wasn't too keen on doing the next10 to where a road was supposed to be.

> The riding on this highway (a motorcycle's width) was pleasantly smooth and i soon lost myself. So much so that i almost crossed a snake crossing the road. The landscape was splatteted with boababs which made the riding even better. Finally made it to Mpilipili after riding on the border for a while. Swerve left, mozam, right malawi.

> Had my first bad luck with food. Was redirected to 'restuarant'. Night was spend alternating between the tent and new spots away from my tent and previous visits.

Apr 25, 2012

Mock charge (ignorance is bliss)

Woke up in Liwonde NP after sharing the area with some hippos and a monkey troop, whom made good watchdogs for something else, my every move was well publicised through the bush. What not to do when you do have intermittent access to inet and cycling through a NP, go to their website. 'predators include lion, leopard...'. Thought i saw some funny tracks yesterday. The locals only ever went on about the elephants which i'm pretty ok with so made the mistake of assumptions.

My bundu/elephant trail ride in hindsight was probably not the best idea. Or riding untill dark, but ignorance is bliss as they say. Funny how certain things become more or less relevant. Packing up i was constantly scanning around for anything. After a few minutes on the bike i was thinking about food and water again. Having a bit of a zombieland moments, if i can only have a tinkie...

My attention was brought back down to the thick sand, which the tank is slowly getting the hang of, and the lion spoor. Now the road has finally improved, for which i was eternally grateful, the previous 15km was a real nightmare, and this section has been scraped recently. Found the scraper on the way out (interesting reactions) and since they ride out everyday and back at night a fair assumption would be that the lions passed my camp somewhere in the night (tracks about 300m from camp). Helps to sharpen the senses to an amazing degree.

I was also relying on sound and smell a lot more than one would think, both times smelled the elephants before saw them. Also the actions/reactions of the other animals. With the heavy sands a lot of attention was also lost on the road and trying to keep upright. Finally fought through the last of the sandy sections, quite an experience.

Caught the very distinct pang of elephant and then saw ot crossing the road about 150m ahead of me. Some very quiet and cautious ( well the bb and brakes cannot be classified as silent anymore but i was trying). Since the wind was blowing from them, i really didn't want to surprise or startle them. Slowly made my way to where i thought they crossed. Edged along and then caught sight of them about 50m off. Bit closer and stopped. Didn't see the second elephant which heard my stop and he was quite a bit closer. Two musking bulls, less than ideal. Still he had heard me and flapped his ears looked at me and kept going. Seemed like they were pretty ok with my presence there, they were also probably unsure about what to do about this funny sqweaking animal and they came back to the mountains side of the road.

After they moved off a bit (as far as the hill) they kept parrallel with the road which was not ideal for me. The next 300m or so was still reasonably clear/grasland, while further ahead the road started swinging towards the hill (and the elephants) and into a mopane thicket. So i could either wait and lose sight of them, in which case i could easily ride up alongside them in the bush without knowing, and wind the wind in the wrong direction that option was way down on the list.

So thought i would slowly start cycling again and test their reaction. This time they took much more notice of me. The bigger one turned aroud and greeted me with a loud shriek followed by trumpeting (is dit ooit reg v trompetter?).
Ok so i was a bit intimidated, but they immediately moved off again at a pace towards the start of the trees where they stopped and quieted down. Gave them some time but just stayed there.

So the next bit (mom please skip) was probably not the best move, but if i was in a car this behaviour would just tell me that they don't like me there and moving on is probably better. Combined with the fact that i was in the way of where they originally wanted to go, plus the road looked super good,'almost' like tarmac. Decided to go slow till bit closer and if no reaction to move it. Got in line with them, while they kept on standing there, dropped a few gears and kicked hard. Doing about 25km/h they caught my scent and a much more serious trumpeting followed with some crashing and breaking sounds. Excellent sprinting conditions and i was flying. Looking back didn't see anything though. Feeling very much alive, adrenalin pumping! Had the ION on the whole time so should make for some very funny and entertaining viewing later.

Met the scraping team, thought they were going to give me a good working over, no such thing great conversation although filled with disbelief.

Same thing at the gate. If this was SA i would have tried to sneak out, but had a chat with the ranger on duty. Met some dumbstruck/amazed people. One guy said no i'm not crazy, you diehard. Funny. Had some tea with them and loads of laughts about my escapedes in the park. Apparantly camped out in the area with big bulls, and they don't even have walking safari's since the elephants are too aggresive and unpredictable. Thanks everyone for all the prayers, needed and used them today.

Finally departed Liwonde NP and some new friends.
Because of detouring and exiting 15km closer to Liwonde decided not to detour back over the mountain but to take the tar road through. A quick pit stop in Liwonde and i was on my way. Only realised 40km later haven't really eaten today.

The whole ride was on tar, which was mind numbingly boring and i became just another tourist, shades on, earphones in and gunned it. Looked at map and realised only have 80km to Mulanji. My dates kinda worked out so i'm going to take a bit of a break from the bike and climb the mountain with a few friends. Although only starting on saturday so i'll cycle to the mountain tomorrow and then start to cycle around. A rest day, or half wouldn't go amiss either, really need a wash day (maybe that was the trigger for the ellies, me smelling so bad).

Mulanji here we come

Apr 24, 2012

Malawi land of the people

Today was good. Hard and tough but good. Met mr banda, although not the more famous one.

Started off with a reasonably easy 14km into the headwind that made me even more grateful i went round the east of the lake. Mountains tend to break the force of the wind somewhat. After a long explaination about the dates and how i came from lichinga finally entered Malawi. Well legally anyway. Cycled over the bridge and Shire river, which links Lake Malawi and Lake Malombe. Had some interesting reroutes and losing/finding the road to Liwonde. Made the mkstake of asking for Liwonde instead of the villages on the river. Entered the park and went out again. Had to backtrack a bit and do some seriously fun singletrack riding to find a way to link up with something closer to the river. Eventually found a track on the gps (today would have been a lot different and shorter without it. Few more river crossings. Riding extremely bumby so my backside was feeling like day one again, or similar to the section Marnitz Carl and i did over the grasslands. Very hard on the body and tough riding, or so i though.

Found mr banda, or he found me. Took me to his house where i was once again treated to amazing hospitality. And some food. Had long discussion about how to reach the river which i was aiming for.

No locals seemed to know the route i was talking about, and had some serious doubts about finding it. All the riding in malawi has been around people, even the section in the park a group would pop up every few minutes.

A few hundred meters after where the turn off should have been asked locals who pointed me back towards where i came from. Not turning back. Ignoring the shouting kept riding about 100m and found an old entrace to Liwonde park. No rangersnin sight so quickly sneaked in. Immediately found lots of signs of elephants, but no luck. Track was great (if one could ignore the sand) and i thought that this type of riding is what i've been looking for. Well not the tsetses which was annoying qnd painful in the extreme. My head on a swivel kept constant look out for my first ellies. Surprised a sable antelope and had a stare down at 20m. Eventually he wandered off, just as phone came on. Hopefully the ION did a better job. Some spectacularly beautiful riding through various herds of antelope i had an interesting encounter with a warthog. It started chasing me, full on charge just as i hit some deep sand, only funny since he luckily decided to stop. Until nightfall didnt see any locals/anyone which made for some wild riding through spectacular terrain.

Also saw a njala! Whoop. Waterbuck zebra kudu and all those. Even more signs of ellies and fresh dung but no luck. Skipped the one bush lodge wasn't taking the chance to be evicted enjoying the riding and pushing through sand too much. As i was going over another extremely bumby hill saw them! Elephants!

Rode to about 40m from them after which i chickened out. Two were still somewhere in the bushes to my right and wasnt too keen on that type of surprise. Spend some time watching the two babies trying to figure ou what to do with their trunks. Wind from my back so they knew about me. Figured they would wander off but no luck. With time running out, 2hours to dark and another 34km to go decided to turn back to where road split (thought it was detour since bridge was out). Happily cruizing along i only realised 30minutes later the track was heading out of the park and away from Liwonde. Not sure about lions in park although dont think so but the goal was to go past or to liwonde today. Backtracked. Saw on gps could cut big loop out if went through the bush. So i did. Probably not the best move to hit the biggest elephant road one can find, but they sure know how to build an extremely impressive singletrack. Really lokking forward to seeing the video footage from the ION. Was stressing a bit could see much more than 5 meters ahead at some sections and was flying (20km/h) through the bush. Not ideal when you see freshly stripped leaves and steaming dung. Still made it through without mishap and came out exactly where i first found the ellies.

I dont want to say anything about the next section of ride/walking now still too painful. Lets just say that elephants hippos along with the rest and a track that hasnt seen a car probably since before the rainy season, and a lot of churned up unrideable super bumpy and kinda broke me in 10km.

So i'm camping out in the park about 15km from gate, in pretty good spot (although very low on water so only dry supper and no shower), listening to the night sounds of the bush and loving life.

Apr 19, 2012

Hard times, fun times and a whole lot of luxury

Finally figured out what was wrong with my mcel connection in mozambique, well went to a mcel shop and helped a local work the phone while he tried to explain in portugese what the problem might be. Since the last update which was typed almost a week ago but only went through now, briefly the following has happened.

Had rain sun mud sand, muddy sand (which i'm still trying to figure out if it is worse than mud) forests savanna parks wild riding and way too much to properly describe and still get some rest. Well here's for trying

After arriving in Mbamba anf waiting for the boat i was seriously glad wouldn't head into the mountains again. Had a chat with my uncle (who is taking his sons on a serious piki piki trip to kenia, http://www.growingnations.co.za/) who convinced me that the section up to the border was some of the best riding they've done. So into the mountains again we go. 'Luckily' there was a shortcut from Mbamba to the border so did not have to detour to Songea. Met up with my uncle also august and his son, Gustav. (the other august had bad crash and was resting his hand). Yes there are plenty of us crazy people wandering around.

In any case was smashing being able to have a conversation without sign langauge, and in afrikaans. Had oats and lots of treats (HONEY!!) at side of road. Made my sorely miss my oats which got evenly distributed between the airports at the start of my journey (combined with the fact that most days i cycle 2-3hours before having something more than a couple of handaz to eat, even more so). They very graciously offered to tow me up the mountain, which def saved me a couple of hours and is a story in its own rigth, some scary moments and got sprayed with mud. Unfortunately also lost matras but going along fine without, trying to ride a bit harder so i'm more tired at night;). Also the super welding job we did in mbamba held a total off 8km. Luckily makeshift fixed it again and oom august found the ingenious high tech solution of bungi cord (which held for the next 400km).

Had another epic two days through the mountains, the 'road'/track is only being used by motorbikes so basicly did a slightly wide overgrown singletrack. You might be able to take a 4*4 through there if you have a lot of time and seriously do not love your car. So the riding was spectacular. Some seriously scary moments on slippery sections in morning through the forests with panniers weight pushing me all over the place. Was kinda glad for it though would have def wrecked myself if didnt have to slow down for them. Riding was well worth the amount of climbing/pushing i had to do. The problem of the shortcut and the border meant that i was going parrallel to the border and over all the mountains instead of keeping along one. Still amazing views along the way.
'Found' Lipiramba, which according to my maps and gps should only have popped up 40km later. Locals pretty convinced that this was in fact where Lipiramba has always been. Made the river crossing in a boat which had to be emptied out after every crossing, interesting times.
Border crossing was quite slow, both times the officials had to be phoned and drove out to stamp me through. First live snake encounter. Very difficult situation at mozam side made me think no i'm not going to bribe them but they only didnt want me to ride through the park close to night. Thanked them for their concern and kept going. Very peaceful sleep in park, missed big herd ellies by hour or so, no animals although lot of tracks in mud. Had absolutely horrid section of 10km in mud, with panniers tied down had about 0.5cm of clearance between wheel and top so made for a very effective braking mechanism. Also extremely effective at getting one's spirit way way down. Had some interesting afrikaans phrases slip which hopefully the locals didnt catch or wont repeat. Had someone make me food sonce nothing in village to buy. Also refused my money. Paid dearly for making the mistake of not taking bad exchange rate from local (up to there everyone accepted shillings and then suddely nothing and couldnt exchange anywhere). Extremely hungry ride for 90km, which turned to 110, into Lichinga. Stopped at first atm and bakery, best doughnuts and some weird pastries i've ever had.

Luxury food and some extremely friendly people making my life much easier in Lichinga, thanks Keith! Also got panniers sorted proper, lets hope it makes sa.

Plan is to leave lichinga tmr, stamp out here, and do another coastal ride on lake malawi into malawi. Might regret taking on the mountains again but should be much more interesting than the 130km tar ride to chiponde. Not so sure about signal so next update might only happen in Malawi.

Apr 15, 2012

Tanzania here i come (again)

So a change in plans, again. Lost track somewhere on plan f or g or something. Had two rest days in mbamba which was much needed for repairs to body mind and bike. Heading up and off the map and into mozambique. Hopefully there in two or three days.

Gave up on getting the blog up to date, some of the headlines might have read, back into the wild, lusitu and breaking the beyond, a dog with bling is a happy dog, ghost in the darkness and something about damn hard work getting to mbamba.

Some noteworthy experiences.
Gave up on ever being dry again, had some sunshine!! Had some more rain.

Realised its easy to gauge how far off the beaten track you are by people's reactions. Went from kids going mad, mzungu mzungu (must have heard it a million times by now), to kids staring in utter amazement and bit of shock to them running away silently and hiding in the bushes or just bursting into tears.
Once you really lose the plot and track (exploring for shortcuts) even the grownups huddle closer when you approach. Also the further away i went from 'civ' the more the dogs started resembling wolves. Met some seriously scary critters out there.

The 4 days through the mountains are at least on par with first 4 days of freedom if not harder (although the weight might also be a factor). Rode within 20km of the lake for over 70km before seeing it the first time. Had funny moment pushing it to crest the 'last' pass before i see the 'ocean'. Cresting and bam i was looking at an even bigger mountain range.

Met some people that makes one really reconsider what we think of as hospitality (family waiting for me to eat before they start, shared everything they had and solidly refused me to pay for the food or camping). Think about that the next time a smelly hobo knocks at your door. Oh yes and i was reeking, washing mmm well it was raining but when your socks are standing on attention in the morning you know its getting bad.

Pushed/pulled, slid scrape and by times gave up on getting my bike up a hill that i have no idea how anything except maybe a cable car can go up. Was sliding backwards most of the time. Experienced a lightning show that went on the entire night. Had lightning so close and thunder so loud you feel the vibrations. (when not to be cycling to the top of a mountain pass on a piece of iron, well alum). Broke the panniers twice (once with some extremely satisfying kicks so i could fix it proper). There is no substitue for cable ties and duct tape.

Had the most amazing campsite for about R8 day and realised i can't wait for the ship to Nkhata bay any longer. Or maybe the lure of the wild is calling again...

Apr 13, 2012

Halo (Never throw food away)

So the blog is a few days behind will catch up today and tomorrow. Having the long forgotten rest day.

Woke up at camp cane with slugs attacking my tent. (next few camps still found pieces of slug squashed onto the tent that i missed that morning). Crazy, must love the funky orange colour. Realised the random and perfectly hidden camp spot was in fact in the middle of a 'distillery', good thing no one needed some raw sugar cane booze. Day started off pretty well with the 40/50km to the Old Farmhouse campsite flashing by. Oh did i mention i had one handaz for breakfast and didn't feel mich like the two green mangos so left them there. Figured would have a nice late breakfast after a hot shower. Shower! Some things you only truly appreciate once it's gone, not much of a person for warm showers but was seriously looking forward to being clean and just taking a day off.

Got to the campsite, after a steep climb, wow. Spectacular site, if you are ever in the area stop there (about 55km from Iringa). Great chalets, perfect grass, and i could smell food. Time to get ready for that shower.

Unfortunately as it turned out they closed the kitchen for easter, so i could still camp out but no food. No good. So turned around after one more longing look at the ablusion block and decided to just cruize till i feel like stopping. But first that nasty climb, no ways i'm heading down that thing just to climb the same hill on the tar again. So took a bearing and headed to the age old advice, head west young man.

Looped around an abandoned farmhouse and some newborn lambs (less abandoned). Realised i'm climbing again and headed off towards where i could see cars moving. Had some interesting bundu moments through thick grass and scrub, luckily i'm quite heavy so the tank made it through and presumably there are no holes/ditches or i just missed all of them.

Made it to the tarmac and started searching for a village for some food. First one no luck. Second one same. By now getting to point where i'm scouting for things smaller and slower than me. Finally a village where i found some old handaz. After a day, similar to pows they transmorgrify into chinese fighting handaz.
Still much better than nothing and bought the entire stock,4. On a sunday it seems as if africa dies. Nothing open at smaller places and few people to be seen. Or maybe because it was easter. Through the next bigger village was't that hungry yet and pushed on, which as it turned out was not the brightest move yet.

One very steep downhill later (first time i could let go, no ditches or holes to watch out for with the panniers, well no mayor ones). At around 80km/h my bike starts to build up a very peculiar speed wobble, very not kosher with a lot of weight behind you. So nervously hit the brakes and sat up. ( figured it could have been the start of the crack in the panniers later so weight shifts around, in any case had some scary moments where i thought the bike might buck me off). The same thing started to happen when i ride without holding on to the handlebar, had some moments trying to figure out a workaround. Best one is to weave the bike which looks and feels stupid, but helps to relieve some of the pressure build up on your hands and some other tender spots.

Hit Sao hill, a massive forest area with swamps on the lower ground. Was quite glad that i'm on tarmac especially when the next storm hit, would have been very interesting riding/pushing through those swamps if i tried back roads. Riding was mostly sharp rolling hills the whole day.

So instead of the normal village every 5km there was nothing but forest and swamp. So once again i was hungry. At least enough water, although the taste left much to be desired. After about 40km some monkeys looked tempting, wonder how the bike can climb a tree. Desperately longing for those green mangos.

Luckily pulled into Njoyoro (James Corner) soon after. Realised i'm runnning low on funds so had to exchange, and banks closed. Makambako might be option but if i dont find something there the next few days are in the mountains so have to try now.
Found a truck driver willing to exchange, figured $10 would see me to Mbamba where i could make new plan (it did, although barely). Not bad though works out to R40 day including two nights accommodation.
The driver however didn't want my 2006 $ series said the money is bad (some zim aftershock or is usa cancelling some of their notes). After unsuccesfully trying to negotiate around it had to settle for 1:1400 for the 2009 $5 and 1:1000 for the 2006 one (official rate somewhere close to 1:1500). Quite funny in hindsight.

The next 60km to Makambako was something else. Really hope that the ION camera videos and photos turn out ok, at times a snorkel, flippers and wetsuit would have been much more appropriate that my lycra and waterproof suit. Although not quite as bad as someone pouring a bucket over you, more similar to a bucket through a sieve. In any case it was pouring. Realised once more that goretex is much better at keeping water in that out. Waterproof clothes work in a similar fashion. At least is wasn't too cold, but the road/river i was swimming up got seriously interesting with approaching trucks/traffic drenching me. Just keep swimming...

After about 3hours of this torrential downpour it slacked off just as i arrived in Makambako. Another classic roadrace with some locals, everyone must beat the mzungu, even if it is only for 100m before i go past them again. Pole pole.
This one rasta started racing me, with a passenger on his panniers, had a good laugh, but then he started making some serious speed on the slight downhill 45+ which was very impressive. (try and imagine someone pedalling at a mad rpm on a singlespeed with his passenger cheering bith of us on , or maybe shouting for his partner to slow down? ). After i passed them one of my dowls fell off so stopped to repair. They caught up to me and gave me some fruit, realised that might have been the reason for the first race ;). The people here keep on to seriously amaze me. If i eat at a local place, it soon fills up and everyone would listen to me and a translator (journey why how from where eish pole asana etc). Then when leaving almost without fail the more fluent english speaker would stop me (and being from sa my first thoughts are oh no he's going to ask me for money). Very rare (has happened once), mostly they want a contact nr or email just to keep in touch, and some of them have been making a lot of effort.

So the touring has been fun and the people amazing so far. At Makambako felt sorry for myself and searched for a dry spot, found quite good hotel for R50 although this put serious dent in my budget would worry about it later.

Had quite an entertaining moment trying to explain to them that the tv is very loud and i'm tired, could they please turn it down? After a while someone finally understood and came to help turn on my tv in the room. Must learn more swahili;)

Apr 8, 2012

Time is fun when you're having flies

Survived hippo camp and was on the way again. The aim was to firstly make it to Iringa, stay over and the next day have a easy 50km ride to Old Farm house campsite which came highly recommended.

Riding started off pretty much the same, bad road, pull into village for Handaz (small bun cooked in oil) jipati and bananas. Bad road turning into worse road at roadworks and then hit the hill. Now i'm pretty comfortable/enjoy most climbs especially when i'm touring (maybe cause of the sense of achievement or whatever) but today was different. Maybe because the two previous days were hard or maybe toray was just one of those days. The two big drags of the day (they are not steep enough to be climbs, was with load in middle blade all the way) broke me. One physically, the first one after about 30km started dragging up for 13km with a bad road surface where for the first time on a bike my prostaat gevoel het soos net Marnitz dit kan beskryf en ek ni hier kan oorvertel nie.

So after only 46km i felt broken and wasn't even halfway to Iringa yet. The drag just goes on and on, kind of like swartberg pass you always think it is just one more corner, or around the next one i'll be finished.
Luckily at the top there was a village and i pulled in, after more than an hours climbing water was gone. Might also have been the humidity. In any case went to the two shops, no water. Eventually gave up my pet hate for coke and had a pepsi, nothing else available. Tried to push for lunch at Iringa which was bit of mistake. Riding along the way was a one sided affair, bike and road 1, me 0. Was really difficult to hit any sort of rythm or to sit down for that matter. Was even harder to enjoy the stunning scenery along the way, mostly i think i just stared ahead and tried to keep moving today. Even writing this is hard cause all i remember are the two forever drags and the random rasta. Finally only 20km to go and decide to stop for lunch. 7000 for the only dish available, nyama choma, meat. Was temted but told them no mzungu prize and that i'm tired and and. Didn't even get to use the student excuse. Ok 5000 and the guy starts chopping the meat hanging in front of him. Well if he hits a few of the flies hanging around its probably just more protein for me. Another long heated swahili discussion (which was needless to say very much one sided) left me on the wrong side of my sense of humour so decided to jus finish and find a nice place in Iringa. And so a bit dehydrated, very hungry tired and not loving my bike the i found the second drag. There is a runway next to the road, although its very much camo and hiding underneath grass. Up and up and up we go. At last 6km from Iringa that was it and i stopped for food at the first available place. Thats where the rasta found me. Also i tried ordering a soda in swahili (not saying which) and got a Grand Malt luckily non-alcoholic else i would have been sleepinv right there. So halfway through my meal the rasta came and has this intense discussion with me, although i'm only able to catch every 5th word or so. Too long to try and describe but very random and not always friendly, although he appeared very spaced out. A part was about me drinking which i may not, eventually convinced him its non-alcoholic. Long story for another day. In Iringa saw first other mzungus in 4days. Realised town is crazy because of easter. Had a ride till out of civ and found great campsite in mini reed/bamboo forest.

Still despite being a hard day on the bike after i had my tent up and the usual waterbottle shower realised that in fact the riding was not too bad and that the day actually went quite well. Definately still some very hard days ahead, maybe today the zen just didn't playbalong too well.

Idea is to have easy/rest day to the campsite tomorrow and shower until i'm tired of it.

Oh yes kermit the frog says...

Apr 7, 2012

Five seasons of riding

Headed out of Dodoma early, even though this luxury sleeping in 'hotels' doesn't really fit into my budget it does help getting up and going quite fast, backpack contaons everything i need for a night, while the tent and all the rest are on the panniers.

Was an interesting morning of riding, after the first section of roadworks (which continued on and off for the next 260km) there was a couple of tracks i wanted to explore. First few worked out really well and did some amazingly smooth singletrack riding, cattletracks rock! Lost my head a bit and went bombing down some random tracks into a boabab forest. Probably one of the highlights of the trips, realized how much i love the trees and how majestic they are. Soon after track splitting into track i was riding through some flower fields which similar to the boabab forest was probably just God playing around and having fun. So so beautiful! After a while realised i was getting further and further away from the road, couldn't even hear trucks going past just saw some dust in the distance. Started heading more east to go back but got caught on wrong side of thick bush and undergrowth, not that desperate yet. Eventually headed back wes to under the telephone poles, taking Marnitz freedom advice to another country. Worked out pretty well except for some seriously confused Masai. Still very friendly, especially the children. That is if they don't run away when they see me, not great for my image;).
Funnily enough i seem to get along great with the dogs or maybe they're just to lazy to chase me. I would also be in this heat. The chickens however are a different story, have beem chased by many a rooster. First time i've really played with the ION camera i'm using and hopefully will get some great footage from today, even better than the one where i tried to take a clip in traffic and went into a truck;). (mom i'm still ok and alive and it happened a week ago so chill)

The telephone pole theory paid off and eventually made it back to the main road with a fat smile on my face, which was soon jolted off by the corrugation. Unfortunately no tracks close to head off on, since going over mountain/hill.
Good thing i don't have a glass eye, would have been lost ages ago. So after some miserable climbing and generally feeling as though i'm riding a cactus home got to the top and hot a sweet downhill with more of the flowers. African tulips maybe? Don't know but they're really something to experience. Made some good progress and starting thinking might be able to push to campsite 50km past Iringa the next day. Tried helping a local fix his chain but doesn't fit into my chaonbreaker, too old school, felt bit bad to just leave him there but next village was not very far.
As things go that meant i rode into the next thunderstorm. Luckily missed the worst of it, still had rain for about an hour but playing in the mud was much less fun. To give an idea of the rain, the drainage ditches on the side was two rivers. After some walking and fixing bag to panniers (broke my african plan extension stick on the downhill) and finally figured way to tie everything down so that it doesn't hit my wheel. Some very much not friendly thoughts and words went around in that hour or so of mudsliding.

At last got through it, good news the rain seemed to clear up ahead. The bad news was that i was now walking through some sandy sections. With the extra weight on the backwheel i can actually get through quite bad sections, as ling as i crank it and keep going straight. A slight deviation from tbe straight and 2.1 narrow usually ends in a awkward stop.

Got onto ridge and had some sections where i could get onto that shiny new road, felt like tar only better. No bumpy ride for me. Although that didn't last long. Have been using my sparse chinese to great all of them at the sections that they are working on, and then found a signpost at one of their camps saying it is a Japanese sponsored project, bummer. The roadproject is huge though, they only way it could even remotely make financial sense is if Japan is going to take over Tanzania, although then they would firsy have to rewrite their constitution and rename their freedom force. (Japan is not allowed, as written in their constitution to maintain a standing army). How is that for trivia from inside my cosy reed camp.

The rest of the riding was bit of a drag to get some k's in. Spectacular dam where no pictures are allowed so took a few videos;). People at supper stop was relaxed as one can only be in africa so just grabbed some jipanti/chipati (basically an oily pancake) and left. Hopefully find a village early for breakfast.
The roadworks still going after 6, and heard the trucks for some time during the night, maybe making up for going pole pole all day;).

As it got dark pulled off just after another Japanese camp, with swimmming pool! and set up camp. The mozzies were like angry vampires and had my hands full getting camp up. Even in the tent they kept coming in between the fly sheet and rain cover to try their luck. No funny animals tonight, other campsites apparantly was very much in their country. Had first 'real'/big wild animals, some hippos, could hear them later at night but wasn't too keen on scouting to find them.
Tent mozzie free so time to get some sleep.

Apr 5, 2012

Boababs and butterflies

So after my first run in with a dodgy tanzanian, apparently a robber according to Mr Rhamadan and Sofi where I stayed in Kondoa decided to head out a bit earlier, with pepperspray handy;). Got first big contribution with fundraising yesterday, and with perfect timing, was thinking about finding a bus to Dodoma or maybe even Iringa or just back home. Thank you Alta for saving the trip;).

Luckily no storms so road wasn't too bad. Getting quite proficient with the whole sign langauge bypass of swahili. The conversation with one of my fellow riders this morning went something like this.

Jambo. Mambo, wipi. Nzuri, hambari safi. The road to dodoma, point to road and forward. Something in swahili, probably yes. Many ups and down, me making waves in the air, or flat?

Got good idea of the next section of road, my translation of his signs and swahili could read. Yes road to dodoma but too far (thats what everyone says). Watch out for crocodile in/under mud and down and up to mountain with elephant (or funny shaped tree), very much up and then flat to some village.

Worth a laugh even if a bit vague. Similar to the Masai who cleared a road through his cattle for me, whilst shouting i'm a vow, i'm a cow. Realised thats what some of my swahili must come out as, so asanti sana and kept going. The croc turned out to be sharp rocks in mud, no idea about elephant. The road was reasonably flat, excluding all the ups and down and 15km climb, so made quite good progress, close to 170km for day.
Even though the clouds still scare me, they do provide good cover and makes the heat bearable.

Long sections of the roadside was littered with flowers and countless butterflies, white yelow red blue funny grey with orange, really made for amazing viewing along the way. The boababs today was spectacular with a variety of shapes and sizes that left even my insatiable appetite for the trees on the better side of happy. Even though the road is comparable, or maybe even worse than the corrugated section between willowmore and prins albert the riding today went much much better, mostly due to mindset.

The last 50km in to Kondoa got bit out of hand. Construction everywhere/ chinese supervisor standing around new buldozers with the road being constructed inna very arb fashion. Some sectioms dug in so deep seems like a gorge from the adjacent road, and other sections been completed so long ago that there are plants growing from the rolled road(which is closed) and hard to get to. So sharing one lane with loads of trucks and busses and the potholes and corrugation along with the steady headwind made for interesting times.

Just received call from the Mr Rhamadan, he wanted to make sure that i'm safe on my safari. The people that get sent on my way continue to amaze me. Now hopefully my bike is still there tomrw at the semi-hotel i'm staying at. Bucket wash like the good old days...

Apr 4, 2012

Thunder and the valley of a thousand (50) muddy hills

Bit tired so just short update. Went straight from arusha to balati, and the mud today made seem like right choice. Was raining and cloudy at turn off to karatu for 90km dirt detour.

No entry to tangarine park, an no wildlife on road close to park. On tar again caught a slow truck on te uphill and sat some awesome slip for about 20km, much faster than normal. Could see the locals eyeing this manouver, watch out for the sprinters from magugu area in few years.

Made it just past Babati and found nice secluded camp spot, and just in time. 15 minutes later and could have left the waterbottle wash. Eventually thundr and rain got quite interesting, matras felt like a waterbed, and sleeping next to my bike as a lightning rod. Well didn't wash away although today might have been better if did mud was something else.
Met awesome old man. If all the trucks an busses wasn't sruck behind me would have been tempted to get on. Eventually made it to Kondoa, only covered about 75km today. Mentally was extremely taxing though, had lot of negatice thoughts, doubts and questions...might be the mefliam. Tmrw hopefully get close to Dodoma.

Apr 2, 2012

Rainy Arusha

At the moment i'm sitting in Arusha and it seems like the rainy season has arrived, going to be some interesting muddy sections up ahead.

Even though i've only been on the road for 4days sleeping in a bed and having a real (not waterbottle) shower was awesome. Since no plan survives contact with the enemy i'm not overly worried about changes that will probably have to be made to the route along the way, some of it you just have to tackle as it comes along, which with the rain might mean taking the 'main' road. Although main is sometimes still very much not. The section up aling the coast thai i was on the main road felt a lot more like a very wide singletrack. One piece thats going to change is the 'planned' ride through two reserves close to Iringa where even motorbikes are not allowed.

Had a/another dice with some locals yesterday, even though this is not a race it might change into a thousand different small sprint races. In africa the bicycle is king, although their ideas of what distance is coverable is somewhat skewed( although taking into account the loads they carry its very understandable). Just after we met up a serious thunder&hail storm forced us to find some shelter. The conversation soon turned to where and why i was cycling. i told them i'm roughly heading for Iringa, they said its impossible. Why? Too far. How far? Maybe its an estimate but about 4 or 5. Ok 400-500 thats not too bad. No bwana 4-5 thousand, its too far you must take the bus. Lets hope its a bit shorter.

The locals accompanied me to my overnight stop, while taking a detour of about 10km just to make sure i'm ok. Once again pleasantly surprised by the helpful and friendly nature of the people here, especially in the more rural areas. Thanks Stephen for making the ride shorter!

Seems like might rain all day so quite glad took day off, cough seems to be making a bit of a comeback which is bad but not much can do about it now. The scenery has been absolutely amazing with some really great sections to come apparently, including a boabab forest and ride on the escarpment.

The ride in the truck on the B1 was something else. Skipped about 220km but not feeling too bad or that i missed out. The short section i rode rates among the worst riding i've done. The alternative was a about 400km detour over mountains where i've already been beaten once. Organized a lift with local driver for about R50. Would have started at 5ish, eventually got going after dark. The ride took about the same time as the cycle would have, but at least we drove at night so bit less traffic. Eventually dozed off in truck. Awoke with a loud bang and shattering noise, with glass raining over me. Still moving so thought someone threw rock or something. Stopped a bit later and did some damage assesment, mirror gone so swapped with other one. In the main drivers words 'the co-driver is careless so i'm driving again'. So he dozed off and edged a oncoming truck, scary. Rest of ride was very much sleepless and filled with prayers. Finally made it to Moshi after a few more close calls and about 11hours of driving. Stopped often for load/unloading.

Had an clear view of Kili as we drove in, amazing, saw glacier and top. Had breakfast and cycled to base of reserve. Tried taking photos but clouds rolled in so might have to come back for better photos. No entry to park, maybe if stay over for few days and try every single village round mountain, but was stopped at few i tried. Moved on to Arusha.

Going to do some running repairs on the bike, bb making some interesting beats but will just have to hold for next 4000km.

Apr 1, 2012

So at the start of the journey, KILI!
Cheated a bit yesterday, after various reroutes and detours headed back to the tar road. B1 traffic too much and got lift with truck for 150km. Still not really sure which would have been better super dodgy ride but glad i'm off that road. Went up tp kili as far as could entry very strict even at villages, so no sneaky entry. The people as friendly as ever, scenery changing from tropical to semi arid. Took some back roads past mt Meru and currently about 30km from Arusha where i'll stay at a friends house, first shower in 3 days. Feels like 40 but time to hit the road again. Will prob take day off and send some more updates 2mrw