Apr 27, 2012

Houston...

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

1 comment:

  1. Our deepest fear..
    ..is not that we are inadequate. But, that we are powerful beyond measure.
    It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?"
    Actually, WHO ARE YOU NOT TO BE??
    You are a child of God, your playing small does not deserve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure about you.
    We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
    It is not just in some of us - it is in everyone. And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. Nelson Mandela

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