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.

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