I rose in the darkness yet again, wanting to get on my way without being spotted by the owners of the land, but also keen on getting today’s quota of miles done and even hoped to have an early finish as I had a slightly shorter 110km day today. I was heading for a town called Chitimba, home to the Hakuna Matata lodge, a place that Josh the cyclist, who I had met in Tanzania, had suggested to me.
In the mornings I have no problem making a bit more noise sorting out my gear opposed to the need for stealth and silence on my arrival to each camp ground. So I was happy to blaze my torch around as I knew that I’ll soon to be off and the mission of camping was already a success!
Bukwa Milk Salesman
I used my super bright front light proudly this morning helping to guide both me and my bike back onto the road, and pedalled my way into the settlement that was only about half a mile ahead. I was surprised to see that it was actually the town of Kaporo and I had obviously ridden a lot further than I had expect last night, which of course was not my intention but rather the result of circumstance, it was nice knowing that I was just that little bit closer to my destination. The first 25 miles of road leaving Kaporo was amazing, freshly made, smooth, fast, and my progress was moving at a pace far better than I had hoped this morning. About halfway along the best section of Malawian asphalt I had ridden on so far, I slowly approached a hard to catch, purple shirted, one armed, local guy called “Bukwa” who was on his way to the market in Karonga to sell his 13ltrs of milk (£3 market value he told me) that he had harvested from his own cows, and by the speed he was travelling I was wondering if he thought it might go off before he got there?!
We pedalled together and chatted as the sun rose around us, and I discovered that he was a father of 6 (low for an African I thought) all of which were adults except one, a 4 year old, and he had his own farm not far from where we had first met. The kids were all living in different areas which was a bit sad I thought and one was at university in Lilongwe which I could tell he was really proud of by the enthusiasm he had as he was telling me.
Meeting this one armed speed demon who must have been well into his sixties, was a real pleasure to meet and sharing the 6-7 mile ride into town with him made my morning. I decided that I would continue to pedal along with him into the town centre rather than taking the normal road that bypassed Karonga as it was time for breakfast anyway, and Bukwa pointed out a breakfast spot for me. It was actually one of the places where he sold his freshly squeezed milk, so along with my lovely soup and chapatti breakfast I had a hot cup of Bukwa milk and it was delicious!
I offered to buy the great milk man some breakfast but he humbly declined preferring to get on his way to sell the remaining 10ltrs of creamy white loveliness that was strapped to the back of his bicycle, so I shook his hand, wished him a safe journey, and waved him off before returning to my food that was now steaming away on a nearby table. The soup was really good and my meat for the first time was free of bones and so tender, but best of all was the milk of my new friend, and producing the final stashed tea bag that I had taken from the MIC hotel in Dar Es Saalam I popped it in and enjoyed a Kenyan style milk tea, yumm just what the doctor ordered!
I headed back along the road to the main roundabout turning back onto the M1 that would take me south once again, and to my absolute joy the headwind that was completely non existent this morning hit me in force. I tried not to think about it not wanting to put a downer on the wonderful morning I was having, but the going became tough very quickly and after only ten more painfully slow miles I had become rather pissed off! I was fed up of this bastard wind that had been with me, or more appropriately against me, on an almost daily basis since leaving Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. When was I going to get a break from this constant headwind? I had obviously chosen the worst time of year to ride south as what I had hoped were fickle winds likely to change daily were evidently seasonal and permanently blowing from the south (sometimes south easterly, but even then still a hinderance).
Following the lakeside road south could have been such a great ride, being that it was virtually flat the whole way, and periodically presenting me with some lovely views of the grand expanse of water that was lake Malawi looking more like an ocean due to its vastness. Instead however I was pedalling down the road from hell having to standup regularly to evoke even a little bit of speed.
There were quite a few settlements along the way, all of which had a lingering aroma of cheese, and as the heavy gusts were head on I could generally tell when I was approaching an inhabited area a mile or so before I was due to arrive. I’m not sure whether this smell was coming from the heavily littered ground or if they were actually making cheese of some kind? There was a real problem with rubbish here it seemed as whenever I stopped to rest and inquired if there was a bin for me to dispose of the couple of items I was carrying, everyone replied with “no bins here” and “just throw it outside”, I decided to not take their advice and decided to hold onto it until I arrived at my lodge later today. I did wonder though where all of their daily refuse ended up, and made my assumption that this was the reason for the nasty smell that was present at every settlement rather than that they were making a dairy produce.
I stopped a few times along the road for soda breaks, hoping the sugar injection would provide enough of a pick me up to aid in the battle I was fighting, and also to give my rear end a little rest as it was becoming quite irritated due to the constant ‘stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down’ cycling I was forced to employ today.
I was also struggling to find any food that wasn’t a packet of biscuits in the many villages I had passed and more importantly bottled water, something I had taken for granted, was scarce to obsolete out here.
Water, Uliwa, Chitimba
Later on in the afternoon I eventually arrived in a larger town called Uliwa which was home to a large supermarket and I was able to stock up on the water that I had been without for the past 15-20 miles. I bought 4ltrs just to be sure, gulping a good litre down before I left, and rested for just a few minutes before setting out for the final 12 miles to Chitimba.
Knowing that I was so close to my destination brightened my mood considerably and being hydrated again also helped, so I began my short descent out of town a lot happier than I had been for most of the day determined not to let a silly bit of wind get the better of me any longer. It did however try its best at getting under my skin as although I was technically going down hill the wind had become so strong that I had to stand up and pedal producing a grand old top speed of 4mph! Ha, this was laughable and it did actually put an involuntary grin on my face, or was it a grimace? Watching the people flying UP the hill in the opposite direction looking like they were hardly putting in any effort at all was a little annoying, and even those with heavy loads and pillion passengers looked like they were having an easy time of it. Grrrr! I wanted to be happy for them I really did, but instead I was filled with an emotion closer to hate than joy.
Hakuna Matata Lodge
The last stint of the day had become hilly, a contrast to the level ground I had experienced since entering Malawi, but being that I just wanted to get to Chitimba at this point I decided to stop messing about and give it my all for the final few miles. By the time I had reached the last 2-3 miles to the Hakuna Matata lodge and feeling like I didn’t have much more to give, the road rejoined the lakeside and I slowed slightly to enjoy the view and became inevitably happier knowing that I had virtually arrived at last.
There was now a large mountain in front of me as well as the beautiful lake and I began to smile and wave at locals again as I passed. Soon after I found the sandy road down to the lakeside and turned off the tarmac but was unfortunately forced to push my bike the final 200-300 metres to the gates of where I would be residing for the next day or so.
I had decided, and especially due to today’s ride, that I would be taking a rest day here and who knows maybe two?
I tinged the quite amusing doorbell which was a circular saw blade with a large bolt hanging from a piece of string and soon enough the lovely “Martha” welcomed me in. I was quickly taken to my dorm which was simple but clean and more than adequate (only 4,900 Kwacha, about £5 a night) and was also provided with a towel so I could take a much needed and beautifully hot shower.
The place was actually owned by a nice old boy from South Africa called “Willy” who I met later, and seeing as it was a lakefront accommodation the whole area was sandy floored with a really nice structure out near to the water. It looked like a great place to relax and I could already see myself sprawled out on one of the sofas over there getting on with some writing that I was once again behind on.
After my shower, and as it was already getting close to sundown, I ordered some food with Martha and then popped next door to purchase a little bit of Internet as the Hakuna Matata lodge didn’t provide any. This was not really a problem though and only cost 1000 Kwacha (£1) for 250mb which lasted me for the duration of my stay.
I ate dinner with Willy and the one other guest he had here tonight and we had a nice chat for a while, but soon after finishing my food I excused myself and headed for bed as I was pretty knackered from the arduous day. Its nice to know that I wouldn’t have to go back out into that wind tomorrow. Phew, for now…