I was up and raring to go today, not of course that this has changed on any day during my adventure so far (the hour I mean rather than the raringness), but this morning I knew that there was a high chance of a headwind filled day so I wanted to get stuck in as early as possible.
I was obviously a little too keen though as only the cleaners and a trio of South african businessmen greeted me at the bar/restaurant/reception this morning. I was forced to wait almost an hour until we all got a chance to order some breakfast, but I enjoyed chatting with the three South Africans and time passed fairly quickly. They were funny guys actually, all very sure, precise, and matter of fact in their conversation, perhaps a little too much for my liking but I supposed that these were guys who got things done and spending 45 minutes over breakfast was quite fun. One of these fine fellows, a tall, greying, quite well built guy in his late 50’s called Peter called everyone “sportsman!” which was very amusing to me, “morning sportsman”, “how are you sportsman”, “coffee sportsman”, “get the bill now sportsman or we’re leaving!”, I imagine he could get on your nerves pretty fast if you were one of the sportsmen serving but from my angle it was rather funny.
Once my breakfast entertainers had departed it was time for me to do the same and hit the mean streets of Malawi once more. I lugged my pannier and bike up the steep steps to the gate, loaded up, and I was off. Thank you Gary & Catherine you really made me feel welcome! X
German Highway in Malawi
Once I had made it back up the hill to the main junction I reluctantly turned off of the newly laid German highway and on to a more mature, potholed, and bumpy Malawian surface, similar to that of which I had become accustomed to during my ride through the country so far. Unfortunately i feel my bottom is far from accustomed to the constant bouncing around but whether it liked it or not today looked as though it would be a treat for it indeed!
The road did turn quite flat though and dare I say it the wind was nothing more than a light breeze and not yet strong enough to slow my progress so I pushed on as much as I was able covering a satisfying 50 miles before I took my first break and a spot of lunch. I found a nice little restaurant, which I have to say are few and far between here in Malawi, and enquired about the possibility of some lunch. I say “enquired” because it’s common that these places often decided that they are not cooking today or are simply closed all together.
What? No Lunch?
The availability of a decent cooked meal was far less abundant here especially when compared to the other places I had cycled through up until now, so having some supplies of my own had become of paramount importance. Today though food was on! I suppose it is a result (generally speaking of course) of Malawians having less disposable income? Most people I assume were eating in their own homes rather than paying someone else to cook for them and hence saving a lot of money in the process. The knock on effect being that poor old hungry me was finding it hard to find a reliable source of food especially when in previous countries I could pedal into virtually any little town or village and find a variety of vendors selling soup, rice & beans, tea, and all of the African staples I had taken for granted up until now. I have to admit though it’s not like there was nothing at all as every other town or two there were people with oil filled woks frying up potatoes, so if you don’t mind surviving on a diet of extra greasy chips then Malawi will be just fine!
So anyway I found an actual restaurant today that was serving beef, rice, and nsima (nsima is a bland food made from maize and a favourite among Malawians but certainly not a favourite among Jamesians) so I ordered a plate and relieving my legs for a moment I took a seat out of the sunshine to wait for my much deserved meal.
The food took over an hour to prepare for some unknown reason, especially seeing as the meat had already been cooked, but at least I got a good rest which is quite uncommon for me. Each food interval generally provides only a brief respite from riding, lasting as long as it takes me to shovel the food down my throat, drink a quick cuppa, and before I know what’s happening I’m off again. Today though the food took ageeeeessss to come out so I got an hour and a half to relax while I impatiently waited to be fed.
The afternoon saw me pedalling through lots of farmed areas (mainly maize) with very few glimpses of Lake Malawi but it was still an enjoyable ride and towards the end of the day I pedalled into the large town of Dwangwa which had been my target for today. It was a busy, dusty, slightly chaotic place but l loved it and I’m really beginning to enjoy the mayhem of these little towns. I know I said it was a large town earlier but when I say big I mean Malawian big but compared to the towns you and I are thinking of they are quite small and generally nothing more than a kilometre (or less) of road with buildings either side. I stopped in for some water as it was getting late and I was running low, and seeing as large bottles seem scarce of late I was forced to buy 4-5 small bottles in order to fill my larger one. This though is always pleasing to the kids as they, and everyone in fact, snap up all plastic bottles as if they are going out of fashion. Do they get money for them somehow? Hold on a minute maybe I’m missing a trick here? Gepetto get back here that’s my bottle you little bugger!!
After leaving Dwangwa the road became very narrow, the hard shoulder or “James’ lane” as it is known, has eroded away entirely so now I’m forced to fend for myself with the cars and lorries. It’s actually worse than that as even parts of each main lane have disappeared and the famous M1 is at regular lengths no wider than a single lane.
Wild Camping Pro
It wasn’t much further down the road that I found a suitable camp spot, and these days rather than worrying about who is watching I just take a confident turn off of the highway and whip into the trees or brush and out of sight. In some countries this wouldn’t work as before you know it you would have a crowd of inquisitive spectators but here in Malawi people don’t seem to care or are too lazy to follow me into the wilderness. If you stop on the side of the road people gather but in the bush I seem to be left alone, perfect for me and tonight was no different so once I had moved far enough away from the road not to be annoyed by the sound of engines I stopped under a tree and went about setting up my tent.
It’s Gone Forever
Not long after putting my bags inside and making the final adjustments to the tent I realised that yet again I am a complete muppet, I had lost my bike lock! I remember leaving it on a step at the Mayoka village lodge while I was loading the bike this morning and forgot to stash it in my pannier as I had promised myself I would, oh dear silly forgetful James, still it can’t be helped so tonight I have decided to use my bungie cord in its place. I tied it around the bike frame and then to one of the poles of the tent hoping that at the very least if someone does decided to steal it I will at least be woken up from the pull on my tent? That should work right? Anyway don’t worry I used a double knot so it should be fine!