Day 53 – Personal Best

Last night was the best nights sleep in the tent so far, comfortable, not too hot, and something that is always a bonus – the tent was completely dry in the morning allowing me to pack everything away nicely before setting off on another day following the lake road down to Cape Maclear.

Another lovely sunrise today and quite a moody one too, there were lots of wispy clouds around to catch the morning rays making everything feel quite mysterious and atmospheric.

There was a bit of wind about this morning as well as a few hills so my yet to wake up body struggled a little to begin with.

Peanut Butter Breakfast

After 10-12 miles I stopped in a small village for a bread & peanut butter breakfast along with some tea and of course as always I was discovered pretty quickly by a group of interested children.  I am required to ask where I can find a food or tea establishment these days as they are far from obvious and in some places non existent, fortunately though this morning I had gotten lucky.  I joked around with my audience of kids while I ate and realising that I wasn’t going to be able to finish the large hunk of bread in front of me I started handing out bite sized pieces of bread each with a healthy covering of peanut butter.  They loved it!

Peanut Power

My breakfast obviously did something good as I powered through the miles after that.  I suppose I should also give thanks to the wind for staying calm enabling me to maintain a good speed, and of course to the road for becoming flat once again.  By noon I had totalled a record 65 miles.  I had been getting hungry before this though and had enquired about food in two villages prior to no avail, here though was an obvious, if not a little faded, sign stating that the white washed building in front of me was indeed a “restaurant”.  I entered through the doorway into a dark mud floored room with two low tables and a bench made of a couple of pieces of wood bodged together.  I made my presence known with a “hello, is anyone here?”, I waited for a reply but nothing came other than silence.  My stomach growled hungrily or quite possibly in annoyance urging me to try again so I gave a much more commanding “hello, is there food?!”.  A second later I heard a bit of a clatter and then swiftly after a man named Robbin appeared from behind the curtain that covered the only other entrance into the room.  I smiled at him and asked if I might get a spot to eat and to my delight he nodded his head in acquiescence.  Phew!

Robbins Restaurant

Robbin actually spoke rather good English and after I had made my order of rice, beans, and beef, all of which he prepared, we had a nice chat.  I complimented him on his skills in the kitchen as the food was excellent and he explained how he and his wife alternated their working days, due to the lack of full time jobs in the village. Today he was at home looking after the children and the restaurant while his wife was working and once she returned he would go to work and pass on the household duties to her.  These two really were a hardworking pair and Robbin gave me a little more faith in the men of Malawi, of whom I had been creating a bit of a disapproving picture…  Of late I had noticed that many of the daily tasks were left to the women, such as getting water, collecting firewood, tending the children, and cooking to name but a few, and they often bore the brunt of carrying all of the heavy stuff too (generally on their heads), whilst I often see many of the men loitering around the bars and liquor stores instead of helping out.  Places to find alcohol I might add far outnumber places to eat and no matter the size of a settlement there is always a place to get a drink.

Perhaps I’m being unfair here because I do see a lot of guys carrying wood, coal, logs and all sorts on their bikes, but I cannot deny that there are a fair amount of daytime drunks around too, hmmmmm I’m not sure maybe I’ve got it all wrong?  Anyway I was proud of Robbin and the way he and his wife managed an equal household so when I paid my bill I made sure to leave a little extra for him as he well deserved it.

Salina Stop

My tasty lunch had obviously fuelled my body to the maximum as I happily sped along at full speed for the next thirty miles and made it to Salima by 3pm, which had been todays proposed final destination.  I paused for a short while to restock on water and chatted with a guy outside of the shop called Maxwell who was a local builder and was trying his best to convince me to invest in property in Malawi.  I’m not sure what I look like at this point but a man with large sums of Kwacha to spend on lakeside housing I certainly am not, thanks anyway Maxwell!

I was pleased to have made it this far down the lake road without too much trouble from the wind and yet again life has proved that worrying about the “what if’s” of this world is a complete waste of time.  Not that I was really worried as such but the possibility of this unpredictable force of nature did almost change my route to one that was a little less convenient.

How Many Miles Today?

The afternoon ride out of Salima was taken at a much more casual pace and I enjoyed the scenery as day turned to evening and the sun began to set behind the low western mountains and hence the famous cycling pair that was James & Saffron completed their best day to date covering a tidy 123 miles and a personal best for Africa.

Tonights Camp Spot

We pulled off of the road as the light of day was beginning to dwindle and found a spot in a farmers field to rest for the night.  It certainly wasn’t the best spot as things had become slightly more inhabited around here but it was out of view from wandering eyes and that is all we needed for a few hours until morning.

I tried my best at levelling the ground as it was previously a cultivated patch for maize that had some time since been harvested and the land burnt for re-ploughing, it was still a bit lumpy though and a bit like an ashtray but whatever it will do for a night.

At one point I had to lay low during my attempt to pitch the tent as a couple of inebriated gentlemen happened to pass by quite close but with it being almost totally dark now and the fact that they were hammered I was left unnoticed.

I employed my fail safe bungie cord security system once again and collapsed into the tent satisfied with what we had achieved today. Tomorrow would now be a much shorter ride to Cape Maclear where yet another day off would be enjoyed.  Whoopieee!!  This African trip is proving far too easy and more of a leisurely holiday than a gruelling challenge across a continent.

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