It absolutely poured down last night but it was very short lived and really strange. I remember waking up to a few raindrops hitting the tent that was swiftly followed by a weird noise that made me sit up involuntarily, my body reacting to something that my brain could not yet compute.
Large Vehicle or Animal?
I could hear something approaching quickly and thought for a minute I was going to be run over by what sounded like something big. I was confused to say the least and something inside of me wanted to get out of the tent and run for the hills, but when I realised where I was and that there was more chance of an aeroplane falling from the sky than a vehicle tearing through the maize filled field to my location which was some 300 metres from the road, I waited to see what all the noise was about. Only moments later a wave of torrential rain hit the tent and I wash awash! As the rain hammered down upon me the half levelled channels that I was lying on filled with water in seconds and if it wasn’t for my lifesaving bed roll I would have gotten pretty wet, instead though it felt like I was lying on a waterbed and actually made for some of the most comfortable moments I’d had all night. Fortunately this didn’t last long as the dry earth was sucking up the water pretty quickly and apart from where I was lying (I’m guessing it was due to my weight) the rest of the tent remained fairly dry. I lay in wait for the freakish rain to subside for only 25-30 minutes and sure enough it passed as quickly as it had begun. Very weird if you ask me…
Seeing as I was a little soggy this morning I set out before sunrise wrapping up my sodden tent, strapping it to the bike, and bidding farewell to the wet farmland that had accommodated me. I pushed my bike back to the road in the dark, really smelling like an ashtray now and went on my way into the growing light of the morning.
After only two miles the way to Cape Mclear saw we turning off of the tarmac and onto a sand road where I joined a number of locals out on their bikes already awake and going about their business.
I was lucky enough to experience another breathtakingly beautiful sunrise today and no matter how hard it can be to drag yourself out of the tent each morning (not that this was the case today, if anything I floated out) it’s absolutely worth it, especially when you get a good performance like I was having now. Privileged doesn’t begin to describe how I was feeling. I pedalled my way to Malawi’s most revered lakeside destination, Cape Maclear, happier than I had been on any morning up until now and although the road was a bit bumpy and my gears had a sandy crunch about them I beamed and rode on in absolute contentment, what a beautiful world indeed!
Panga Peanut Nutters
After ten miles of sand I returned to tarmac and arrived in a small village called Panga where I hoped to find a little breakfast. Unfortunately no food was available here but there was tea so I stopped in for a cup and seeing as I had bread and peanut butter of my own I prepared a little breaky. The children of course huddled around the doorway of the tea house to see the peculiar looking Azungu (it sounds to me like my former title Mzungu has changed now) and before long I was handing out peanut butter treats once again. For a while all I could see were hands snatching away at me eager to get a complimentary snack and as fair as I was trying to be the mix of little arms soon became too much to keep track of and I’m sure some of the little devils were coming in for seconds before others even got a first chance at this seemingly never before experienced culinary treat?! One little guy even looked at me with the picture of surprise on his face and said “wow, this food is delicious!”. Holy crap really? It’s only peanut butter for Christ sake, I hope I’m not going to cause an epidemic by introducing this sweet nutty substance into their lives?! I can see the newspaper headlines now, “Thousands of Malawian children die in peanut butter related crimes”, “supermarkets over run by 4-8 yr olds nationwide”, “Government urges the west for funding of Peanut butter reform centres” oh fuck what have I done???!
I was allowed a little more room once the little peanut butter addicts realised that feeding for today had ended and I was able to finish my tea with a little more space to breathe but still not quite enough for it to be a relaxing experience.
After Panga I rejoined another sand road that lasted for a further fifteen miles, but unlike my first sand road this one became quite hilly and proved to be rather tough at times. There was one section that traversed some sort of riverbed where the sand was so thick that I was forced to drag my bike across to the other side but I did find tarmac one final time which led me the last 8-10km to Cape Mclear. The gradients however became ridiculous and although these inclines were very short lived I felt as though I was going to collapse and had to stop to regain my breath once or twice before I eventually made it to the last few kilometres of flat road down to my lakeside hostel The Funky Chichid.
The Funky Cichlid
I was met by the lovely staff here at what sounded like the most popular place in Cape Mclear (for the budget or “pikey” travellers of course), and one of the managers, a young Australian guy called Nate, even upgraded my dorm bed to a private room allowing me to store my bike and gear safely inside, very cool – thanks my friend!
I had arrived quite early due to yesterday’s mammoth ride and today’s early start which was a nice little bonus so I relaxed for a while chatting with the guests, eating and drinking before taking a dip in the much anticipated waters of Cape Mclear! The water however was far from Mc-clear and I have to say I was disappointed. There were a number of plastic bags and biscuit wrappers floating around and although the white sandy beach was clean enough the water had put me off entirely. After only a few minutes swimming I returned to shore and decided that I would just look at the water rather than bathe in it as I could hardly notice the dirty water from the beach. I am told that this is very uncharacteristic of this part of the lake and was due to the wind/current pushing all of the crap down to the cape but whatever the reason my dream of paradise had been shattered somewhat. Oh well looks as though Nkhata bay retains the number one spot on my list of Malawian lakeside destinations. It’s still pretty to look at though so I’m sure I will enjoy chilling out here for a day or two.
The hostel became a little lively during the afternoon and evening, not crazy but busy enough to incite the drinking of a few more “greens” than I had anticipated and I ended up having quite a fun evening amongst the other guests and locals of the cape. I didn’t leave it particularly late though as old grandpa Jay’s body clock is set to “bed before 8pm” so by midnight I felt as though I was fighting an uphill battle and finally succumbed to the comfort of my lovely bed.