I had a great sleep last night and woke a little later than expected but still earlier than my other room mates, so in a similar fashion to last time I was here I took all of my stuff to the kitchen and began to arrange my bags so as not to disturb the rest of the guests. It’s best for me to leave early today as I’ve got a fair distance to cover to get in to the next country – 460km to Malawi. I waited for a little while thinking that Marley (the hostel attendant) might show up but by 8:30am he didn’t show up so I decided to leave the money for the room under a cup on the table with a short note of thanks and headed out.
Out of Iringa
The clear blue morning skies were inviting me to ride today and the bright sun was a reflection of my mood so I pedalled my way up the hill and out of Iringa keen on taking a good chunk out of the 460km that lay between here and the border of Malawi. The road started to descend once I hit the main junction out of the city and as I surveyed the land ahead I could see that my path turned quite flat regardless of the mountains that surrounded it which is always a nice feeling especially as my idle body had to reacclimatise to a life of all day pedalling once more.
Not long after setting off I decided to take a quick breakfast and spotting the trade mark lady-outside-of-a-mud-rendered-hut-with-steaming-pots-and-pans I pulled off the road to see what she had to offer. I was greeted with a warm gap-toothed smile and started to lift pot lids to see what she was preparing. The much loved beans were unveiled on my second attempt and along with some chapatti that were being fried in front of me I gave a thumbs up and took a seat on the nearby step to engage in a broken English/Swahili conversation with two other breakfasting Tanzanians. The beans seem to be a great source of energy and I gobbled them up in no time with a nice cup of special ginger tea to wash it all down. Today’s breakfast cost a whole 700 shillings and being perpetually amazed at how cheap things are here I handed over a 1000 shilling note and told her not to worry about the change; I think I can afford the extra 10p even though I have just got back from the now seemingly extortionate Zanzibar. The smiling old lady gave me one of her best grins as I was leaving and I waved at my new breakfast buddies as I pushed off back onto the road.
Chinese Roads in Tanzania
The asphalt was smooth and lovely to ride on and with the last week excluded certainly the newest and most well kept part of Tanzania I had come across, all compliments of the Chinese I am told who now have invested largely all over the continent. I had a slight headwind this morning which was attempting to crack my positive demeanour but it certainly wasn’t strong enough to do anything more than bounce off of my shield of happiness so I rode on with music playing through my iPod and a smile across my face, ahhhhh what it is to have the blessed life of a touring cyclist I thought to myself!
Before long the hills started to arise in front of me and my initial altitude of 1500 metres steadily rose to 2000 metres during the course of the day making it feel like I was mainly ascending for the duration.
I took my first break at 25 miles, stopping in a town called Ifunda as I was already feeling hungry. I could only find a lady serving supu (soup) though which was probably not quite hearty enough to sustain me for very long but being that it was all that was on offer I asked for a bowl and a nice cup of milky tea to accompany it. The soup is more like meat water with a lump of quite often bony, fatty, meat inside but I actually think it’s quite tasty so I greedily tuck in. The only advice here is a warning that there are often hidden shards of bone in the soup so it’s best to eat cautiously unless you fancy biting down on a tooth shattering piece of bone and wished you hadn’t bothered at all. Of course I’m speaking from experience here.
Headway in Headwind
Once I left Ifunda and compliments of the strengthening wind that was blowing in my face my mood did a complete about turn and I began to wonder what was the point of all of this riding? It’s the typical up and down rollercoaster of emotions that I seem to face on a daily basis and from such positive beginnings my outlook was quickly clouding over and making me question the reason for this existence I had chosen for myself. Why put yourself through this pain when you could have been anywhere else in the world doing almost anything you desire? I forced my brain to stop thinking like this and after a quiet word with myself I let all parts of my body know that we were going to do this thing no matter how we all felt about it and that was that, end of discussion!
My next stop was at 50 miles and this time in a town called Mafinga which seemed quite humorous to me for some unknown reason but I only stopped for a brief cup of tea as I knew that pausing for too long would not be of any benefit to my already lacklustre body. I should however have eaten something here as the next section was really difficult and my thighs really started hurting and in hindsight it may have been the lack of energy in my now seemingly over-rested legs. A day or two off of the bike is good to let the muscles recover but too long and they just return back to jelly it seems?! I don’t remember having this problem on my last adventure and there were certainly times where I was forced to take a week or more off of the bike…
Marsh Bog and Pine
My ride into the afternoon gave rise to a large expanse of marshland that was quite pretty to gaze upon and I enjoyed watching the reflection of the sky across the water as well as the many long legged wading birds feasting upon the unknown treats that lay in the water beneath them. Following this the land swiftly changed and I passed into a forested area, entering this land of Fir trees filled my nostrils with the sent of pine needles which was lovely and my mood brightened somewhat. The trees were definitely plantation. The trunks were neatly ordered in regimented lines but it was nice to be surrounded by this tall forest and I thought to myself that had I been teleported here not knowing where it was Africa would be the last on my list of guesses.
The road was still lovely out here but there were parts under construction so I was forced to take bumpy off sections to avoid the workers and their machinery which was annoying and left me with a covering of dust that had been torn up by the passing lorries as they sped past.
Food and Nkololo
At 70 miles (113km) I had to stop as my weak legs were giving me gip so I took a seat in a wooden shack that had food and sat for 10 minutes in a hope that they would recover a little before pushing on for the final few miles of today’s ride. I can’t believe that in a week my legs have turned weak, pah pathetic, I admonished as I ate up my tasty rice & beans and supped down a much needed Sprite in a hope that sugar would drum up enough of a buzz for the last of today’s ride?
Leaving Nkololo I did feel considerably better and began to wonder if perhaps it was the fault of my lack of food consumption throughout the day rather than my weakened state, as the now late afternoons ride was much better than that of the last few hours? Hmmmmm yes eating it seems is very important!
I only managed another 14 miles (22.5km), which brings my total today to 84 miles. So now there are only about 201 miles (325 km) left to Malawi. Sorry for mixing my measurements. The day was already coming to an end and at about 5:45 I began to look for a spot to camp.
It was now a little over populated especially compared to the perfect camp ground that was the forested area I passed through ealrier. Eventually found a little side path and scooted down it without anyone seeing me.
I didn’t think it would hold much potential for a good camping location but after 150 metres it opened out into a nice clear patch of land that you would have thought someone would have built a house on by now. But to my good fortune it was empty and out of sight of nearby houses and people walking along the road. Yay, day one after my holiday to Zanzibar and I have to say that I am glad that it’s finally come to an end!