I have decided to leave today rather than staying an extra night as I had originally been considering on my way down here. I think if the water was less dirty I probably would have stayed but the prospect of swimming amongst the empty wrappers and plastic bags is far from appealing. The main purpose of my trip to “Cape not quite as Mclear as I had been expecting” was to enjoy the beautiful parasite infected lake one last time, but unfortunately my dream of that had been shattered after only thirty seconds of swimming.
Another reason for leaving was that I had quickly developed a thirst for “greens” with an accompaniment of cigarettes during my stay and my lungs as well as my head were already starting to feel it. Time to go!
So here I am, my bags are packed and loaded on the back of the beautiful Saffron, it’s just past 7:30am, and the road is beckoning the pair of us once again! It’s time to move old Saffy girl but not before a quick breakfast and more importantly some coffee!
In fact I will need at least a little energy if I am to tackle those beastly gradients (they are only short but soooo steep!) back to the main junction to monkey bay.
I headed to the bar and ordered a simple breakfast accompanied by the all important filter coffee, paid my bill, which was definitely less than it should have been (thanks Nate!), and once I had scoffed back my food and sloshed 2.5 cups of coffee down my throat I said my goodbyes to all of the lovely staff at the Funky Cichlid hostel and left with a caffeine induced spring in my step!
Leaving Cape Mclear
The hilly road out of Cape Mclear, that I was slightly scared of after my ride in, was far easier on the return journey and before I knew it I was back on the sand track to Monkey Bay and heading towards the main asphalt road that would eventually lead me south again. I had decided at the last minute to check out this Monkey Bay place especially seeing that I was so close, so rather than turning south towards Zomba I turned to the north and pedalled the few miles back up the coast to see what all the fuss was about.
On my way in I saw the three English cyclists that I had met at Cape Mclear, did I mention these guys yet? They were riding from Nairobi to Durban and I have to admit were being a little bit more adventurous than me by taking a multitude of dirt roads on their way south. They were all great guys actually and I would have probably ridden with them for a bit had we been moving in the same direction today, but I was arriving and they were leaving and there goes the fate of the road for you. We did exchange a few words before parting company though and I gave a couple of tent pole repair pieces to one of the boys before leaving which I hoped will do the job for him? On my last trip my tent poles broke in numerous places so I came prepared this time especially knowing how hard it can be when your gear fails in the middle of nowhere. Well hopefully he can patch them up now anyway and it’s always nice to help a fellow cycling weirdo too!
Monkey Bay Lodge
Before saying our final goodbye they whispered a secret tale of the Monkey Bay Lodge that wasn’t far from where we were talking and by the way they were describing it and the looks on their faces it sounded like the gem of the bay. A few more words and I waved them farewell as they rode off down the road and turning away myself I began pedalling in the direction of the magical place that I knew nothing about only moments earlier.
Just a kilometre later I found myself at the entrance of the mystery lodge and I must say it was a very pretty spot indeed. There were lots of colourful trees, green vibrant grass, swing seats dotted all around, some by the water, some on the veranda, and all of this wonder was set in a picturesque bay, no monkeys though… It really was a scene of beauty and serenity, oh and on top of all of that they had internet!! Holy fucking yes!!
Unfortunately though they were full but did offer their fine looking grass for me to camp upon which was very lovely of them so I decided to take a rest, eat, drink more coffee and weigh up my options. It was after all still quite early and I was still unsure if I was really allowed to stop after only riding 20km today.
Mufasa Eco Lodge
After a long while and a nice relaxing morning I decided that paying to camp was not really pushing any of my buttons even if it was such a pretty setting so once I had sucked up a satisfying amount of this beautiful place, I decided to try my luck on the other side of monkey bay to another lodge (recommended by Nate actually) called the Mufasa Eco Lodge and in search of a real bed. Well…..the little cove was lovely, with a nice sandy beach, large rocks everywhere and the water looked even more inviting than where I had just come from, but putting it bluntly the hostel itself was quite shit. It was a bit old, run down, and the few staff didn’t seem concerned about me, or cleaning up for that matter, or fixing the broken chairs, or anything? I don’t know call me a stickler for a bit of customer service but this place was so laid back that I’m either dreaming and still lying horizontal in my bed back in Cape Mclear or I’ve died and am no longer visible to the human eye. I think the old lady in reception, who I assume is the owner, was sat behind her crammed dusty old desk without hardly moving and by her reaction to a new visitor, an actual customer, she might be dead too. Someone give her a nudge and see if she falls off of the chair will you?!
There were two white ladies, who I assume were guests, sat on the only half comfortable chairs in the restaurant/reception and were puffing up cigarettes in silence when I made my presence known, to their credit though they did manage to cough up a reply to my chirpiest of chirpy “good afternoon!” so that was something I suppose, well done girlies!
Rather than sitting with them though and suffering another smoke filled lung battering I just popped my head into the kitchen to order some more food (I’m hungry today) and took a seat not too far away but in a smoke free safe zone.
I sat in the old run down restaurant area and soon began to feel a veil of tiredness wash over me, hmmmm was it this place? At that moment I knew that I had to get out of here pretty soon and hoped that the food and tea I had ordered would provide me with enough of a boost to get a few miles done this afternoon. Shortening the distance to Zomba, the home of the famous plateau, would be a great help especially as it was a good 180km further south.
While I rapidly ate and drank wondering why I had bothered ordering anything in the first place, I heard a bit of a commotion behind me. I turned to find four monkeys staring at me all perched on the low wall of the open sided restaurant looking hungry, cute no doubt but unpredictably mischievous so I moved cautiously while finishing up my food. I tried my luck at a quick snap as they were all lined up so perfectly and fairly close too but they seemed to know what I was attempting and all ran away quicker than I could raise my camera. This place was so lacking in human activity that the wildlife was beginning to take it back I thought to myself, time to hit the road I think!
To stay or not to stay…..that is the question?
It was after 2pm by the time I left Mufasas so I set my targets on the town of Mangochi which was only 35 miles away and easily attainable I thought. The road, to the agreeance of my lazy legs, was flat and fast so before I knew it and more importantly before the sun had set I arrived in town to take a brief stop to re-supply my stock of food and water. It wasn’t long after that I was heading out of its southern border to find a nice spot to camp for the night and sure enough I found a lovely flat and open piece of land a few hundred metres off of the road and enjoyed a lovely sunset while I set up camp. I like the open camp grounds much more than the slightly claustrophobic ones and seeing how there were no houses in sight I sang and made as much noise as I wanted while pitching up this evening, bloody fantastic!