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Malawi Gin

Iranga - Lilongwe

31 March - 9 April

  1 074 km

 

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We had a rest day in Iringa on 30 March, staying at the Baptist Conference Centre.  That morning I handed in my laundry (which can be done there, but at a huge cost).  After having breakfast at the restaurant, we unpacked all the trucks so they could undergo the necessary maintenance.  We found that our “permanent bags” had gotten wet on the trucks, and our things were rather in a mess.

 

On 31 March we only cycled 100 km, as the suspension on "Sweetness" broke and she had to go in for repairs.  As that truck had been carrying our red boxes, an alternate arrangement had to be made regarding the red boxes.  The red boxes and stoves of the fastest cyclists were loaded onto "Betsie", which left early and dropped Edie, Theresa and Astrid at the lunch spot (with the lunch).  She then dropped the red boxes at our evening camp site, before going all the way back to Iringa to pick up the remaining red boxes.  It was, however, a very nice day for cycling and all worked out well.  Fortunately it did not rain during that day, as there were not enough lids for all the red boxes.  "Sweetness" arrived after dark, hopefully all fixed up and ready to go.  It started raining in the night, and I was again surprised by how waterproof my tent was (at least for then).

 

I could not believe that it was already the 1st of April!  On that day we did 130 km on a beautiful tarred road.  We even had a bit of a tail wind, as well as many downhill’s.  The scenery was beautiful, very green all around us, with plenty of sunflowers.  We stopped for Coke at villages along the way, but still arrived at our camp early.  Henry and Henning took the Land Cruiser to go look for some beers, but without empties it is difficult and expensive.

 

On 2 April we cycled 100 km to Mbeya on a good tarred road.  Once again the scenery was very nice.  That evening we camped at the Stockholm Hotel on the outskirts of Mbeya.  I couldn’t resist booking into the hotel (O, the luxury of having a shower and toilet!).  As we arrived there quite early, I went into town to find an Internet Café.  There was only one Internet Café and the waiting list was long, so I gave it up (I wasn’t sure when I would get to the internet again).  I did, however, find some condensed milk (what a treat).  We had started eating condensed milk whenever it was available (the things you eat on this trip is unbelievable).  In fact, we had become like scavengers, eating anything in sight!

 

We cycled 120 km on my birthday, crossing the border into Malawi after about 100 km.  We reached our camp (a bush camp) 20 km further.  The ride started with a 20 km climb out of Mbeya through tea plantations, as well as through avo and banana trees.  As usual I left a little earlier than the racers, and as I was struggling up the hill the peloton caught up to me and sang “happy birthday”.  I’m sure they wished that they had rather caught me only on the downhill (much appreciated guys!)  I must admit this was definitely one of the most beautiful rides to date, as one could even see the lake in the distance.  African Routes had another surprise lined up for me, they had made fudge (it was eaten up in no time).  Many thanks to Christo, Errol and Thor, it was great.

 

On 4 April we cycled 125 km on a relatively flat road.  We had a bit of a head wind, but at least it cooled us (it was still very hot and humid).  We cycled along the shores of Lake Malawi to Chitimba Beach Camp, which had a thatched roof bar and restaurant.  The camp was very full, with 3 other overland trucks (and their occupants).  It was nice to camp together with the other people.  The music and local Malawi Gin was good, so we danced until late. 

 

A rest day on the beach is what we all needed, and that is what we had on 5 April.  There was no internet at the camp or nearby village, so all we could do was eat, drink and swim.  The water in the lake was fantastic, lukewarm and crystal clear.  If any of us thought of sleeping late on that morning, we had to forget about it.  The overland trucks started up at 4h30, and the camp generator started at 5h50.  It was best to get up and place your order at the restaurant, as the food orders took up to 3 hrs (so we just ordered plate after plate).  Randy organized a pork roast for only 5 US $, and apparently it was real good.  After supper Colin brought out a bottle of Amarula and a slab of chocolate - what a good combination!

 

Back to business, and on 6 April we cycled 135 km.  The ride started with a very nice 10 km cycle along the lake, which changed quickly to a 10 km monster climb away from the lake.  It was hot and humid and we huffed and puffed, but at the top we had a spectacular view of the lake.  The rest of the day was more up than down, and rather hilly with lots of Coke stops in roadside villages with large markets.  The ride was very nice, and at Mzuzu we camped at the Mzuzu Lodge.  Because it was getting light really early in the morning, we moved the race start time from 8h00 to 7h30.  The down side of the early light was that it also got dark much earlier in the evening (despite the fact that we had set our watches back an hour).

 

On 7 April we cycled a slow 135 km.  It was quite a difficult day, as it was very hilly (not a flat bit in sight), which made the going rather slow.  It was a beautiful day for cycling, through lots of plantations, and without rain.  Soon after the start there was a village with a pastry shop, where many of us stopped (as I’ve said, we devoured anything).  We camped at a bush camp, where there were again lots of kids just sitting around staring at us.  Because we had gained a lot of altitude since leaving the lake, it became quite cold after sunset. Everyone was hauling out their three-fleece jackets.  The ground was so hard that I could hardly get my tent pegs knocked in (they got a bit bent).  I just hoped that there wouldn’t be any strong wind or rain, as I feared that my tent would collapse.

 

On 8 April we had a very enjoyable 130 km cycle.  It was not as hilly as the previous day, and everyone enjoyed the nice ride. We again camped at a bush camp about 30 km past the town of Kasungu, which we reached very early.  The town had an internet and a restaurant. I didn’t go into the town as I had no cash money with me.  I decided to wait until we reached Lilongwe.

 

We cycled the 100 km to Lilongwe on 9 April.  There is always a surprise waiting for us, and although the road was relatively flat, on this day we had a strong head wind.  No two days are the same, because just as you think you’ve got it figured out there is a surprise in store.  We were joined by a group of local riders (or rather, racers) who may join us again out of Lilongwe.  I was thinking of booking into a hotel, but our camp site (Kuboko Camp Site) seemed quite nice.  There was even an internet, but it was very expensive (loaded for overlanders).  There was even a press conference at our camp, with snacks and drinks.

 

Today, 10 April is a rest day in Lilongwe.  Guess what we do on rest days, yes, laundry, shopping and bike maintenance (the latter not by me though).  This morning I was up early, had breakfast, and then went into town.  There is a Shopright (feels like home), where I bought some Lays chips and even vegetarian schnitzels (can you believe that).  After shopping Edie and I went for a pizza, even though I’d just had breakfast (I never know when I’ll get a pizza again).  And while I’m sending this update, Henning is trying to straighten my tent pegs (which are so badly bent that I can’t use them anymore).

 

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