Tuesday, 13 January 2015

These notes should be 3rd from the start.

So here i am in Mikumi after a manageable slog through the reserve. When arriving at the park entrance there were just two empty huts either side of the rd with neither a gate or any fences in site, just speed limiting signs and those warning of the fines imposed on wildlife road kills. Dr Zanzibar had explained there was around a 30km stretch of rd where it was not advisable to be cycling with the risk of large wild animals so i had expected the entrance to be guarded. No such thing so beyond i peddaled.
Only once caught a glimpse of the rear end of an antelope as it fled into the thick bush near a spruit surrounded by greener than surrounding bush. For the most part, the park looked quite dry and all the riverbeds were too. The weather was rather overcast for which i was thankful, as it was still hot work cycling. Earlier, before reaching the reserve area, i had stopped at a typical settlement for a drink. I wanted tea and was asked if needed milk. Yes please my reply, and for a big cup. Along came a large steaming cup of milk which was just fine and i drank it gratefully. So thus fortified, i had the energy to make good progress through the park. A shady clump of trees encouraged a rest for a drink of water and one of the oranges I had bought earlier. Sitting in a rock about to tuck into my quartered fruit, a lorry pulled up and the driver warned me about dangerous animals, even lions. I said that i was sure that if a lion caught my sent, it would most likely run away. This I believe to be the case, but at the same time felt unwilling to prove this with experiment.  The driver acknowledged my authoritative expression and after thanking me buy declining a share of the orange, trundled off with his truck.
Later there was an antelope road kill which was being fed upon by two rather hungry and menacingly looking vultures. Many buck and some zebra were gathered around a lake some 100m from the rd. The bush on the other side was rather dense with both large and smaller trees, but what drew my attention were up to 30 vultures swirling around some ground also some 100m away. I could not see what they were even from the good height of the lorry cab in which i sat, but likely a kill and not from a vehicle.
Earlier, I began to overtake a lorry which was just crawling past some speed bumps that were many. I attracted Paul the drivers attention and asked if he could carry me. Within 2 minutes, my bike was loaded behind a container, and I had joined him in his high up cab.

Paul, helping with my bike.

Excellent vantage point , possibly safer and certainly more relaxing, lazy place to be. Paul was delivering 28000kgs of Malaysian cooking oil from Dar to somewhere were it was peaceful in the Congo.  The cost to carry this Maersk load was, he said but perhaps exagerating, 10000US so without the sea carry cost, and that of production along with profits in the chain, each litre of oil costs 2.80 dollars plus? ...!
He carries copper back from the Congo, a weekly journey each way I believe.
So have arrived here partly by lorry, but covering 70 % of the way from morogoro by bike.
After joining Paul and paying for lunch, i found a room for under £5 which again is clean and comfortable.  About 2kms up the road out skirting the village is a 55US a night hotel where I had a cold drink and popcorn (salty to encourage dinking more, even the free water from its cooler) then attempted unsuccessfully to use their very slow WiFi.
Had a couple a beers last night down the road at an establishment Owen by Saiid, a short but very large friendly man who earlier allowed me a bottle to take away on the understanding that I would return the same.
Slept well and have breakfasted on the beans and rice left overs plus an avo from supper last night. It is 0805hrs and I must decide whether to continue on the Iringa rd or take a detour 60kms to the south where there is another reserve with mountains and waterfalls. Tempting, but I must find out what restrictions there are if any with the bike. Has rained heavily last night and overnight. Locals watched in surprise when I ventured out in the deluge in the evening which was most enjoyable. The rain cooled and washed me and my cycling togs down. Wonderful. This morning there is much sweeping of leaves and standing water.
Alleluia its pouring again. Might make the traffic a bit dodgier though. Being in the deluge is good as cold isn't an issue.
A Police station I  passed where one of rather a few severely dented vehicles I saw along my way.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

25th Oct.
Its 6 am while I sit in a cool breeze whirling around the riverside camp at Martins or Marty's drift on the Botswana side of the border with SA along the Limpopo river.
Was up early with some tummy pain, something which I have been rid of for a good while since arriving at Nkhata Bay back in Malawi.
Had two beef meals yesterday and loads to drink, mostly water, cold drinks and a couple of cans of bitter lemon which I mixed with Black Label larger. Very nice.
The chef has turned up and seeing him with a cup of coffee, and noting my hopeful expression has landed me with a cup as well.  The camp here last night was quiet with just two others. Norbert a German travelling in a well kitted Land Rover sporting a fridge freezer and a folding roof tent. He lives not far from the farm in Magalies, and is travelling on business.

Norman with his heavy KTM

Martins Drift pitch, Botswana SA border.

Then Norman, also a German from Munich who has ridden up from Capetown on his heavily kitted KTM990 which he had shipped to Capetown and he intends riding all the way back to Germany.

Sunday 30th Nov 2014
So that you know, I have already been 3 nights back in Gauteng. Two nights on the farm in Magalies and last night at Boud's house not far from 4 ways in Jhb's northern suburbs.

My reading spot at the farm in Magalies, my SA home. 

It is Sunday the 30th of Nov. My goal was to reach here by the beginning of December which was becoming harder for cycling by the day. However, the speed at which I crossed both Zambia and especially Botswana, helped me to hop ahead of schedule.
From Livingstone Zambia to the border with  Botswana the journey is around 60kms. I rode about halfway and the rest on a bus. So crossed ferry near 3pm after changing my last Kwacha for just a few Pula. There were some antelope and a gathering of warthogs, the first I'd seen on my journey so far.  They were about 100m from the road overlooked by the Botswana  immigration office.  Folks tell me that this is a particularly wild corner of Botswana with big cats and elephants roaming wherever they please. Not the ideal cycling roads especially during the nights.
A bus was waiting alongside a tea room and I soon found it to be an overnight one to Francistown well to the south. 112 Pula bought me my seat and carriage for the cycle. The driver and his lady helper were enthusiastic about my mode of transport but also insisted that the route was unsuitable for cycling because of both elephants and lions roaming freely. Many of these they said could often be seen in the buses' headlights as it travelled through the African darkness.This I was keen to see and pleased with the front seat allocated to me for this very purpose. Hats off to the driver who has to be super vigilant without exceeding 70kph peering ahead for any sudden large lumps leaping into the road ahead of the bright headlights. The grass and bush is cleared either side of the road by approximately 10 to 15m to help this what must be stressful driving even during the day, let alone at night.
The night's journey was not without incident. First we came across what appeared to be a recently smashed pickup whose roof was caved in. Most likely it had turned over perhaps while trying to avoid hitting a large animal, most likely an elephant. We stopped, backed up and peered at this wreck for some moments, before driving off again when no human movement could be seen. A driver and passenger may well have been in the crushed cab but if so, neither were able to holler or signal for help.
Some while later, the left front windscreen shattered to a very loud bang. The drivers window was happily still in one piece and he thought the culprit had been an owl. More like a flying ostrich from the loud impact and bulbous impression made in the glass, which eventually fell from its frame completely. I moved back a row to shelter behind my seat in what was thereafter a very windy and chilly journey. For the first time, I hauled out my rain jacket and draped it over my shoulders for warmth against the rushing cool breeze. Kept thinking about the next owl that would fly directly into the bus so tried to keep a low profile, not easy with my 6 foot 3 frame. The driver thought my query about this rather funny while he slowed quickly for a lingering elephant, revving his engine to encourage this  beast off the road. Hats off to him though, I would not like his job responsible for up to 60 passengers along this unpredictable, nightly passage from 2100hrs to 0500hrs, our scheduled arrival time in Francis town. We stopped for a stretch a couple of times during the night and attempted to prop up the bendy window with a broom, but it soon dropped to the floor again leaving just the broom to fend off the next meaty missile. Happily avoided, we arrived at about 0540 hrs after what must be around 500 to 600 kms.
I cycled around the town in search of a good map. The photo I had of my Botswana map came from our home atlas and was wanting for detail. The tourist info store came up trumps, for I was given a good tourist map, the only one so far as I had been managing with my phone's photos of maps seen along the way.
Had a cooked breakfast and chat with a white Botswanan businessman who had travelled as he often did from his home town the capital city in the south.
Botswana quite large but having just 2 million people has its fair share of long distances between settlements which are few because of the lack if water. The road I travelled down the eastern side, is surrounded by thick bush which grows and manages to flourish from the salty ground water. Around 50 kms ti the west, the Kalahari dessert prevails so the bush must by then be scrub and tumble weeds leading eventually to the red sand dunes of the Namib. So the eastern side of Botswana has thick bush thriving in water that is not suitable for humans, though the wild animals abound.
From Francistown, I cycled south and gladly came across the occasional settlement for a good drink to cool down. People told me the next stretch would be sparse, so I tried hiking a lift only to come across the Willie and an employee. Willie had been the gentleman who I had joined for breakfast earlier.  Reckon I rode around 50kms before Willie lifted me and my bike for another 150kms to the junction for Martins Drift, one of the northern border posts with SA.
Willied had said that the distance from there was about 60kms. But after a very hot 50kms again, I discovered at a disease control barrier, where there was no food to be had, that there was at least 80kms to go. I was hungry and although carrying enough water, another long, hot, barren stretch would have exhausted me. Waving down a luxurious lorry had me well on my way again. Later when he dropped me near the border, I was able to get a nice meal of pap, beef and cabbage from the road side canteens. While I ate gratefully, a lady handed me an ice cold bottle of water without charge. A really nice gesture for a very hot and tired traveller.
So Botswana was crossed in record time. Just approximately 26 hours at a cost of 112 Pula or about £10 placed me at the Limpopo camp whose entrance is just behind the filling station just before the border bridge. The camping fee is steep compared with others at 85 Pula and there are chalets as well as pre pitched riverside tents where I spent the night in my own tent before crossing the following morning. Hippos can be heard tramping at snorting about on the other side of an electrified fence to discourage them from roaming the accommodation area, unlike the freedom they have in Zambia.
One more border to cross, this one being of most concern without a YF certificate. I had once again heard conflicting information about the need or not of this vaccination. Nerves jingled as I was asked to attend a recently set aside health department organised to try and deal with potential Ebola carriers. On the way, a big yellow sign declaring Zambia to be on the Yellow Fever list and stating clearly that a certificate is required. The Ebola questionnaire is dominant though and a no to all the questions, a smile to say so,and  not commenting on my earlier stomach pain produced a clearing stamp for the rest of the border procedures.  The official had a good gander at my passport and quizzed me about my journey all the way from Tanzania On A Bicycle!  As I had already been to see the health section, no further YF questions arose thank heavens and I was through.
More food, some Maheu and some bananas to go had me pedalling once again on an at first overcast morning.  Unlike Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia where there are numerous villages where food and often cold drinks along with well water can be found, Botswana and SA are more of a challenge. Farm and often game fencing makes any homestead unreachable.  Whereas there are villages scattered all over my routes through Tanzania, Malawi  and Zambia, there were hardly any which I noticed Botswana and in SA one can travel a long way with just a continuos fence for company and occasional locked gates. One such place on my second day through Botswana, I spotted an African with a hosepipe watering just 30m from the road but there was no way to reach him unless I climbed a barbed wire fence. About 1km further I came across a gate unlocked, so I entered and cycled back along a sand track. On enquiring, it turned out to be newly planted grass which was being watered via a tank not pumped from a nearby borehole, but using a pipe from a good distance away. I was able to cool off a bit, but had to crouch down very low as the pressure was little.
Shady trees are too good to bypass.  Banana snack and newly aquired icy water, with compliments of the game ranch folks and the Coca-Cola corp.

Then on my way from the SA border to Ellis Russ, I managed to enter the Matopi Lodge game farm where near its gate, I was able to replenish my water and give myself a good drenching, the only way to cool off. A kind African even swapped one of my warm 2 litre bottles with one from a very cold fridge. There, water is delivered in a wheeled tank, most likely towed by a tractor. I carry around 4.5 litres which on the whole has been adequate. Later I came across two Africans with a trailer full if water melons. A knife which they didn't have, I whipped from my pack and soon all three of us and others that came along gorged on this sweet beauty. Very large it was with plenty to go around and they insisted that I was not to pay for it perhaps after how thoroughly welcome this fruit appeared to the oddball cycle traveller.

This lady with my knife and very welcome gift of partaking in a large and very tasty thirst quenching water melon. I imagine that she had never seen a person consume so much of it in one go, yet still not finished, and shared around.

A whip around Ellis Russ when I finally made it there after a 120km slog made it one of the longer daily rides of this journey, revealed the increased cost of accommodation here in SA.  Best quotes were R200 for room some 12km before town and at least double that or significantly more anywhere in town.  Decided to wash at a garage, top up the water and a have a KFC dinner, the only establishment offering some salad with meals after which it was getting on for 9pm.  I had earlier spotted an open grassy expanse which were the grounds to the local NGK church. Quickly pitched my tent and was dozing in no time. Another white guy from Vereeniging introduced himself as another traveller by bus and spent the night under one building's porch 20m away.
Finally some rain before I arose in the morning.  The porch guy was on the lookout for welding or other construction work at a new power station being built. He and I had a good buffet breakfast together in a nearby hotel. I paid for us both as he was also hungry and the nights accommodation had been free.
I set off once again for the 130km slog to Thabazimbi. 20km into my journey,  a pick up  pulled over to handle a call which was once again, too much temptation. On announcing that he was heading to Jhb, my planned route via Ruatenburg quickly evaporated and approximately two hours later I was on the N14 juntion N1 leading towards Krugersdorp and the farm in Magalies. Another lift my same method saw me to Krugersdorp happily as there was a very strong headwind to struggle against. I rode out of Krugersdorp another 15kms and then managed to get a final lift ti Magalies town where I bought some food in the new supermarket then cycles the last 8km in the darkened starry, moonlit night. My Tennant Daan and his dogs where very surprised to see me. A long day, but a good distance covered , cutting my journey by at least 3 days.
Blue Gums, and Thorns obscuring half of the (in some parts) 100 year old farmhouse.

Daan on the farm.  Trotting after one of 20 unwilling Jersey's. They are not keen on being sprayed with the anti tick stuff.

Our farm Thula Nyoni. View from North West koppie Magaliesburg

Total mileage covered is approximately 3500 miles and I can only estimate the cycled miles to have been about 2000 of them altogether.  Its been a fine journey and an all round great experience. Thanks to the good people I have met along the way who have been interested, surprised, supportive, most friendly as well as hospitable. Many of them I will continue to be in touch and once this diary, I hope contains photos I have taken, I will provide a reminder and links to it again.
Thanks for your interest.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Mosi Oa Tunya
The smoke that thunders is the local name for Victoria falls. May have been a quote from Livingstone says vague memory.
No, I see that his quote was...
The most wonderful sight I had witnessed in Africa. No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes, but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight. This he wrote in 1857. 16 Nov.
So mosi... is the African name for the falls meaning the smoke that thunders.

Took a 10km ride down to the falls this morning. Got to the Royal Livingstone Hotel at around 0730hrs. Very posh but a lot younger than I expected. There was an original rest house along the river, but story is that travellers often stayed at Livingstone town to avoid the malaria. Still seem to be many in the town in the evenings.

There is a very pleasant foot/cycle/golf cart path through the trees where from the main road you can make your way through the shady trees past lavish looking apartments more like high class two storey homesteads. Baboons and monkeys galore, zebra and antelope share these grounds.  Folks were breakfasting on the terrace overlooking the tamed at   this time, Zambezi, while I took a dip in the pool, also above the river's edge and (after my complimentary coffee, fruit juice and pastries, organised by Kennedy one, the night manager) well large enough for a decent swim. Tame because it's level is low before the coming rains.

This makes for the ultimate playground for dipping in the rock  pools way above the sheer drop into gauge one, and the rafting going on in wild waters of the falls gauges below.  A rock pool swim I had to do after a buzz of a time in the rapids yesterday. If you walk to the falls views, charged at 20US or 5 kwacha for a cold drink the views are stunning, including the rain or moon bow day or night. Much clearer from the Zambian side, especially during high waters when the spray can obscure the views especially from the Zimbabwe which is how it was when Julie and I where there more than 15 years ago. Beyond the walkways on the upstream side, various pools can be reached and swum in. I met with Kennedy from stall 45 of the curio stores behind the falls entrance. He and I swam in two of the pools which are of crystal clear waters abundant of tiny and small fish. Fish eagles can be seen swooping about. A cormorant landed by me having just caught an unfortunate swimmer, promptly swallowed the same, then spread his wings for a quick dry. Dreams are made of this.
A Cormorant landed and promptly swallowed the fish then spread his wings to dry.

The white water rafting yesterday was a real treat. First time and a massive rush at times. All the rapids are navigable at this time, some being way challenging. They rated 1 to 6 with many at or near the high end. Major bouncing, drenching, gasping, swimming, both voluntarily  and not. The water is an ideal swimming temperature and often the only way to cool down on the 31km stretch of world class fun.

All 7 of us were tipped out of the capsized raft made from tough inflatable rubber, early on and a tumbling white water gasping swim followed rapidly. One has to turn to try and move downstream feet first, the reason being,  better to step onto a rock feet first rather the head first.
I noticed my watch was missing from my wrist straight away. Its one  I gifted to John, my late step father. When he died, I was able to keep it. Not hugely expensive, just emotional value on a good Citizen solar powered watch. Whilst clambering on again, I did'nt quite make it over the gunnels and back onto the raft before the next rush of water swallowed me once more but this time a good breath helped me to relax whilst whizzing and bouncing along as though in a giant washing machine. Having completed  mourning the loss of my watch whilst grabbing a lift from the passing raft, I was hauled back in and presented with same and brightened considerably.  Miracles do happen. The watch had some how  stayed aboard the capsized raft. Thank you Lord.
Rafting was really the most wonderful experience. Highly recommended, especially if you, like me love the water and to swim. Well swim as much as you can while locked into a well designed life vest and bumper helmet. Without the vest, the under water bits make go on way too long. Initially I spluttered a bit, but soon learned to take a good breath on the fast approaching rough stuff. Nose plugs are likely useful at times. All the rapids have names which describe them in a way, often suggesting a wild time and never disappointing. Devil this and Oblivion that, etc.
A good appetite is met with a generous picnic lunch with apples and cold fruit juice. Good footwear is a bonus, better than my socks when it came to clambering over the hot  black rocks, once for lunch and another time when we had to bypass one very wild and boiling suicidal section. Got to have been the most thrilling lifetime experience for me, and there have been a good few.

South Bank of Chobe River.  Just arrived in Botswana.  Namibia is on the opposite bank. Sat here and had a bottle of cider while I waited for the night bus for my journey to Francistown Bots.

6.30pm 24th Nov.
I'm sitting on what I thought was the Zambezi's south bank listening to snorting hippos. Turns out it was the south bank of the Chobe River which seperates Botwsana from the corner of Namibia leading to the Caprivi Strip.
So, first day in Botswana after having zipped it seems, through Zambia.
Had my trip's first cider for 20 Pula, a bit steep but lovely setting. Seems  folks use their own speed boats as well as the downstream ferry to cross the river.  Think its around 14 to the pound, so not dear by UK prices. Gather one can find pubs here where beers are half again at ten Pula. But without the view and manicured lawns.
Have decided to grab an overnight bus to Francis town and will then consider my options. Driver said that often Elephant and lion are seen in the headlights. Jolly hot earlier. Expecting some roasting rides and no rain to speak off yet. Just a few drops here and there, at times U have been praying for it above the sweltering tarmac. Early morning and night rides may well be called for. As long as the roads are good and quiet, riding at night can be most rewarding. Following my nose and the stars.
All for now.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Its 0355hrs Sat 22nd Nov.
Waiting for sunrise. Bumped into Garry yesterday morning at around 11am. He had ridden all the way to Lusaka as usual and had arrived the day before as had I. A small world, he was a passenger in a modern pickup which pulled up outside  a food store I was about to enter for a late breakfast. Guess he had been living it up with a friend he knows from Lusaka. A brief exchange and his comment that most likely he will catch me up again saw them drive off while I tucked into a samusa and  smoked chicken leg. He will have to be going some as time is rapidly flying by for my plan to be in Jhb by early December.
I am at some Pastor accommodation in a Catholic Church grounds at ..... Only cycled around 50km yesterday before managing to arrange a lorry lift from a fella who was waiting in a roadblock queue. An ideal place to ask about lifts while they are all stationary. So 200 km to go to reach Livingstone where nearby the border with Zambia. A real tourist playground with Vic falls, rapids, bungi jumps etc. Most likely spend one night and enquire about onward travel overland through Botswana. Its a bother being in a hurry but time and tide waits for nobody.
Had an email from my father in law yesterday, reminding me to be home before the 13th for Norfolk weekend away. Also still need to arrange mt return flight. Will try to do later today.
I pulled into a clinic yesterday to try and organise a yellow fever solution. Either I have to buy a cert, get a vac and cert, or get an allergy letter. The final hurdle is from Bot. to SA as I'm told the next border into Bot is no issue. I met a fellow traveller on the coach tother day who also has been travelling without a cert. He was asked to pay a bribe at his last crossing place, so I have been fortunate so far. The lorry driver who carried me yesterday mat be able to help. He has a cert. without having had the vaccine. Happy days. May have to di the same especially if the vaccine continues to be rare as rocking horse s..t as has been the case so far. I cannot help but conclude that the whole issue is an overstayed way of screwing money from tourists. There is much conflicting information about its need it not.
Its 4 minutes to 0430 hrs and my phone should bleep to wake me. I have arranged to join the same driver this morning before 5 for the final leg to Livingstone. Not looking forward to retrieving my bike from his very dirty trailer. He carries cement down and returns to Lusaka with coal. I looked like a chimney sweep after hauling my bike onto the trailer yesterday.
Now back in the lorry. Hope my bike is still on board. I heard from an English lady who works at Njara at Nkhata Bay where I stayed that the heavens have opened up and they are having a wet time. She asked if I had received their email regarding my outstanding bill. Did warn them that it may take sometime to sort it by PayPal. I replied to her email briefly yesterday, while someone had allowed me a quick ten minute access instead of 12hours for 50 kwacha which was no good for me.
Should reach Livingstone later this morning all going well. There Iceland will seek some accommodation hopefully with WiFi and also hope to find an internet cafe which may be better than trying to use my phone for booking my return flight. Also need to plan my onward journey so that I have a decent time in Jhb.  I may aim to go direct to the farm in Magalies as I may be approaching from the west via Gaborone unless I cross into SA earlier to the North into Groeblersburg I believe.
Have now arrived Livingstone. Very hot. May stay one night, then head for border 60 kms from here.

Friday, 21 November 2014

A Norwegian fella we met told me about a riverside camp called Croc Valley. But I'm next door at Tracks n Trails on the opposite side of the National Park.
More or less due north of Chipata. About 130 kms, its the first open camp I have been in. Elephants and hippo roam around the grounds. Earlier, I was confronted by a mother of a baby. She turned towards me and extended her trunk , a back off warning I didn't need. Earlier we were shining a bright torch at a , apparently, small hippo. Not sure I'd like to be close to a bigger one. Loads of monkeys and baboons about and some really beautiful antelope. No need to go into the park, its good enough right here.
Likely I will stay a couple of nights, then get my tail end over to Lusaka pronto. Time is getting short if I'm to reach Jhb by December beginning.
Last night I stayed with a family whose father is a retired civil servant and has continued on a 3 year contract as a district admin chief.  He had apparently been to visit, last weekend, the former long standing president Kaunda who is now in his 90s. Still going strong and quite independent I gather.
He and his wife invited me into there home along with cats, a dog and several mice in the bedroom I slept in having been piled high with bags of maize. Had some really good fish from lake Kariba last night and good breakfast offered this morning.
Frogs are croaking and baboons barking. Pretty wild here, glad my tent is at the top of a platform.
This didn't stop a cheeky ape nicking my leftover chips from last night. Caught a glimpse of the blighter as he pinched the sealed plastic bag with chips in a polystyrene box. Only evidence left below were bits of the box scattered about.
As it happens, I stayed just one night at the riverside camp. Joined 5 others including our knowledgeable driver and experienced spotter on an afternoon and evening game drive into the park. 75 US but glad I went. Not seem a leopard before till yesterday late afternoon. List seen is..
Giraffe, Elephant, Kudu, Hippo, a Croc, Impala, Water buck and other, shrews and larger spotted versions. A male lion who roared dramatically several times while in the spotlight. Eagles,Bats,Starlings, Ox peckers and others. Finally a chameleon which was plucked from a bush then returned after being held and photographed.
After the drive I was dropped of at a village restaurant where I had earlier arranged to leave my bike and bag. Then I had to dose a bit before joining this coach along some very bumpy so far, roads to Lusaka. It started out at 3am and its now after 8 and I have had some shut eye between the jerks. The journey will take at least 9 hours. Lusaka here I come. Glad not to cycling really as this road is very narrow, at many times gravel, and no hard shoulder. Seems all cyclists have to use the sandy edge. Hope Garry and Urs have got on ok. Bet Garry is past the Capital by now. He and Urs have more time and feel obliged to cover all by crank. Though Urs did say that he will find alternatives at appropriate times as opposed to Garry's purest intentions. Until today, I've estimated covering around 80 percent of my journey by bike, or around 1000 miles maybe a bit more. % is dropping today however with this, the longest hop so far. Oh well, spending more time lakeside in Malawi has been well worth it. Glad too for the brief detour to the Game reserve these last couple of days. A quick 100 dollar spend distorts the frugal budget all round, but that cost was relatively small compared to some game fees I have been aware of in other parks along the way. Okavango has always appealed but may be over the top this time. We'll see, it may also be too far off track with time ever shortening.
0830 21/11/14 ..Had a good night's sleep but suddenly well pissed off this morning. A juicy fat orange that I had saved for breakfast is now being enjoyed by a manky monkey. Little b..rt nicked it within the 30 seconds it took for me to leave it on the chair, reach into my tent to grab a knife with which to cut it.  Subsequent view of the little blighter still busy munching same confirmed this atrocity and a brief chase and frantic search for an appropriate monkey missile produced nada while it skipped nonchalantly with my orange out of reach into a thicket of trees. Manager here has organised a pot of coffee to offset my misery. Gaud give me a gun!
I am at the Eureka Camping Park about 10km south of Lusaka on the Livingstone rd. Really nice place apart from the idiots who leave stuff for the monkeys to pinch. There are also zebras I have seen but many others to find on walking trails around.  The camp is set back a good way from the road so only stars and wildlife apart from the pub music last night which didn't stop me going straight off. Yesterday my journey to Lusaka was a long one. I boarded a coach at 3 am and arrived at Lusaka bus station at around 3 pm. Last hour was most frustrating in heavy traffic where I could have cycled far quicker from earlier stops.
Today I'm gonna go and have some a late breakfast along the way somewhere after
trying to find a hotspot .

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Sambani Lodge.
 I am at the Sambani Lodge Chincheche which is about 50 to 60km I think from where I left in Nkhata Bay yesterday afternoon. I tried leaving at around 4pm and then carried on onto the darkness for about an hour or so, aiming for this place which was recommended to me by Garry, one of the lodge owners back at the bay.
There's a fine sandy beach here, the sand being courser in Nkhata. The days are streaming by so I have to keep on moving, and will leave around 2pm and hopefully find a lorry or bus that can carry me a good way before today's end.
The heat during the day is pretty intense so setting off late in the afternoon and then carrying on into the darkness is much cooler and drains less energy. Have missed an early morning start so pm the only option today. Best way would be up  early for 5am start then stop under a tree by the lake and move again from around 4pm. The roads here are really quiet and even more so after darkness. Its already dark here from about 6.30pm and happens quickly, the moon only following around 3 hours later at present. 
Went for a half moonlit walk along the beach last night. The sand here is white and powdery, really easier to walk on compared to the gravelly  but still pleasant sand back at Nkhata.
Little in the way of surf here, but will take a dip soon. My feet have been a bit swollen for the past few days. Seems yesterday's ride has sorted mostly. Might have been the sun on my normally shod feet. But since I ditched my shoes back in Mzuzu, I had been wearing sandals and using sun lotion on my lily white sensitive feet. Now they're looking a bit browner. One evening I got several mozzie bites and together with the sun and perhaps the antimalarials as well, swollen were my feet. I think walking a lot with flops also doesn't help.
So yesterday I set off with socks and recently acquired veldskoens. They're part worn, low cut, regular designed shoes with reasonable soles which will hopefully last out the rest if my journey. Short stints on the bike with sandals are ok, but the shoes are better in the long run. Feet much better today, but not yet fully sorted.
The new tyres I fitted in Mzuzu have proven good so far. Not sure how my pump will cope if I need some more air. Too afraid to try until I also have a local pump, as the valves here are a strange Indian design.
Seem that there is around 200km or 120 miles to go along the lakeside rd before reaching Nkotakota or some such named place where I will head inland in the border direction with Zambia, perhaps missing the capital Lilongwe. Money will soon become an issue, not sure when the next Standard bank atm will show up. I may have to bite the bullet and try to use a visa card and see if Barclaycard's over fussy security issues are going to cause grief. On previous occasions, a pre-recorded message has been delivered to my home phone asking me to let them know if I'm travelling. How one is meant to respond from abroad I'll never know. If they did their homework properly, then they'd know I purchased an airline ticket and might assume therefore that I am traveling. Such fun.
15/11/14 0900hrs
Am waiting for my phone to charge. Seems its not holding for some reason and its the only source of maps I have. Need to revert to good old paper. Tech is fine till it caputs.
Two nights ago, I reached Matiki Town where there is a sugar factory some 5kms from the centre. Standard Banks are few and far between so one had to take a detour to the sugar factory where the Bank is strategically,  for sugar employees, located.  Managed to leave my backpack with the staff at the petrol station where I had camped overnight. A very strong headwind made the bank detour a tough ride especially when I arrived to find that the Mastercard wouldn't bloody work anyway. These days the bank staff are powerless to advance cash over the counter from a card. So ended up using the Visa credit account which no doubt will cost an arm and a leg. The manager I spoke to said that he must enquire about the mastercard problem as someone else had an issue the day before. I suggested that it may have been to my advantage he had already made that enquiry the day before. He did not seem to appreciate this much, as typically, being in the African time zone, to hurry is alien.
The return journey was way more enjoyable with the following wind and a chat to fellow cyclist, a sugar worker. Hard work he said for the little money 40 000 kwacha per month. That equates to about £60 per month. Well above the average income which I gather is below Tanzania 's £13 per month.  Although I have not read about Malawi's per capita income, this figure is surely skewed by the demographics here where most of the population is below age 15. Tanzania seemed much busier with traffic always passing on the roads. Malawi on the other hand has many more bicycles and hardly any traffic on the roads, at least in the north. I'm told the south is busier.
My pitch at the garage turned out challenging. Ants seemed to stream in and the blighters were crawling all over me before long. Clambering out, I sat on a plastic chair before giving all my stuff a good shake and then climbed in my sleeping bag and wrapped around me,my Mosquito net for the first time. This held them back and the net needed plucking a great deal by morning.  Needless to say, there are many bites on and around my back now. No idea if they are from mozzies, ants or spiders.
Before my trip to the bank that morning, I decided to find a good breakfast. The posh Kasasa club was a few kms away and I enjoyed a good choice of, fruit, juices, coffee, toast, yoghurt, Spanish omelette, bacon, pork sausage, bran flakes, milk, plus a cup cake and apple to go.  At around £5, this was pure indulgence and the best breakfast so far on this journey.
Later, I began to enquire about a bus or other public transport for a well needed hop towards Zambia, ever concerned now about time and distance still to cover. So yesterday, I boarded a mini mini bus driven by a fella who is not a regular taxi, but was heading to Lilongwe from where I am typing now. Last night I stayed in a dorm at a Christian Theology College. Good night sleep, bit hot and mozzied at times, but better than the tent the night before.
Gather there is around 100kms to the Zambia border from here and I will set of soon on reasonably flat terrain I'm told with a following wind.
Have arrived at a lodge about 10km from the Zambian border.  Its been an eventful day. A fast pace ride , a pub lunch and bottle of KK beer. Well, no food at the pub but got a chicken rice and veg takeaway and joined some folks at the bar. An off duty GP and police sergeant made for good company.
Goats were a bother today, they are extraordinary animals with such a strong sense of purpose especially when crossing the roads, something they seem to do all the time. Car hooters do hurry then along, but I have not found any human utterance effective yet. One just has to assume they'll leap out in front of you every time. So a fast and at times swerving and swearing day.
At one village, I had to stop at a little store called Msungu Store.  Today like most others, the children begin to get very excited and shout Asungu Asungu as you cycle by. A white man riding a bicycle is surely a unique thing. Many also however shout Give me money. Why is my most common reply. Earlier this afternoon however, for the first time, I said F.Off. Not loudly but almost to myself in frustration. Think it was soon after swerving around a goat.
Good news is I've met up with Urs from Germany. We are on the same track, though he plans to spend some time with his girlfriend who will meet him in Namibia, then returning to his bike at Lusaka and continue on his journey to  Capetown. We had a beer and meal together this evening and chewed the cud. Apparently Gary from UK is in Zambia already.
Took some photos today, one of the old Merc Lorry I had a brief lift with. Brief because it was overheating the had a blowout. A big bang the pull over for the sixth time and off I got. Fella had loaded 15 tonnes on 10 tonne lorry.
The other was outside a pub where a cycle was parked with a rather annoyed looking chicken tied to the carrier, while the abductor played pool inside. What fate behold that unsuspecting bird  it wondered. There have been goats galore and even large pigs joy riding on the back of bikes, but always passing so the chicken was first to be recorded. I will try to download some pics when I get on a laptop sometime.
Looks like I'll be saying goodbye to Malawi tomorrow. Big M has certainly been the limelight of my journey so far. Little really, but a Big  deal for me.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Good northerly breeze up this morning. Hope its the same tomorrow for my onward journey down the coastal rd which I gather has several resorts scattered about.
Been for a walk into town this morning and had some lunch in a canteen next to the fruit and veg market. 70p bought me a generous bowl of rice with beef and veg. Cold water included.
Then a local bottled cold drink  and a SA Granny Smith apple together costing the same again.
Also been on the hunt for some shoes and tried on some strong suade leather part worn ones I have asked to be set aside. At about £7 they seem dear or at least as much as they'd be in the UK. May bite the bullet and get them as cycling with sandals all the time is hard on the feet.
This afternoon, I have been whiling the time away with Kelvin who runs the One Love Cafe. I have been the only customer so he and I have just been chatting and putting the world to right.
There are some lovely little colorful birds fluttering around the trees which frame this lovely view. Been trying to photograph them but its really tricky getting autofocus to work well with a long zoom.
Well, I don't have a particular destination in mind tomorrow, preferring to stop wherever I choose to finish the days ride.  There is a certain advantage to having the mobile home that is my tent,  some of the nicest places I have stayed so far, have been camping often in very small hamlets. So its south I will go and at some point begin heading inland towards Lilongwe.
Kelvin has offered to grill some butter fish which I've not had yet so without much persuasion, it looks like the off will be the day after tomorrow. The bay here is a very good place to be, so tough leaving it behind.
Its night now at 1930hrs , darkness comes quite suddenly, the days similar to the nights in length. There is variation between the seasons here with days being about  2 hours shorter in the winter.
The ferry has been here today heading east and south to the islands and southern parts. NZ Ian has boarded it for pastures new I gather. Decided not to go myself thinking that anywhere along the lake will do just fine. I'm told Loikoma is good to visit. Hopeful next time.
Back at Njaya , poole, quiet music a toasted sandwich and a tall beer. The lake is all a twinkle with fishing lights that are then rudely interrupted by the rising, red at fist, now yellow moon, competing with the fisherman's pricks of light. The moon instead is casting a ghostly, yellow, shimmering glow across the lake. Really cool here and warm at the same time.
Been up early this morning from around 6. Each day there are more ants cruising around in my tent. They're little ones who seem to mind their own business and not bite or bother humans. Well me at least. When I first pitched the tent almost, it must be, a week ago now, they poured some ant deterrent powder around. Better to just let them go about their business I think. Not sure what business but likely involves perspiration or other moisture I guess. Other than nuts, no food and they're not interested in peanuts.
Breeze again from the north this morning. Gary emailed to say that he may take a road avoiding Lilongwe, I had noticed a route inland to the north. He and I are on the same route so hope to catch up with him again in Zambia maybe. That's if I ever leave the lake here. Twill be with reluctance.
My regular breakfast of 3, on the menu 2 toast and coffee.  On my first morning I asked if the bread was cut nice and thick? Turned out already sliced so un that case I said, better have 3. May have set a precedent but suspect applies only to me.
Gonna download this now and tuck in.
S. 11/11/14 0820hrs