These Moments: Down Lake Malawi
“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” ~ Tim Cahill, Travel Writer
We live in a beautiful world. In our daily experience we are only seeing a piece of the magic it has to offer. It is but a slice of the pie. If one were to travel forever it would only be to soak in the faintest image of daily life. Seasons and times change. Places degrade in their authenticity and never seem as wonderful as they once were. We are but players in the ever-changing reality that is our planet. The world is a magical place because of that very fact. Things are only the way they are once and we are only ourselves in that moment. Years later we are different people with alternative preferences, ideals and goals. We change in the way we see others, our world and most importantly ourselves. Looking back on those nostalgic moments it is important not to forget how the present space only happens once and we are only going to have that chance right then. We have this one moment. Don’t waste it.
I awoke on the Tanzanian side of the border and my tire had gone flat in the night. On the downhill towards Malawi I had repaired two spokes the day before. I now had two more broken spokes and a flat tire to take the wind out of my sails right from the beginning. However, I wasn’t going to let it dampen my spirits, for I had a new country to attend to, Malawi.
“I went to sleep dreaming of Malawi, and all the things made possible when your dreams are powered by your heart.” ~ William Kamkwamba, Malawi Author
I quickly found a shop on the Tanzania side, spent the last of my money by fixing the spokes and bought an extra tube. My tubes were starting to look like the dreadful patchwork I was once used to. By mid-morning, I was off on my own in Malawi. The terrain was flat for the first time in months and I sped along quickly. After a few miles I caught up to a group of retired Germans and their Rastafarian guide. They were cycling from Kilimanjaro to Victoria Falls. I chatted as we rolled to the first town. During our search to find a cheap guesthouse we were separated when I went to the bank to get some Malawi Kwachas and find some food for dinner. I curled up under my mosquito net with the power cut for most of the evening.
The following morning I started very early, due to the time change between Malawi and Tanzania. I made good ground and camped near the beach of the beautiful Lake Malawi. It is one of the largest lakes in the world and home to the most diverse selection of freshwater species. Beautiful, peaceful and pure. I eventually climbed up into the mountains, where the temperature was significantly cooler, especially in the morning. I camped out at a hostel in Mzuzu for the night. The next morning I was off after a ridiculous incident involving myself, the owner of the hostel and a toaster. Needless to say I ended up eating my stale bread on the side of the road.
All was soon forgotten with a long downhill that took me through the morning all the way to Nhkata Bay. I took a long overdue day off and relaxed by the water. Days off when you’ve been going for many in a row are usually not that relaxing, but filled with annoying little chores like ever dirty clothes, getting plenty to eat and catching up on a long list of e-mails. I do set aside time to enjoy myself a bit, take a few pictures and in this case float around in the complementary kayak the hostel had to offer. Beautiful waters and a clear sky.
After a rest I shoved off early and put in a very long day through a wavy landscape and strengthening headwind. In Malawi, there was always a wind from the south. Sometimes faint and others soul crushing. I pulled in late to a campsite near the lake to spot a familiar tandem cycle. It would seem I had met up with my old friends David and Steve once again. They had taken a train through a section of Tanzania, but I had caught them here. We were headed the same direction and rode together through a very windy road the following day. We had ‘eggy bread’ (French toast) for breakfast and it kept us going most of the day. At one point we all had a stock of very chewy maize to chomp on as we pushed along. I felt like a local as I grinded through the tough barbecued corn while riding. Finding a cheap guesthouse we collapsed for the night. Still hungry after dinner, Steve and I went out exploring for a bit of fried chips. While searching we found barbecued mice with the fur still intact, tails and teeth. I settled on some spicy chips at a different stand.
“Gold is a debt we can repay, but kindness not till our dying day.” ~ Malawian Proverb
Eventually, I would say goodbye to my friends from England after a final dinner at their wonderful friends house Emmanuel in Malawi. The father and son rode from Mombasa, Kenya to a small town near Lilongwe on tandem. I was proud to share the last day of their journey with them. We are all players and actors in the stories we take home with us. For the people we tell about our journeys they are only names and photos. For us on the road they are our brothers, the people we camped next to, battled winds with and shared a bit of food. This is what we will remember.
The next morning Emmanuel offered a lift to the capital and it was hard to refuse considering a full day uphill ahead. In Lilongwe I quickly procured a Mozambique transit visa and was off climbing up again towards the Mozambique border of Dedza. It was a full day as I rolled into a hilltop campsite. I camped out back of a guesthouse that was way too nice for me. I walked inside to charge my annoying and always dead gadgets. While I waited I listened to the next table joke about Hyenas in the area. Funny stuff for them sleeping safe in their beds. That night I had a terrible dream about Hyenas outside my tent. When I woke to pack my tent in the morning my bike had clumps of fur all caught in the chain and bolts. Was I dreaming? Was it just some stray dogs? Or were there really Hyenas outside my tent? I’ll never know.
The following morning I turned a curve and dropped down into Mozambique. As I caught the downhill I’d been dreaming for days I had time to reflect on Malawi. Rolling on I thought about the peculiar and endearing moments I was witness to amid the bouts of solidarity. Daily dinners on my own with the same old pasta I’ve been making since Sudan. The peaceful nature of Malawian people. A bicycle nation. The general poverty and heartbreak of the developing world. Begging of children on the side of the road, but in a sort of playful manner as opposed to Ethiopia. A nice conversation with a man at a local stand. Litchi soda. Kachumbani salad or ‘relish’ (see receipe HERE). And of course, bicycle taxis.
Who could forget the bicycle taxis? Malawi is among the top ten poorest countries in the world. Due to the recently withdrawal of foreign aid from western countries, because of governmental corruption, it has sunk even lower. 42% of their yearly budget came from foreign aid. Mind-boggling when you think about it and the subsequent implications for an already struggling people. This of course hurts the poorest of the poor much more than those who already lined their pockets. Which returns me to the bicycle taxi. When people cannot afford cars or motorbikes to get around, the bicycle taxi is the next best thing. Nothing as fancy as the Indian rickshaw, but simply a bike with an extra seat on the back. Some are decorated nicely and others are a simple work horse. They wait in queues in small towns for passengers to climb aboard. On one occasion, I recall following one of these taxis with a women and her baby on the back. The baby starred at me for miles strapped to the mother. All I could see was his face with his body stuffed into a bright cloth. He starred at me and I starred right back. It was mesmerizing.
“Don’t think there are no crocodiles just because the water’s calm.” ~ Malawian Proverb
From the border my bike rolled on with Malawi at my back. Across another imaginary line into a new world. I felt the same old feeling of those first strides into new territory and the excitement that goes with it. The feeling of starting a new job, seeing an old friend again, Christmas morning and a long weekend. The knowledge that anything is possible. The canvas is blank and we are the painter. Savoring these first moments is one of my favorite parts of the ride. I’m fortunate, I know, to have this opportunity. This piece in time where it is just me, my bike, 4 bags and a tent. The open mountains beckoned me forward and the wind gave me a welcome burst to let me know it was still there. I pushed onwards not knowing where I’d lay my head that night, then cracked a smile knowing it would be just fine.
*Thank you to all the recent donations to my charity with Free the Children. Because of your contributions we are now less than $2,000 away from meeting our goal for the schoolhouse in Esinoni, Kenya. I would like to specifically thank my friend Linda for her amazing and most recent contribution, it all blows me away. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.
**This week on Thursday is WeDay Toronto. A grand gathering of youth using their power and voices to help other youth. To learn more about WeDay CLICK HERE.
***The stories I share, the people I mention and pictures I post are only just slices of a bigger idea. When I write down my thoughts it is a constant struggle to choose the moments. There are endless pages in my notebook of kind people and amazing sights. I hope I’m able to share it all one day. Pictures that go on for days and memories to last a lifetime. Piece-by-piece. Thanks for following!
Posted on September 30, 2015, in Adventure, Around the World, Charity, Cycling, Food, Free the Children, Inspiration, Malawi, Motivation, Mozambique, Thoughts, Travel and tagged Adventure, Amazing, Around the World, Awesome, Beautiful, Biking, boats, Challenge, change, Charity, Cycle Touring, Cycling, Dreams, Excitement, Exciting, Explore, fear, Food, Free the Children, Freedom, friends, fun, Fundraising, Goals, Inspiration, Kindness, Lake Malawi, Life, Lilongwe, Malawi, Malawian, MetoWe, motivation, Mountains, Mozambique, nature, Oneadventureplease, Peace, People, places, Powerful, tandem, The Road, Thoughts, Travel, Travel Photos, travelogue, Travelpics, We, WeDay, wind. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.