Category Archives: Mozambique

The Decay of Normal: Adventures through Mozambique & Zimbabwe

A Fifteen Minute Readimage

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” ~ Robert Frost, Poet

When the first light kisses the misty dawn I shift like a waking baby. My internal metre begins to tick. I flip my hood down and shake off the pieces of the night. Rolling on my side I check the time. The same as always. I rise with the sun and burn with the heat it brings. Peanut butter on dry bread and a slug of water that tastes of old taps. The parts go back to their places. The puzzle melds back into 4 bag shapes and a cylinder. My tent, my home. Unzipping my window to the world I feel the first cool respite of the day. Spitting my toothpaste and giving my face a wipe, I set off again. Another day that promises nothing but new. The world changes slowly for me, but provides solace in the slow brew that bubbles before me. The result is anything but disappointing. Each place offers up a different flavour. It is up to all of us to order it the right way. See it the right way. Let it invade your senses. Let it poison you with the glorious magic it holds. Feel the earth, soak in the sun and slight of the wind. We are the fabrications and combinations our favourite dreams. Trace the light home.

Crossing into Mozambique was a downhill of new proportions. The landscape was different and so was the demeanor of the people. A friendly welcome or wave followed my passing along the relatively quite roads. Obscure Mozambique with distinct homes, beautiful mountains and a wind that followed me. It blew like a dragon as I lost altitude towards Tete. The capital of the western region promised to show itself soon. At times this region is known to be a bit rebellious, but I never witnessed anything but good people.

In a small town I repaired my creaking bicycle. Two more broken spokes and a hammer to the rear axel. Cringing in desperation, I watch as my bike was put to pieces once again by a mildly intoxicated man. Off towards dusty Tete while I sipped cool Litchi soda from random coolers on the road. I loved the local vigor and salesmanship. These guys made a tough job interesting and fun. Sorry, I don’t need a red bull at 8am, but I appreciate your enthusiasm.

“Go to Mozambique! As long as you don’t expect to find flawless infrastructure, just go. Because this is a country where people have not quite grown accustomed to tourists. You still feel a genuineness that no longer exists in countries where tourism has been industrially developed.” ~ Henning Mankell, Writer

From Tete I made my way back up slow mountain climbs. The road I was on slowly stalked higher on route to Zimbabwe. Beautiful villages punctuated the landscape with Baobob trees splayed along the road. It was quite hot and isolated distances made me feel very small. Spending the first night camping with a local family was humbling as we shared a pack of cookies and laughed at my pasta dinner.

I reached Zimbabwe on my fourth day through Mozambique. I only had a transit visa so moving those pedals to the Zimbabwe border was very important. Crossing into new territory once again I grabbed a bit of food and put my dormant American dollars into an accessible location. Zimbabwe was one of the places I had read a great deal about. The fall of the African bread basket is no secret and if you talk to locals it almost came overnight. Inflation into the billions and general panic. I’m not going to get into specifics of Zimbabwe history, but if you want to read more CLICK HERE. People were displaced, lives changed forever and an economy that was once quite strong, crumbled to nothing. Even to this day they hang upon infrastructure of a different day and that moment in the sunshine. Things are changing with the influx of American dollars and investment, but it is a long hard climb.

On route towards Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, I gawked at amazing rock formations and sped along with long metre long grass on both sides. The images you have in your mind of Africa, well this is it. Baobob trees, golden tall wild grasses and burning miraculous sunsets. The best sunsets I have been witness to in Africa and quite possibly ever, have been during those Zimbabwe days. Each day I rode into the dark. The sun set at 5:30 which made for long days on the bike into order to make ground during those African winter days. The sun seemed to plummet below the horizon as I pushed on during the last moments of daylight.

One night I found myself stuck in the pitch black looking for somewhere to sleep. Pulling into a local home after a tiring day I asked for a place to camp. The man welcomed me warmly but said he was unable to host me and I must stay with the chief as dictated by local law. Tired and dirty I agreed. We walked through back bush roads and up a steep hill. I was sent from house to house like a dirty torch. At one point it looked a bit bleak but I was not worried and mainly exhausted as we tramped around the one track trails. Looking up at the moon I felt that this situation was way too normal for me. A search through back country in the dark for a safe patch of ground to pass the evening. My typical is slowly decaying into obscurity I thought.

A few days ride brought me into Harare and a well deserved day off. On route I saw people going shopping with wheelbarrows and entertaining mini bus decoration with names like ‘Hot Stuff’, ‘Falcon’ or ‘Shady’. Yes, there is nothing more I would love than taking a ride in a sardine stuffed van labelled ‘Shady’. I arrived with a wonderful host named Keith. He did a bang up job of pointing me towards a proper bike shop where I had my rear wheel rebuilt. We ate as much food as I could handle and the guy even offered up his own bed. We chatted of cycling adventures and of Zimbabwe. I had my first taste of Biltong, which you can read about HERE. It can be related to a style of beef jerky taken very seriously in hese parts. As African capitals go, I found Harare very quiet to cycle into. Upon asking about this phenomenon, I found people simple didn’t have the money to put gas in their cars. Life can be tough in Zimbabwe at times.

“The economic and social decline of Zimbabwe is shocking and appalling. Life there is unrecognisable from that of the recent past. Each day is a struggle for basic survival.” ~ Lucy Powell, British Politician

I bid farewell to yet another awesome host and rolled downhill out of Harare. The road was recently resurfaced and I smiled on long hills in the shining sun. Even with a late start I had a mildly Olympic day and pushed on quite far. At sunset I was taking a picture when a man pulled up in his truck and asked me if I wanted a place to stay. I jumped at the chance and not long after I was at another family home, sharing stories and eating steak. My goodness. The kindness of some people cannot be accurately described. This family was even in the midst of moving their home I later found out as we unloaded a very heavy stove from the back of a truck. They still had the time to host me, ask questions and poke fun at my extremely sun burnt nose. For the first while they called me Rudolph, to my dismay.

In the morning I hitched a ride with their son up the road after they insisted I stay for breakfast. Hard to refuse. The following night I slept at a lion park. I nearly gave myself a scare as I rolled in at sunset to the sounds of lions in the distance. I stopped to ask a car if it was safe to be on the road but they blew by me in a cloud of dust. Turns out the danger was only small and I camped behind a huge fence in the park. After complementary coffee, an apple and a nice conversation with an elderly man in the morning I was off on my way to Bulawayo. I floated along windy roads towards Botswana.

“Having travelled to some 20 African countries, I find myself, like so many other visitors to Africa before me, intoxicated with the continent. And I am not referring to the animals, as much as I have been enthralled by them during safaris in Kenya, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. Rather, I am referring to the African peoples.” ~ Dennis Prager, Radio Host

The night before I arrived in Botswana I camped at one of the oldest schools in Zimbabwe with a beautiful church in a place called Plum Tree. I had a prime tour from the gym teacher on his summer holiday. The school began long ago with only a few boys. In the centre of the college sized campus are reconstructions of the original classroom huts. The gym teacher had overheard my conversation with a surly women at the only local guesthouse in Plum Tree. She was asking far too much for a bug infested room with no water or electricity. He took me off her hands as we talked pleasantly about the history of the school. When we arrived he introduced me to his three sons and wife who lived with him at the school. A peaceful evening and a lucky last day in Zimbabwe. Botswana waited ten kilometres down the road.

“A face is a road map of someone’s life. Without any need to amplify that or draw attention to it, there’s a great deal that’s communicated about who this person is and what their life experiences have been.” ~ Chuck Close, Photographer
As I navigate around the world, I pour over my maps. Places are never as how I imagine them in my minds eye before I arrive. I turn those pinpoints on maps into faces, friends, photos and memories.  Throughout my journey I have always said that it has never been about getting to a particular place, but about the people and moments in-between. Those lives that intersect for minutes, hours and days. We are brought together by the road. Now these places are more than just nameless voices on a map. They have image, shape, colour and life. We are all connected by the roads that lead us home. Pieces of our everyday normal connect us. They weave the web that keeps us all together. By focusing on our inner drive we can achieve what we are all looking for. However, we cannot do it alone. Dreams are not solitary. We are a social beings and our hopes sometimes need a helping hand. These dreams will only remain figments until we are stubborn enough to act. Chase that golden sun home.

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*We are less than $2,000 away from achieving our goal for the schoolhouse in Esinoni, Kenya. Together we can make dreams of a safe education a reality. CLICK HERE TO DONATE.

**At the moment my mother (Dorothy) is in the process of giving presentations about my ride at home in Canada. The presentation focuses on motivating people to follow their dreams, explore the world and educates about the power of social energy. Highlights also include updates and information on my charity with Free the Children and how you can become involved in giving children the opportunity to have a safe education. If you are a school or organization and would like to arrange a presentation in your area please contact myself at markquattrocchi@hotmail.com or message Dorothy directly at quattrocchidorothy@gmail.com.

***I’ve now made it to Buenos Aires after finishing the long road through Africa in Cape Town. It was beautiful, difficult, heartbreaking and inspiring all in one. Updates and thoughts on my final days through Africa to come from Botswana, SounAfrica and Lesotho. I look forward to this new leg of my journey. It is always tough to get started again. A new continent, new language and people. But, I ride on with enthusiasm for all that lays ahead if me. Check for updates on Instagram and watch my route unfold. Thank you for all the support!

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These Moments: Down Lake Malawi

A twelve minute readimage

“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.

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*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!

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