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Day 35 – Chipata to Namitete (Malawi)

I love days when I am crossing a border! There is a thrill about it that few can imagine. I am taking myself over another country on a bicycle! And that was how I was really inspired to take on this long but exciting new experience. In truth, I was a bit tired of Zambia and the long stretch that it entailed.

I left Chipata at about 9am and was soon at the border. The pace is slow and the immigration and customs officials are bureaucratic but lethargic, which is a poor combination. At about 12 noon, I made it across both border posts and headed to Mchinji, which is a town about 19 km from the border.

On the far side of Mchinji I stopped at Kayesa Lodge and thought a quiet bite before heading out to Namitete would be worthwhile. At Kayesa I met Jimmy Chiozo and Laila (his Spanish, hippie, dreadlocked, musician and girlfriend)! They were delightful and before long I realised that it was 3.30 pm and I had to rush to Namitete, which was still a full 70 km to go!

By the time I got to Namitete it was dark and the police were not as accommodating as the white bicycle tourists had suggested. This is to be expected as there are double standards in most African countries when it comes to other Africans. However, one man stood out and I will do a separate write up about him and his family.

Sergeant Joseph Dodoma, was genuinely concerned and offered to accompany me to the Police Station as he felt it would not be safe for me to go there in the dark and alone. The Commander was not as concerned and didn’t want me to camp in the compound, which is what they did and do for white tourists!

Sgt. Dodoma was clearly appalled and offered to accommodate me at his house. I accepted, knowing somehow that he was a man sent to me to take care and protect me in one way or another.

He, Sgt. Dodoma, is a young man of 28 with a wife, Jessica, and a child of 2 years, Julia. He lives with his sister-in-law and nephew and takes care of them. His meagre earnings of MKW 12,500 per month (approximately R750) keeps a family of five fed, clothed and housed!

Jessica used to work for an agricultural company called Farmers World for MKW 5,000 per month (about R250) and now tries to manage a small landholding that they have with a crop of maize. This supplementary income ensures that they survive adequately and what I experienced was generosity beyond their means and with an African pride that I will treasure forever.

Day 36 – Namitete to Lilongwe

Namitete is not that far from Lilongwe and I quickly negotiated the 50 km into the capital city. Finally, I was at my resting place and knew that for at least three days I was going to be able to recover my now exhausted body and get back to my peak.

Thank you to Stanbic Malawi, who sponsored my night at the Cresta Lilongwe. Margaret Kubwalo of Stanbic Malawi was an efficient provider and I am thankful for this gracious offer of accommodation.

Day 37 – Lilongwe (Rest day)

Grace Meadows had arranged an accommodation sponsor (Sunbird Capital Hotel – part of the Sunbird Resorts) for my stay in Lilongwe and being a day early they were fully booked but still managed to squeeze me in.

Irene, the guest relations manager and a former Miss Malawi from the late 80’s, was as gracious as ever and my every need was seen to by her staff and team, namely James and Ambrocious!

Lilongwe is a strange place and is not as developed as one would expect, but nonetheless I cycled around and found that it was actually quite dispersed except for the old town and the city centre, which are both relatively near to each other. Food and nightlife are not in abundance, and do not expect to be entertained by the few places of interest that do exist.

Day 38 – Lilongwe (Rest day)

I had every intention of using this day to punch in this travelogue and when I finally got to the hotel business center; the virus scan on the hotel PC deleted the application that allowed my flash drive to operate. After hours and hours of trying to retrieve all of this data, I was at a loss and my entire day was wasted by inefficient IT management. Frustrated as ever, I went to bed in a sulk, hoping that all my hard work could be restored one day!

Day 39 – Lilongwe (Rest day)

My media day! Again, Grace had put together a fabulous line-up - TV, radio, and print! OK, so where were they? Nowhere to be found, I am afraid! Little did we know that there was a political type coup underway in parliament with a potential vote of no confidence in the President! I mean really now, wasn’t I bigger news than the president being removed from his position of power? Maybe not, but I hope we can get close!

We did get a free meal at Nando’s Lilongwe and thanks to Zahir Shaikh, the owner, who provided us with a free lunch.

Day 40 – Lilongwe (Rest day)

Let’s try this again. In order to accommodate the media, I postponed my departure by another day. This time round we hit all the TV, radio and print media.

A little bit about Malawi…

Malawi is also a landlocked country that has an enormous lake, Lake Malawi, on the eastern side bordering Mocambique. This great lake, as it is known, spans about 500 km to 600 km long and it is about 50 km wide in certain places!

It is a means for transport, tourism and trade. Trade is in terms of fishing and with neighbour Mocambique. If you are able to handle the poverty and the lack of amenities, Malawi is a wonderful getaway that embodies African simplicity. But be warned, it cannot provide you with first world comforts but is fairly cost-effective and the people are warm and friendly!

I would suggest a trip to Malawi anyday and if you are an adventurer there are numerous places to see and it is filled to the brim with wildlife and water activities such as diving, fishing and a cruise on a ferry.

Day 41 – Lilongwe to Salima

I thought I was going to camp tonight and found myself in some nasty weather from the outset. Having left really late in the day (2pm) I only had about 4 hours of sunlight and didn’t expect to get far.

But after about 70 km, when I was about 50 km from Salima, the police at a checkpoint suggested “it is all downhill from here!” I took their advice and tried to push the last 50 km but before long - and still about 25 km from Salima - someone switched the lights off.

It was pitch black and I had to navigate with bike lights, which are not ideal. About 10 km from Salima an ambulance stopped and asked me where I was heading. They persuaded me to get in as town was not too far away but since they couldn’t see any lights they suspected a power failure. About 5 minutes later we cruised into Salima and as expected there wasn’t a light in sight!

I would have been at a loss but somehow someone always comes through to save me at the last minute.

Day 42 – Salima to Chipoka

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