Monday, 16 May 2011

Mozambique and Malawi

Crossing the border from Zimbabwe to Mozambique was fairly painless. It cost $27 for a Moz. Visa and $20 for bike insurance. A little steep perhaps as we were only going to be in the country for 24 hours. Nevermind, they need to money and I'm not responsible enough to do anything sensible with it. 

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Mozambique – the only country with a gun on its flag (I think)

The scenery changed subtlety but noticeably as we moved down from the 1400m plateau that is Zimbabwe into the hot valley of the Tete corridor. The deforestation that was Zimbabwe was replaced by thicker foliage and different types of trees. The Boab tree which we had last seen on the Namibian/Botswanan border returned. And the people had changed. Mozambique people are taller, darker and the woman have longer hair than their Zimbabwe neighbours.

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Mozambique

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I just stopped at a random village to take this picture. I guess they’ve never seen a motorbike stop here before. After stopping to take this photo I thought the two boys in the picture deserved something so I held out two pencils. They looked almost frightened. Some weird alien on a space ship holding out two yellow sticks. I put the pencils down on the path and got back on my bike. One of the boys ran up to the path and grabbed the pencils. I wondered why he did it so quickly only to look around and see a dozen other boys on the opposite side of the road. I wondered what they said when they got home.

There were two firsts as well in Mozambique. Pigs and motorbikes. I hadn't seen any domestic pigs yet in Africa and quite frankly I've been quite surprised. But Mozambique resolved that issue. Equally we hadn't really seem any little motorbikes and as soon as we crossed into Mozambique we started seeing a few. Hardly life changing experiences but I'm just telling you what I've noticed.

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Trying to find the campground in Tete

We spent the night in a cheap little camp ground ($5) in Tete on the Zambezie river. We'd dropped to 200m above sea level and it was now hot and humid by day and the mozzies were out at night.

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Bridge over River Zambezi

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Next morning we crossed into Malawi. Leaving Mozambique was easy but entering Malawi was a bit of a hassle. We had to get insurance and needed to work out whether the guy selling it to us was genuine or not. Same with changing money. Four of us changed money at 160 to the $. (A few days ago it has been 150 on the internet) Then Tom came along and said he'd got 185! Such is life. We all paid $25 for insurance which is supposed to be good for Tanzania and Kenya – we'll see.

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At the border I got my money changer to put my Malawi sticker on the bike.

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Admiring his handy work.

It’s as about 80 miles to Blantyre, our destination for that day. On the way both Tom and Daryll got stopped by the (same) traffic police. Speeding fines. Daryll was doing 56kph in a 50 zone. Fine - $30. Serves him right for laughing at my $5 fine in Zimbabwe.

After Blantyre we headed for Monkey bay on Lake Malawi. The “quadsquad” had told us of a ferry that plies the route up the lake and we thought it might be an interesting alternative to riding (especially as petrol in Malawi is the most expensive I've found anywhere at just under $2 a litre). Once we got there and checked out the details Tom, Pat and Chris booked themselves in for the trip up the lake. Daryll and Ange decided they didn't want to take the ferry at all and would stay in Cape Maclear for a few days and I thought I'd take the ferry (which was leaving the next day) but wanted to see Cape Maclear so went off with D and A and the others stayed in Monkey bay where the ferry left from (are you keeping up?)

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On the way to Monkey Bay

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These guys were looking at the map.

The road from Monkey Bay to Cape Maclear was longer and bumpier than I had anticipated and some of the worst washboard I've ever experienced. Once settled into Fat Monkeys Lodge and Campground on the beautiful Lake Malawi where the beer was $1.50 and the camping £3 a night I just knew I wasn't going to get up and leave the following day. Luckily I had said a brief farewell to Pat, Chris and Tom, just in case, but I did feel a little bad about leaving them so quickly and unceremoniously. We'd spent a month together, 24/7 and quite an intense month at that. It's unlikely I'll catch up with them again and it would have been nice to have said goodbye properly. If you're reading this – sorry guys, it was great travelling with you and I hope we meet again on the road somewhere, sometime (as Grant says)

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Trying to find Fat Monkey’s we accidentally rode though a local village.

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Daryll, Ange and I spent a lovely two days at Fat Monkeys. Sitting by the water, reading, sunbathing and chatting to people. I would have swam but the water is bilharzia infested and it isn't advised. I was even tempted to go scuba diving but they suggest you get some medicine afterwards. I decided not to bother.

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Lamps used to catch fish

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Not difficult to understand why people come here

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Camping at Fat Monkeys

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In the morning Daryll had to clean the bat poo off his tent.

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Sunset on Lake Malawi

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So far I have been impressed with Malawi. It’s often described as “Africa for beginners” and I can see why. The people are very friendly, the lake wonderful and there are lots of places to just stop off and relax. Having said that Malawi is quire densely populated (there are 13 million people and it’s a small country) and we are having to share the road with lots of people either walking or on bicycles. There are very few cars or trucks so far. It’s hardly rush hour on the M25 but compared to everywhere else (except South Africa) it’s quite busy. And this means we’re not covering as many miles as before. (Especially as there are regular speed limits of 50 kmp – that’s 30 mph!). The last two days it’s taking us about 5 hours to cover 175 miles. And then it’s too hot to continue. Lucky we’re not in a rush.

 

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Leaving Fat Monkeys (on the right road this time)

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After sand this is my least favourite thing – washboard.

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What must they think of us?

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Heading up Malawi, not much traffic and the road is in excellent condition. We just got a little excited about this bridge (reminded me of Panama/Cost Rica) and Daryll made me cross it twice for a photo.

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Our campsite somewhere on Lake Malawi. It’s so blue and big it feels like the sea.

The three of us are wending our way up the lake, taking several days to do so. Slowly heading for Tanzania. I’m publishing this blog on Monday and we’re in Nkhata Bay just over half way up the Lake. I'm starting to get a definite feel that thedomwayround is coming to an end. Malawi is the last new country for me (I've been to Tanzania and Kenya before) and from here it's only 2000 miles and maybe three weeks to Nairobi. (I'm just preparing you for the end of my blog). I can hardly believe it's actually going to have to end. Daryll and Ange are going on to Ethiopia/Sudan/Egypt and part of me wants to go too, but I know I can't. My carnet states that's it's not valid for Egypt and anyway I've been to Ethiopia and Egypt before so it's only really Sudan (or is that THE Sudan) I'm missing out on. At this stage I imagine that I'll be in Nairobi and ready to fly home in early June. I'm planning on going to the Horizons Unlimited (Motorbike website) meeting in Derby at the end of June to do a presentation on my trip but have no idea what else I'm going to do. I just know I have to savour the last few weeks of this fantastic trip and not worry too much about what happens next.

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