Friday, 15 June 2007

TO LAKE VIA FOREST AND HILLS




For the past few days I've been travelling through the rather hilly Northern Region of Malawi. In some places the forest is interrupted by impressive large rock domes (one is called "The Elephant"). The villages are more isolated than in the central region (and Zambia), and although the children still called to me they sometimes seemed a bit nervous. I've even made a few babies cry (perhaps due to my scruffy appearance). A number of times children have asked me my name as I passed, just in case I'm an important character from the Bible (there are numerous mission churches here). Then again, some guy was convinced that I'm Chuck Norris (so there are some old violent movies around as well). Bicycles abound in the villages, but I've seldom met a cyclist out on the open road (mean hills!). From Llilongwe I've travelled North along the "inland" road as far as Mzuzu, and then down to Nkhata Bay on the shores of Lake Malawi (lush and beautiful). I now intend to take a bit of a "holiday cycle" South along the shores of the Lake. Distances since Chipata were: Llilongwe 144 k; Mponela 73 k; Nkhamenya 131 k; Chikangawu 99 k; Mzuzu 82 k; and Nkhata Bay 52 k.

Friday, 8 June 2007

THE GREAT MZUNGU




In this region of Africa a tourist is generally referred to as Mzungu (White Face). Here in Eastern Zambia the road is lined with villages, and the children excitedly call out "Mzungu....Mzungu!". I recall an incident when I suddenly came across a small boy at the roadside. He scrambled up the embankment in a cloud of dust (just in case the Mzungu still held some hidden danger), and called out "MAAZUUNGU-ZUUNGU-ZUUNGU!". For the next few hundred metres there were heads popping out of the bush along the road (tall and short). Another favourite greeting here is "How-are-you?". So sometimes I'm struggling uphill in the heat, trying to respond with a wave or "I'm fine, how are you?". Often the little ones get so excited they forget what to shout, and only manage to utter some unintelligible sound. Therefore, on occasion I've found myself offering a half-hearted wave to a bleating goat. In Zambian slang 1000 Kwachas is called one PIN. Occasionally a beggar will ask "give me PIN". I imagine that in such an encounter some ignorant Mzungu promptly handed over his pen. Now, in that village, the children were all asking me for pens.

SLEEPING IN CLASS




Usually I spend my rest days in a formal camp site, to do washing and the internet, etc. Inbetween rest days I camp in the bush or some other opportune place. One evening at a "guest house" I was informed that I could camp where I wished. I chose the back porch of what seemed like an empty brick house. Later on I noticed a black board on the wall, and it concerned me a bit that the date written there was current. The following morning I awoke to the sound of voices. Bleary-eyed I emerged from my tent and peered over the low wall. Facing me was a crowd of school kids (books and benches in hand), patiently waiting for me to strike camp and leave so that they could proceed with their lessons. That brings me to a question I've been asked: "What determines the daily distances travelled?". Distance depends on the terrain, road condition, destination for the day, and camping availability. So far the roads have been mostly fairly good tarred roads. However, in some places I've found it better to cycle on the gravel alongside (potholes and dangerous traffic). Today I'm resting at a camp site outside Chipata, and I'll probably move towards Malawi tomorrow. Distances since Lusaka were: Rafunsa Hills 125 km; Luangwo Bridge 120 km; Kachololo 65 km; Petauke 124 km; Katate 94 km; and Chipata 103 km.

Friday, 1 June 2007

SAARTJIE MEETS THE RELATIVES




Since we've been in Zambia my bike (old Saartjie) has had her eyes wide in amazement - there are so many bicycles around! Anything here is transported by bicycle, from 50 kg bags of mielie meal to the wife and kids. This is the first country on my trip where bicycles have been used this extensively. About 3 days ago I met another cyclist head on - but he was different from the locals. Uri has cycled all the way from Russia, and looks the part. I had an interesting discussion with him regarding his trip, and amongst other things we discovered that we were born 9 days apart (apparently I'm the eldest!). I'm now in Lusaka, having a rest day camping at the Chachacha Backpackers. This morning I washed my clothes and gave Saartjie some much needed attention. My trip has now lasted more than 4000 km, and tomorrow I carry on East towards Malawi (about 2 weeks away). Distances since Vic Falls were: Livingstone 15 km; Kalamo Bush 110 km; Choma 89 km; Chisekese 87 km; Mazabuka 83 km; Kafue River 89 km; and Lusaka 54 km.