After my last report, I unfortunately had to remain in Nampula for a few days due to a stomach problem. It's no fun throwing up in a communal toilet that doesn't flush (and I didn't need any more encouragement!). Also, during that time I heard that my mother was in hospital with a heart attack - not the sort of news one wants to receive at any time. I was pleased to get out of the place, and a couple of days later I was at the coast, on the Ilha De Mocambique. This island is linked to the mainland by a narrow bridge about 3 km's long, and the island itself is about 2 km by 500 m in size (and built up wall to wall). There are many historic buildings, making it a world heritage site (the old castle dates back to the 1550's). After 2 days on the island I took a dhow across the bay to Mossuril, and cycled on to the small holiday resort of Chocas. When loading the bike (Saartjie) on the boat the skipper insisted on taking charge himself. He nonchalantly pushed Saartjie down to the beach at a trot, but when the bike hit the sand she flung the poor guy towards the water in true acrobatic fashion. While the man was down I had a strong urge to stand on his throat, as Saartjie was lying on her side with clean oiled chain in the sand. In the end I took pity on the hapless mariner, as the ever present spectator crowd was bent over in raucus laughter - at his expense. Now I'm in the port of Nacala, camping at Bay Diving just outside the town in a beautiful spot on Nacala bay. I'll probably move on up the coast tomorrow or the next day. Distances since Nampula have been:- Namialo 92 km; Isla De Moçambique 97 km; Chocas 18 km; Nacala 119 km; and Nacala Bay 23 km.
Wednesday, 18 July 2007
After leaving Blantyre I camped at the golf course at the foot of Mt Mulanje for 2 nights, where I had an interesting game of golf with 3 guys from Johannesburg - picture - who'd been up the mountain (sand greens and ancient rented clubs). There I met Jim Melrose, MD of Lugeri Tea Estate, who invited me over for a night (thanks to him and Vicky- in photo - for the royal treatment, I even had a guided tour of the estate and factories). The taste of the full English breakfast was still fresh in my memory when I crossed into Moçambique. Untill then I'd been travelling through former British colonies where most people could speak a manner of English. Suddenly nobody could understand a word I said. I only knew 2 words of Portuguese, and one of them I'd rather not mention. I headed down the dusty road to Mocuba, 200 km away. Within minutes it was raining, and by the pm I was sliding around in the mud trying to keep Saartjie (my bike) on her feet. Old Saartjie herself was sounding like a worn out windmill, due to the mud and gravel on the chain and coggs. As darkness fell I arrived at a small village where I was granted permission to pitch my tent (the rain didn't deter the spectator crowd). Headman Jaõ Cordosa brought me a bucket of hot water to wash (perhaps they wanted to see what I looked like under the layers of mud). I was further provided with a warm supper of chicken and nzima, and given rice porridge for breakfast (the villagers also helped me clean the bike). After the rain a "good path" is formed by the many cyclists, zig-zagging across the road. On this narrow path I was nearly involved in a head-on collision with 2 men on a bike, but the driver did the honorable thing by taking to the bush in spectacular fashion. I did stop to ask if they were OK, but I'm sure that in a country with a recent history of more snakes than ladders this was not their worst experience. The towns here in Moçambique are larger than I'd expected, with Portuquese influence evident in the mostly dilapidated architecture (although the cathedral outside Murrupula seems well preserved - picture). Nampula, where I'm staying over, is the 3rd largest in the country - and capital of the North. My hotel is the worst to date, but what did I expect for R30 per night (I pitched my tent in the room). In this inland region there are very few whites, and the rural people seem rather scared of me. Yesterday a bee got into my helmet and stung me on the forehead. I hurriedly stopped to remove the culprit, about 100 m from a group of women in the road ahead. Later I looked up just in time to see the last of these women escaping into a nearby cassava field. Distances since Blantyre have been:- Mulanje 70 k; Lugeri 30 k; Tamboni 89 k; Mocuba 122 k; Muserawa 85 k; Moloque 113 k; Calima 96 k; and Nampula 130 k.
Sunday, 8 July 2007
Well, I'm still in Blantyre where I've been for over a week. I've gone to the Immigration Office and extended my stay. I should have been out of Malawi today, and I plan to leave later this morning for Mulanje and on to Mocambique within 2 or 3 days. Over the past couple of days the rain cleared, allowing me to do laundry and work on my bike. I've given Old Saartjie (my bike) a facelift, replacing worn parts as well as giving her a good checking-over. I'm well rested, and need to move on before I become too fat and lazy. The place where I've been camping has been quite comfortable (Doogles Lodge), they also have rooms and a bar/restaurant (I cook my own food). I was even unfortunate enough to watch DSTV and see the Boks lose yesterday. On this trip I have often bumped into people I've met at other places, and here is no exception, and there are a number of those people here. One of them is Chris, who I met on the very 1st day I left Cape Town. I chatted to him at Rooi Els, where I had stopped for a rest, and he informed me of a trip he was planning to Zanzibar using only puble transport (he was going to celebrate his 60th birthday there with friends). The other person in the photo is Mary, a 70 year old ex maths teacher from New Mexico, USA. She is quite a character, travelling around Africa with her tent for the past 5 years. Thanks to all who send e-mail and leave comments on this site, it's good to hear from you. At least it shows me that someone reads this stuff. In places where I stay over it is convenient to have the bicycle for travel around town (the shops, etc., are often out of walking range). The purists need not get excited, I don't add this mileage to my overall distance covered. So, distances since my last report: Blantyre 0 km's.
Sunday, 1 July 2007
At this time of year the SE breeze blows across Lake Malawi. This made cycling down the Lake shore a tough job, as well as distracting from some of the unprotected beaches. The fact that I had a cold for more than a week also didn't make cycling any easier. However, there are many nice places to relax, and I stayed over for more than one night at a number of them. Other than Nkhata Bay, I also enjoyed Ngala Beach and Cape Maclear the most. The cost of camping at all these places is dirt cheap when compared to SA. Around the Southern part of the Lake I encountered some bad roads, causing damage to the luggage rack on my bike. After limping to the next village, the local "welding shop" did a remarkable repair job (it's still holding). I'm now in Blantyre waiting for some spare parts for my bike, and thanks to Grant and Amanda for organising that from Cape Town. On my way South from the Lake I stopped over at Zomba, camping up on the Plateau at 1500 m in the temperate rain forest (reminds me of Knysna). There are also plantations and a catchment dam up there (see photo with bike). The 9 km from the town to the top took me 1 hr 40 min - cycling! Of course, it is entirely my own fault that I followed local directions and took the difficult route. Something which continues to amuse me is the effect which my different appearance has on the locals. One day in a village market a character walked around me 3 times before informing me that I looked exactly like Jesus. In another town there must be a priest who I resemble, because wide-eyed people were greeting me with "Hello Father". As I was leaving the town one woman nearly fell off her bicycle as she exclaimed in an anxious voice: "Father, where are you going?!" (she probably couldn't believe that her beloved Padré had discarded his robe and was taking to the hills in cycling shorts). A teenager along the road, who was selling cooked mice on a stick, called me something which most likely comes from a Chuck Norris movie (I'm often affectionately referred to as "Chuckie"). When I stopped to confront him he ran away, and he's probably still running! Distances since Nkhata Bay have been: Kande Beach 63 k; Ngala Beach 67 k; Nkotakota 95 k; Senga Bay 134 k; Chipoka 68 k; Monkey Bay 109 k; Cape Maclear 25 k; Liwonde 145 k; Zomba 69 k; and Blantyre 81 k.