Welcome to our next to the last episode of Adventure in Africa. Thanks for reading along with us for 2 years. Yes, we will pass through the 2-year time zone of our Epic Odyssey on April 12. Get to know Lake Malawi, more than 900 kilometers (560 miles) long and 80 to 150 Ks (50 to 95 miles) wide. Learn about the Bilharzia bug. Meet some great people and explore some beautiful places. Arrested by our own US Government? The People and Politics of Zimbabwe. It’s been a great ride, should be a good read!
A GREATER PURPOSE?
We try to report in words and pictures, the things we see and experience. Many people who travel along with us on this web site are unable to travel and love learning about life in other parts of the world. A 4th grade teacher tells us that she’s used our site to teach geography and history to four of her classes. Bob, a friend in Illinois that we met on a bicycle path, has referenced our site in a Thesis for one of his College courses. Or, a couple looking for a place to stay in Lisbon, Portugal stumbled across www.WorldRiders2.com and found the Casa S. Mamede. They stayed, enjoyed, met our pal Jose then wrote to tell us of their experience. Other Cycle Tourists offer tips about places we’ll visit or how to take better care of our bikes. Too many great stories like these to share here, but all are important and interesting to us.
How About WORLD PEACE?
Albert Einstein said it, we believe it, “Peace can’t be won, it only comes through understanding”! A shocking statistic we recently heard, 87% of our fellow Americans never apply for a Passport? How can we hope to understand if we never go there, never see the places, never talk with the people? Perhaps our words and pictures will help to span the gap? Governments, customs and cultures may differ but we find many more similarities than differences among the people that we meet. They all strive for good lives and hope for a better life for future generations.
We’ve got another year and another continent between us and HOME. Our hope is that you’ll continue to read as we ride and SPREAD THE UNDERSTANDING!!!!
Peace is Possible!
March 9, 2004
Malawi Border to Karonga
It was 1:00 PM by the time we pushed past the aggressive moneychangers, pedaled around the huge puddle of water at the gate and entered Malawi. There is no Visa required for US citizens so we thought it would be a simple crossing. We got the bikes up on a sidewalk then Cat went inside to get our Passports stamped. I was standing outside the window of the Immigration Office and could hear the conversation. She had filled out a form and handed it to him. He scanned down then asked how much money we have. We were both shocked and Cat asked, “Why do you need to know that”?
He made it clear that it was a question on the form and his duty was to get the answer. We talked back and forth through the window. I was behind the Officer, which seemed to make him a little nervous. Of course we were suspicious. What if he thinks what we have is a lot of money and calls a friend to let him know that we’re coming? It was clear that he wouldn’t clear us to enter until we disclosed our cash position. He did say that they must know that anyone entering will be able to provide food and shelter during the time they are in Malawi.
Okay, we decided that we might as well play the game his way. When Cat told him that we have 559,000 Tanzanian Shilling he wanted to know how many US Dollars we had. We made it clear that we only had T. Shilling. He sighed then said, you must change the Shilling to Kwacha before entering because there is no Bank or Money Exchange Office here. He was adamant that the banks further into Malawi wouldn’t change them. We complained and asked if there was someone changing money on this side of the Border? We had just run the gauntlet through the piranha pool of Money Scalpers on the Tanzanian side and didn’t want to go back there.
After explaining that he couldn’t officially be involved with the exchange of currency we asked him to just help us find a fair person. He asked us to wait and said he would find someone. When he returned we were both out with the bikes. Talking through the window he told Cat to come around the building to room # 9. We decided that I should be the one to go inside. I walked around then down the dimly lit hall and counted down the doorways. He came toward me and we met at # 9. Inside was another Immigration Officer and a heavyset guy. Mr. Big Bucks was the Money Changer, he spoke in local language and our friend living on the fringe of legality said that the rate of exchange would be 1 Kwacha for each 10 Shilling. That was a better rate than Robert at the Stockholm had told us to negotiate. I said that it sounded fair. Mr. Big Bucks pulled up his pant leg and pulled a wad of Kwacha out of his sock. (Kwacha socked away?) The counting process was an interesting rifling through piles of money. Our 559,000 shrunk to 55,900 but should have the same buying power.
Tom, that’s our now very friendly Immigration Officers name, wished us a safe journey. We asked if there are restaurant along the road and again he offered good advice. Pointing to a shack just outside the fenced area he said we should eat there. Why would we doubt him now? We pushed across the muddy area, through the gapping hole in the tall fence then up the slippery hill to the Café. Loud music and a dirt floor let us know that life here was going to be pretty much like the countryside of Tanzania. A guy sitting near us watched as we talked about the music then he shouted out to the waiter and he immediately turned it down. The rice and beans was as good as any we’d had and no more expensive at 185 Kwacha for both bowls and an orange soda. ($1.85 US). Well, it was filling and should carry us into Karonga.
The road is flat and we found ourselves surrounded by rice paddies. There are hills off to the right, in the distance and we got an occasional glimpse of Lake Malawi on the left. The map led us to believe that we’d be riding right on the shore but we were far from it most of the time.
It was 4:30 as we pulled into Karonga. After a failed quest for wine we followed the arrow on a sign, down a side road that deteriorated from paving to hard rock to sand. It was a tough push the last 500 meters. The façade on Club Marina is the best of it. They have a room with bath, even hot water but it is pretty basic. We leaned the bikes at the gate and drank a couple of beers. Still hoping for a bottle of wine with dinner we asked the bartender and he said he could get some. We told him of our quest to most possible stores but he was confident. He needed cash, 549 K’s. We gave it to him and he lopped away. We hoped he’d succeed or at least come back with our money? By the time we had finished our beers he was back, empty-handed.
There is only one towel? We asked for another and were told that they have no more? Hey, we share everything else, why not a damp towel?
Dinner, alone. I ordered a half chicken and received 1 leg and thigh and two breast pieces. Sounds like a lot but it was a scrawny old sportsman. What little meat there was, was tough as nails. Cat had steak and ate every bite. We moseyed back to the open-air bar, I switched to soft drink and Cat had another beer. There was a European looking guy there but he paid little attention to us, seemed to be in his own little world.
We were in bed by 9:00 PM.
March 10, 2004
Karonga to Chitimba
Up at 6:00 AM but lay back til 6:45. Packed, loaded and ready for breakfast by 7:20 but they weren’t ready for us? The night watchman tried to tell us that the kitchen would open at 6:30, Cat pointed to my watch and let him know that they were running late, very late. He pointed to the driveway and the staff who were just coming in. The girl who spoke good English told us they’d have food in just a few minutes.
We took a little walk toward the lake. The grass was wet and when it started to get deep the ground felt soft. We turned back 50 meters (100 feet) from the lakeshore rather than risk a mud bath. Back in the restaurant the nice woman working there told us that she was ready to come warn us not to go farther just as we turned back. She said that the mud is so deep that you can sink completely under, very dangerous.
Breakfast served by our Guardian Angel was good. No juice but good eggs and sausage. The instant coffee is called Choffy, Nestles Chicory Coffee.
Our dream of early start was shattered, it was 9:00 by the time we made a stop at a bakery we’d seen last night and picked up some muffins and cookies. The road was generally flat but we did have 4 pretty steep hills 3 of which we had to push. Road kill comes in various shapes and sizes. A huge, at least 1 ½ meter (3 foot) long lizard lay looking up at the sky as if to ask, “What hit me”?
The Lakeshore continued to move toward the road then away, again. We passed by a fishing village, took a picture then wished we’d stopped for lunch as we rode into the countryside.
Another 10 K and another small village. Dennis, a neat young guy asked to help us. He led us around the small alleyways looking for food. He kept saying that the Cafes were temporary and of course they looked it. A woman told him that she could have rice in about 30 minutes, we decided to have a cold drink and move on. I bought Dennis a Coke, he was in 7th heaven. The other locals gathered around and he sort of swaggered as he told about leading us.
He wanted our address but when I asked if he had an e-mail address he didn’t understand and began writing his regular address. His friend, Cuthbert McCarthy Manata jumped in to explain e-mail. I called them our guide and our teacher. I took a picture of Dennis but another guy, kind of sinister looking, pushed into the frame. There was an old guy sitting nearby, sewing what looked like girls school uniforms. He was watching the show with intent. I took his picture then showed it to him. He really got excited and everyone pressed in to see it.
Onward to Chilumba and a late lunch. There was a group of older people, more men than women, sitting out front of the restaurant. The manager reminded us of pictures we’ve seen of Malcolm X. Probably the thick square black rimmed glasses he was wearing. The cold drinks were very cold, we had Fanta Pineapple. The rice and beans were rice and beans but the greens they served with them were very good.
We had been wondering if we had passed into another time zone when we entered Malawi? The slow start at breakfast and now the clock here. Our watch read 3:00 PM, the clock was on 2:00. Yes, Malcolm confirmed that it was 2:00 PM, it kind of made us feel badly about the way we treated the staff before breakfast this morning. It also explained why we were the only ones at dinner last night.
The group consensus was that Chitimba was about 10 K’s down the flat road. It would be 20 and 2 more pretty good hills. Cat’s tail feathers are in flames, she has a terrible case of saddle sores. They’re caused by the sweat we pour out in the hot sun and by riding in wet cloths when it pours rain. The rains came, thick and wet. We pulled the ponchos out and covered ourselves then rolled and stashed them a few minutes later. The clouds parted the sun shone and it was hot and sweaty, again. And then, we pushed, again.
We rolled into Chitimba at 4:00 PM, Malawi time. The Chitimba Camp is another tough ride/push down a dirt and sand alleyway. The gate is falling down, but a girl ran and held it back as we passed through. The bikes lay at rest and we swigged, Cat a beer and me, Ginger Beer. The official greeter is a guy named Precious. Nice but sort of affected. The place is like a surfer joint but no surf on the lake.
Precious did push Cat’s bike through the sitting area and down to the room, through the beach sand. Cat pushed and I pulled to get mine and it wasn’t easy but then Precious didn’t ride all day and, he’s only 22 years old. The shower is dark and cold. Cat found a big black bug that turned out to be a cricket. Then as she stepped under the cool water she spotted a huge black wasp hanging on the water pipe. I came to the rescue. By the way, the 1,000 Kwacha ($10.00 US) doesn’t include towels or toilet paper.
We had picked up wine at the PTC Super Market, we had it cooling and went to the bar to enjoy a glass. There were several other Muzungus, one named Joe form Wales, wanted to know what we were doing here. He had hitched a ride, in fact he is hitch hiking the African Continent. Unfortunately just as Cat told him that her Mother was born in Wales the group called out to him, they were leaving.
John, the half owner, was at the bar. We talked and learned that he and his X girlfriend, Della had been backpacking around and saw the place. Got a good deal, cleaned and fixed and he says they’re doing well. He seems a little tired of the routine and the place still needs a lot.
Another guy, Tom, the only other guest in the hotel, sat with us and we traded stories during dinner. The menu is fixed, the dinner is pasta. That seemed okay until they told us, no soup or bread? As John headed toward his room he handed off half of his plate of chips. We split them 3 ways.
Tom is from a small town, Maynooth, Ontario, Canada. He owns a back packers hotel called The Algonquin. The biggest building and the biggest business in town. Great for his lifestyle, he loves to travel and backpack around. So, he spends his summers working his tail off then has the winter months to explore. His travels are pretty much limited to the Southern Hemisphere since winter at home is summer in the south. If you’re headed toward Maynooth look him up at www.Algonquinbackers.com.
We hit the room, snuggled down under our mosquito net and slept by 9:00 PM.
March 11, 2004
Chitimba to Rumphi
51 Kilometers on Bikes, 29 in Pickup
The sun also rises at Chitimba but it rises earlier than we’re used to. By 5:30 AM the sun was peaking through the cracks around the door and voices of the fishermen launching started our day. I went out on the sand in my t-shirt and underwear to get a picture. When I saw the panorama and orange light streaming across the huge lake I had to walk to the shore. It is down through a muddy trough then up onto a sandbar. The fishermen were launching in the lot next to the Hotel. I went crazy on pictures and knew for sure, at that moment that we had to have a better telephoto camera. I wanted to see pictures with the expressions on the faces of those fishermen as they set out in their tiny hollowed out log boats.
Breakfast at 7:00 but the fire wasn’t burning yet so it was a delay. Then the bad news, no juice and no toast. Okay, eggs and sausage will have to do. When they delivered it was egg and sausage. They were out of eggs, too. I did try one of their pancakes. It was like a crepe but pretty good when smothered in jam.
Of Fear and Fatigue
The road is flat and swings out around a point about 14 kilometers to Chiweta. A pipe rail stops traffic there and the Police seemed to hold us for some reason before finally lifting it. They did point out a shop where we could get water then one asked Cat if we were armed. “Armed, what do you mean”?
“There are some bad people on the hill and they’re armed. You had better find a weapon of some kind”, he said in thick accent. She suggested that they should come along and protect us. They said, “We have warned you, that is all we can do”.
A guy 84 years old started talking with us, telling about his work on the water project here, over the years. He has a friend in Netherlands and wants to write him another letter. He was promised that his friend would send money and he wants to write again to find out what has happened to him. He needed some money for stamps. I hated to refuse him but everyone here seems to have a need and they all think that we’re rich.
The children here all ask, and they are much more forceful in their ask then those of Tanzania. As we ride the word Muzungu resounds through the trees and crops. It’s as though, like the dogs of Russia, they seem to smell us coming? They run beside us in groups, all holding out their hands, all asking. “You give me my money”!
It is a 16-kilometer climb and most of it is steep. The road swirls out of town and up, into the clouds. Hot sun burned down on our necks during the first phase. We began pushing and spent the rest of the morning slowly, painstakingly moving up. After an hour we got into a cloud cover and the shade felt great. We were now making slow progress, stopping every few hundred meters. Then the cloud turned to mist, the mist to drizzle and at last a tropical downpour. Our clothing was wet now but to avoid soaking we donned the ponchos. Cat’s tail was now so painful that it hurt to walk or ride.
A Terrible and Dangerous Place!
Near the summit we found a small village and stopped for soft drinks. I leaned the bikes and stood the guard as Cat bought the drinks. There was a group of pretty bad looking guys milling around, playing soccer with a rag ball. One of them started dancing to the loud music coming from a building nearby. He danced in front of me, sort of flaunting and laughing at us. Then he dropped down and did pushups. I just watched as though it was a normal thing he was doing. The then strangest event we have witnessed, yet. The largest guy squatted down over a hole where termites had started to swarm up. He acted like a chicken, as he jumped around scooping the bugs up and eating them. Even the other guys seemed to watch with awe, he was definitely the leader.
Cat got her second warning from the gal in the little store. When she took the bottles back the gal leaned out her little window and said, “This is a terrible place and very dangerous. You must ride as fast as you can and get away from here”. Now she was really frightened and I was beginning to try to figure a defensive plan if we were attacked. The best I came up with was to turn and sprint back downhill if we feel threatened.
We walked away through the gang of tough looking guys and pushed on up the hill. The idea of riding away fast was a joke, the grade continued at 7-10%. We rounded the curve above the village and saw that three of the guys were walking behind us. Then two more guys started down from above. We felt trapped, Cat flagged down the next passing car. Two young guys listened to our fears and concerns then said, “You don’t have to fear but we will follow”. They stopped and got out, pretending to check their trunk and wheels. We pushed as fast as possible and they slowly started driving along behind us. Once we were safely past the two uphill guys they honked and drove on. What a kind thing to do for a couple of Muzungu strangers!
As soon as we topped out we mounted and flew down the other side of the mountain. It had taken 4 hours and 20 minutes to make the climb. We were bone tired and still had 50 kilometers to ride. It was getting late, too. The sun, based upon the time change, now sets before 6:00 PM. We were now pushing hard in slowly rising terrain, following a river upstream. We stopped, opened a can of corned beef then sat on the edge of the road and ate. Cat didn’t like it much. It reminds her of Dog Food. She did force down a couple of pieces of bread with some spread on them.
Warning, Don’t Cycle on this Road, After Dark!
At 5:00 we pulled into another village. We had decided that we should hook a ride into Rumphi (pronounced Rumpee). It’ll be dusk in half an hour and the Police had also warned us not to be on the road after dark. It’s still about 30 Ks and we have no idea what the terrain would hold in store for us. There was a 6-passenger pickup sitting out front. Cat asked and we met the guys who were driving. They were sitting on the porch stoup drinking beers. She asked if we could ride with them to Rumphi and after looking at each other the leader said, “We don’t have enough room for you and bikes”.
She was slightly deflated but went out to the road and began hoping for another. There were no cars or trucks passing. I stood near the two guys then one said, “If you can get the bikes and your bags on the truck we will drop you in Rumphi”.
I began tearing down the bags and hollering at Cat. She didn’t get the message at first. We lay the bags on their load of firewood as they looked on. Then they helped us lift the bikes up and I strapped them to the truck. When we originally asked for a ride we thought they were concerned about us as much or more about whether the had room. Then, as we began putting our handlebar bags, helmets and water bottles inside they started getting in. Three guys across in the front then we saw what they meant. There were two more guys waiting to join us in the 3 across seat. By holding our bags and helmets we squeezed over and they crammed in. We were off to Rumphi.
Down the highway 24 kilometers then off to the right 6 more, into the mountains. Rumphi is snuggled into a valley and strangely the pavement ends at the town border. The guys, James and Edward dropped the others off then took us to the door of the Countryside Inn. They and staff helped us unload. I slipped James a 500 Kwacha and he was almost embarrassed. I said, “For some gasoline”. He shrugged then said thank you. Thanks to him and Edward we were in a safe place and darkness was just rolling down the hillside above.
They stored the bikes in a room near the desk. We carried the bags with clothing and the computer into the tiny room. The bed is large, so large it takes up most of the room. The bath and toilet are tight and everything will be wet when we shower but there is hot water. What a bargain for 600 Ks ($6:00 US).
I took a trip to the PTC Super Market and found wine! They put it in the freezer for us at the restaurant.
The Massacre in Madrid
Dinner too was a bargain and, they had a TV in the restaurant with BBC blaring out the news. The big story is Massacre in Madrid. Three trains were blown up in the Madrid commuter system killing almost 200 and injuring 1,200. The knee jerk reaction was to blame ETA, the separatists Basques in the Pyrenees Mountains. The news is asking whether it might have been Al Qaeda and the Basques have denying having anything to do with the atrocity. President Aznar immediately said that they would crush the terrorists who carried out this slaughter. Later, we saw a wonderful quote of Albert Einstein, “Peace isn’t something that can be won, it will only come through understanding”. Now, ain’t that the truth?
Dinner was good and another bargain. We were tucked into our safe little room in our oversized bed by 9:00 and ready for sleep.
March 12, 2004
Rumphi to Mzuzu
The restaurant opens here at 6:30 AM and we wanted to be there ASAP. Close, we did get in before 7:00. The news is all Madrid, still no real suspects, still pointing fingers at ETA. Breakfast was very good and another real bargain. We had dinner, a good nights sleep and breakfast all for less than 1600 Ks ($16 US). The wine was an extra but we were definitely well under budget.
Our legs are shot, we have decided that we shouldn’t ride more than 4 days in a row. And, we have also decided that if we’re faced with another killer hill and distance like yesterday we will try to hook a ride up rather than wearing ourselves out pushing. We want to keep our Odyssey as pure as possible and live up to our promise to Terry to keep the rubber on the road but there is a physical limit. Between the fear factor and fatigue we felt more than justified taking the ride, in our minds.
The ride was pleasant except for our tired legs and burned out butts. It is down from Rumphi to the highway then small rolling hills through a fertile valley for much of the morning. Some of the hills have pointed peaks that add to the drama of the landscape.
A stream of women, most carrying a baby on their back, began moving along the side of the road as we rode. Ah, a clinic, one woman, a doctor we think, was weighing babies in a basket. There were dozens of women with babies in line and more coming from all directions. Rudimentary medical care but at least advice, even hospitalization for the sick, we’ve heard. Nearby, another boost toward the 21st Century, an open air school packed with kids doing their lessons. Our passing caused a disruption but the teachers didn’t seem to mind.
The road continues to rise and fall, more rise than fall most of the time. The crop roadside is a corn and tobacco patchwork. We stopped and I pulled across the road into the yard of a farmer, Anthony. He raises corn and tobacco. The tobacco is definitely the cash crop and brings money to his table. It takes corn off some of the other local tables. He was proud of his place and allowed a picture of his drying shed. As we rode on he yelled out, “Go in peace”!
A stop for soft drinks at a tiny grocery store. The guy, Neston and his wife reminded me of my youth and the little store I owned in the little town of Boron, California. It is a tough business and they have so little inventory. Their customers all look hand to mouth and make small purchases. Our store was larger and better stocked but we still had to struggle to make ends meet.
Lunch in a larger than normal village. The restaurant was busy and the woman in charge reminded us of Anna in Moshi. She scurried about, talking to customers and making sure they had the food they wanted. We posed a difficulty for her. We wanted our safe and sane beans and rice. She told us that they were finished with beans then said they’d cook more for us. Shortly she was back to tell us that they couldn’t do more beans. Well, they did have the coldest Pineapple drinks we’ve had yet. Then, when she brought the rice she had a small bowl of beans, left overs, for each of us. And, a plate of the greens, the casaba leaves.
Cat sat in a chair with view of the bikes. It was warm in the place but we needed food, we needed fuel. Our legs muscles are burning almost as bad as our tail ends. There is a coat, hat and walking stick hanging on a roughhewn plank wall. I was drawn to the look of it then when Cat pointed out that the had said USA on the band, I had to have a picture. The old guy seated nearby enjoyed the photo then sort of hung around, probably wanting a little money but I resisted. We also had a nice conversation with one of several nicely dressed people as they exited. John is like Superintendent of Schools for this district and in charge of curriculum. He gave us his office address, which is near the Hotel we hope to stay in, in Mzuzu. Then he added his cell phone number and invited us to call if we have any problems. These kinds of people, John, Anthony, James and Edward more than make up for the discomfort we felt with the suspicious looking, termite eating guys back on the hillside.
Onward and back into the hills. As we entered the village of Ekwendeni we fell in with another cyclist, Pastor Arthur. He was riding into Mzuzu to get maize to feed his family. He told us that his village has no corn and it is the only affordable food. He and his wife have 3 children and they are out of food. He’s 35 years old but looks younger. His bike actually looks older than he does. It slipped the chain off three times as we rode.
The Lord Helps Those That Help Themselves!
He is a Pentecostal Pastor in a parish of very poor. He says that he takes little jobs to get by. Of course, as we rode he began to tell us how much he would like to go to the US and study. He even got close to asking us to sponsor him. I suggested that he should contact Pastors of Churches in the US and tell them his story. He was sort of defeatist and talked of how expensive it is to send mail. I told him that he should learn how to use the Internet. He again felt that it was too expensive for him.
When he told us of the changes to free market and how it has allowed the rich to charge what ever they want for corn I had to tell him about small business in the US. He was shocked to hear that 90% of all small businesses fail in the first year. He didn’t get it so I rephrased, “They lose all their money”!
He couldn’t believe it, not in America where everyone is rich. I asked why he didn’t get land and do some farming. He has land but it needs fertilizer that he can’t afford. Then he started using the word, Capital. If I had capital I could buy fertilizer but I have none. His “poor me” attitude was beginning to wear on us. I told him that my Grandmother was Pentecostal and she taught us that, “The Lord helps those that help themselves”.
When he said that he couldn’t get started without capital I asked how often he has to ride to Mzuzu to get corn? He goes once each week because the 20 kg he carries back only lasts 7 days. So, I suggested that he should go twice each week and sell some of the corn to neighbors who need food but aren’t strong enough to cycle. He was skeptical but did like the saying, “The Lord helps those”. I wish now that I would have suggested that he take something from his village for someone, into the market to sell or leave on consignment. You know, never go on a trip with an empty vehicle.
He rode with us, past the maize market to a BP Station. We bought him a Coke and talked. He is a bright young guy, maybe he’ll get the idea and begin helping his neighbors and make a small profit, maybe enough to get the fertilizer he needs to start farming?
Riding up the main street we pulled up at the PTC Super Market and bought wine and water. Cat shopped and I stood the guard. I was surrounded by young guys trying to sell trinkets, woodcarvings and art. Pushy, they introduced themselves, Harley Davidson, Brown Bread and Gift. They are from the Lakeshore area and are used to talking with tourists. I told them that we have no space to carry things. They didn’t give up easily. One said, “Buy me a Fanta, I’m begging you”! I told him not to beg but if he feels he must, make it for something more important or valuable than a soft drink.
As we rode up to the door of The Sunbird Mzuzu Hotel a couple of gals stepped out of a car. They are with Code, a non-profit from Canada. Yvonne, who is the Executive Director, explained that they provide African students with books and kits containing pencils, an eraser, a notebook, a ruler and a personal note from a friend in Canada. Their brochure says, “Literacy = Freedom”. Aint that the truth, too!
We had a dispute at the desk about the Hotel room rate. The LPGB says, $62 US for a double and they wanted $74. When I pushed the girl, Joyce, she said, “The difference is breakfast, we have to charge for the second breakfast.”
“Wow, breakfast is $12 per person? What if we don’t take breakfast”, I asked? She turned, fiddled with some papers then said, “$50”. “Deal”, said I!
The bikes and non-essential bags were stored and we were in the room by 5:00 PM. Yes, we have BBC but the AC refused to work. I called down and the maintenance guy took a look then said, “Broken and no part now”. We called the desk and they offered to help us move but we are tired and hungry. We’ll make a move in the morning. Showers were great. It is nice to be in a safe, clean feeling place.
Dinner, I went for the Cheese Burger, Cat had a chicken dish. We were both quite happy. During the service we struck up a conversation with two couples seated near by. One, Bill and Beth, are Presbyterian Missionaries, the other friends, John, a Presbyterian Pastor and Toya. Beth is a Nurse and works helping the sick and needy. Bill’s background in government helps him teach, set up and repair 50 computers that the Church bought from the School District in Virginia, where they live. John and Toya have moved to Florida but are here visiting and maybe thinking of doing Missionary work, too. Cat asked if they miss being at home and Beth said, “We miss the family but they’re coming to visit soon. We have real friends here, back home we were just sort of hermits, we’d say hello to neighbors but never really knew any of them. Life is different here, we have real friends that we can sit and talk, small talk that means a lot to us and them”. Okay, I have opinions about Missionaries but they may have just gone up a notch or two.
There was a group of young people, obviously also American, seated on our right. They were wrapped up in conversation with some African young people so we didn’t butt in.
Fatigue from fear and physical exertion was now driving us toward the bed.
March 13, 2004
Much Needed R & R
Early to rise, I was awake at 4:00 AM and didn’t really get back into deep sleep again. Showers and shave then we took the long walk into town for breakfast. It’s about 1 kilometer and our tired legs are still a bit shaky. The quest for Big Bite, the place to go according to Lonely Planet, had closed and gone away like those 90% of all small businesses do in the US. We ended up at Andy’s Café. What a coincidence, the leader of our band Acadiana, Terry, wrote a song, a good song, called Andy’s Café. We had plenty of time to reminisce as we waited and waited for the few items on the menu that they had available.
We spent and hour and $15 at The Internet Café across the street. We tried to get money but alas, they only do Visa Card cash on weekdays and it is a 1½-hour process. Though I want to send our pictures of Tanzania to Web Master Wally via DHL the cost is $80 US. We had to defer that process until we have money.
Lunch in our room. We bought a slightly overripe avocado, lunchmeat called chili loaf and fresh bread. A pretty good lunch then I spent most of the afternoon on the computer, Cat did hand laundry. The laundry here is closed until Monday, too.
Dinner down. It is okay food, not great and not cheap but we are able to put it on American Express. It’s been months since we have found any business that would accept AmEx. The same young group of 4 was again seated near us, this time without the African guys. We could here conversation about Sea World and The Zoo. I turned and asked if they were from San Diego. They were surprised and, yes they are. They’re here with their church. The couple, Mark and Julie are working in Lilongwe at the African Bible College. They’ve been here a year. Cari and Heather are organizing a Soccer game. Other members of their church are coming to play games with Malawi players. We’ve seen the banners and wondered what they were about. Sounds like a good exchange program. We will try to see these guys again, maybe even attend one of the games when we get to Lilongwe.
Hooked, I watched the movie, Cat snoozed off. Lights out at 11:00 PM.
Sunday, March 14, 2004
Getting Well and Getting Ready to be Ready
It was misting rain as we made our way to an inexpensive breakfast at a place called Velo. Velo means bicycle in French but the waitress told us it means Love in the Tumbuka language. They were suffering the same shortage of certain food items as we’d experienced yesterday at Andy’s. Eventually it was eggs and chips, no juice, Choffy only. The toast was great and the 360 Ks tab was a far cry from $24 that the Hotel charges. We also got a glimpse of local folks walking by, some stopping in for breakfast, on the way home from Church.
The mist became real rain on the way back. We scooted building to building, tree to tree trying to stay dry. There is a stand of giant bamboo near the Hotel driveway. We were intrigued and got a picture. Neither of us has ever seen poles like these, up to 6 inches in diameter.
The rain continued to pour, I hit the Journal pages. Cat found a TV Movie about kids, African American kids living in the Chicago projects. It portrayed their life like it must be and we thought that more African people should see it and understand that not all Americans are wealthy. The film was a good story and a great message about adversity and triumphing over it. I have to admit that it drew me away from the computer.
Lunch, Cat went to the bikes and pulled the can of corned beef out. We ate it on bread. Pretty bland but we were just too lazy and tired to go out in the rain, again.
More journal catch up, then dinner at 7:00 PM. We were mentally prepared for the same old same old but they surprised us with a buffet. The price was right, 980 Ks each and the choices looked appetizing. I dwelled on the soup, probably because of the half loaf of bread with corned beef on it this afternoon? Oh, I did have a dish of food but nothing compared to the three trips and platefuls that The Cat enjoyed. There was an African guy seated in the smoking section when we entered. He left and we had the entire room to ourselves, boring.
Another movie, this is beginning to be habit forming, then bed at 11:00 PM. We’re both going a little stir crazy. Time to move on.
Seismic Activity in Malawi
This afternoon we felt the room move under our feet. We had that good old California feeling. I asked the Desk, later, and they confirmed that it was a slight earthquake. He told us that they have them occasionally but haven’t had a big one in more than 20 years.
March 15, 2004|
Mzuzu to Nkhata Bay
We awoke to the news on BBC that Spain’s ruling conservative Peoples Party was defeated by the Socialist Party in yesterday’s election. That will definitely change the political landscape there, as the fellow who will be PM has been very vocal about his anti Iraqi war feelings.
I jumped up, wanting to be at the bank by 8:00 AM to get money. I thought it was 6:30 and was surprised to that I had already shaved and it was only 5:45. We would definitely be early. We dressed and loaded our bags then took the panniers and computer bag down to the bikes. Originally we were going to load up and just go to the bank and breakfast. The thought of leaving them outside while banking and breakfasting gave rise to a change of plan.
We left the handlebar bags and cameras as well as the water bottles and helmets in the room and took the now familiar walk into town. It was 7:45 so we took a position on the stairs of Stanbic Bank and waited. The Monday morning crowd thickened to at least 50 folks laden with weekend receipts and anxious to make deposits. We were the first to reach the Visa window. The guy saw us coming and had the paperwork ready. We filled out the forms then he said, “It will be at least 2 hours before we can get approval”.
Anne’s Café and Butchery is next door. The menu is quite similar to Andy’s and Velo. They’re also out of several items on the menu. A guy seated at the next table seems to be holding court. People come and go, some bow and curtsy. Mr. Mulambia introduced himself and told us that his wife is the owner of Anne’s Café and he’s trying to get into politics. He threw his hat into the ring with his Party then they merged with another and their incumbent will run so they’ve asked him to withdraw. He’s a retired Policeman and a fighter. The people coming and going are urging him to run as an Independent and he has all but decided to do just that.
He told us a story that shook Cat’s confidence, actually to her it confirmed her fears of Zimbabwe. Seems that the owner of the Internet Café got into Zimbabwe, took what he thought was a Taxi but ended up in the bush and was relieved of all his cash at gunpoint. Awe, retired Policemen are the most cautious people in the world. I did point out to him and Cat that this type of robbery probably happens 20 times a day in Los Angeles.
When Mr. Mulambia learned that we’re from the US he summonsed his son. Maimba, one of seven siblings, is studying engineering and Papa would like to see him get a scholarship to a US University. He is a bright young guy and we enjoyed talking with him. I suggested that he begin surfing the Net for scholarships and suggested that he look specifically for schools that have well known engineering departments. We also gave him Kurt’s name and told him to check with Bowling Green University. Remember him? He’s the guy we met in Tanga who distributes 5 scholarships a year.
In line at 9:45, the bank clerk was ready for us. More signatures then 40,000 Ks, we will definitely have enough money to get to Lilongwe! The rain came in medium torrents, we stood under the eave at the bank then did the building-to-building, tree-to-tree shuffle back to the Hotel, again. The few remaining bags were on bikes and we were at the door just before 11:00. Kwame, the Hotel Manager, had stopped us earlier and asked about our trip around the world. We took a picture with him and some of the staff for our memories then pedaled out the drive and up, looking forward to the 50 K glide down to Nkhata that Tom and several others have told us about.
It’s up out of town then down then up again and so it would go, most of the way down. Yes it’s definitely down but the ups really slow progress.
Passing through a small village at 12:30 we tried to find food, there was none. Two restaurants but both said, no food? Onward and as we rode a 4WD pulled passed then stopped. We
approached with the same caution we’ve trained ourselves to use when a strange car stops after passing. Surprise, it was Bill, Beth, John and Toya, our dinner friends from two nights ago. We chatted, exchanged pictures then they drove away and we rolled onward. Yes, some of the hills
were a push and so it was as we neared the junction. Summating, we were surprised again to find them shopping, buying some woodcarvings. Another goodbye and they were off to the south, we took the eastward turn toward Nkhata Bay.
Now it’s down of course, all the way down to Lake Malawi. We thought we’d read that the lake was at sea level but Bill told us that it was 1,500 feet above. He checked his map and confirmed our suspicions that Mzuzu is higher than the 700 meters the Bellman had quoted to us. It’s 1275 meters or about 4,200 feet high. And, that leads us to believe that the big push must have taken us up to over 1670 meters or about 5,500 feet.
The dusty street of Nkhata bay was awash with people calling out for us to buy some carvings or art or dope. We felt almost uneasy, I went in the PTC Super Market and scored with a bottle of wine then we began following the signs toward the Butterfly, Mayoka and Njaya Lodges. The road took a turn to the right and turned to dirt. We pulled up to survey the possibilities when a great looking classic S Type Motor home pulled up behind us. The young couple, Chris and Sonja are from South Africa and it’s a 1979 Land Rover 4WD truck with a trailer shell attached.
As we chatted Tom, the backpacker we met at Chitimba came walking up. He’s staying at Mayoka and said that it’s just okay. He’s leaving tonight so we won’t get to spend time with him. He did tell us that the staff at Chitimba told him why everything was so strange when we were there. One of the Africa Tour Trucks pulled in followed by some armed bandits. They took everyone’s money and anything else that they wanted including money from the Hotel. Sort of scary, huh?
We began the climb on the dirt and rock with a push. Tom walked along for a while then said his goodbyes and went on ahead. Chris and Sonja passed us their old beauty stalled out. We got to them just as Sonja finished putting rocks under the wheels to keep her from rolling. Chris got out, crawled around under her then decided that she may have just jumped out of gear. We pushed onward and they roared by, again. At the top a Security Guard took Cat down to see Mayoka while I guarded the bikes. She came back with a negative report, it is so steep and rocky that it would be close to impossible to get the bike down the trail.
The Security guy walked us around to the road to Njaya, pointed then left us to our own devices. It was down then more ups. It was even rougher and rockier as we pushed along. The afternoon sun peaked through the clouds and brought our sweat to the surface. At last, a steep down and we rolled into the parking lot. Another pleasant surprise, the 79 Rover was here. We pushed down a rock sidewalk and leaned the bikes on a rock planter. Yes, they had rooms, reed Chalets on the lake and Cabins above the Registration, Restaurant and Bar building. The Chalets share bath and toilet and it’s a hike down the path to them. Cat chose a Cabin, it’s only 1200 Ks and it has toilet and shower with hot water.
The big struggle was getting the bikes up the 4 sets of stairs. Tired, we took them one at a time. Even by going on the grassy hillsides we still had lots of stairs to lift and drag up.
The Cabin is pretty basic but has a porch with view of the lake, a king size and 2 twin beds as well as a wicker furnished sitting area. The bath is typical basic, too but it will do fine for the night.
We met a couple, Amy and Tony, as we checked in. We drank a beer and traded stories. He is from England, she’s USA, all the way. From the heart of the heartland, Leawood, Kansas. They joined up and have been traveling together for the last few weeks. He had been packing around Africa with a buddy, they met Amy, his pal had to go back to work but he still had time so they threw in together. (Sounds platonic as she also told us that she was meeting her boyfriend next week. This is his first and he says, last time here. He has traveled extensively in South America and says that we’ll love it there. He misses museums and historic sights and he’s not a beach person. WE got a photo and decided to get together later. They’re leaving on a Ferry, down lake, tonight.
The waiter calls himself “Food Man”. His voice is wonderful, his laugh and the way he says, “Yea” are infectious. We sat on the deck overlooking the lake and enjoyed Pizza with Chris and Sonja. They are in a quandary, not knowing whether they want to move on to the north or head back home. They had a flat tire earlier today and several locals pitched in to help change it. When the dust settled and they were driving off Chris checked on a small package that he had stashed under the seat. It was gone long with the $300 that was tucked away inside it. That may be part of their disappointment? We urged them to go all the way to Europe if they have the time and money. He is a Commodities Broker and says that he’s embroiled in a lawsuit. I know how those things can drag you down. She’s a hairdresser. They really make a handsome couple.
"You Must Be Crazy," Tsonga
"You Must Be Crazy," Afrikaans
Cat moaned and groaned as the cold water streamed down her back. They told us it would be hot but it’s not? I jumped in and suffered the shivers as I soaped up then noticed a second spigot on a pipe above. When I turned it on I had warm water. Too bad for The Cat, but it was the kind of warm and happy ending we all hope for.
We were snuggled in by 9:00 PM.
March 16, 2004
Nyala Lodge, Nkhata Bay
And Then The Rain Came!
Awoke at 5:00 AM as has become my custom on Malawian Time. We had both had our sleep interrupted several times by brilliant flashes of lightening followed by rafter shaking peals of thunder. The rain came down by the buckets full, torrential. We rolled over and let the storm lull us back into deep sleep. It was 7:30 when we finally pried ourselves out from under the mosquito net. Now it was hurry up and wait. We had arranged for a truck to take us back to the junction, we definitely didn’t want to backtrack and push especially now that the road is mud. Remember, once we’ve ridden in we allow ourselves the right and privilege of hiring a ride out.
Food Man was his jovial self and the food was okay. I had English breakfast and Cat had banana pancake. The disappointment came when we had them tally the tab. The room which we thought was well worth the 1200 Kwacha they had quoted but the bill was for 2400, 1200 each person? The food, though quite good is also expensive. Luckily the bottle of wine was only 900 Ks.
The rain continued to pelt down as we ate. There are a couple of young guys, Mads and Emil from Denmark. They worked for 6 months after graduation and saved money that they’re now
spending on their African adventure. A Canadian couple, Brian and Karen, came in for breakfast. She has been sick, really sick, the African Guff Guff got her in a real bad way. They are trying to get out of here and spend the final few days of their month in Africa back on Zanzibar. They will relax there then fly out, back to work and cold wet weather on Vancouver Island. Well, it can’t be much wetter there than it is here, right now.
Our 9:00 AM truck was delayed and the price went up from 800 to 1000 Ks due to the hazard of the mud. Chris and Sonja came in and had breakfast. Brian and Karen had been talking about trying to get a truck out of here then bus to Mzuzu. They want to be on the midnight bus to Dar es Salaam tonight, if possible. When Chris and Sonja came in to tell us goodbye, they have decided to venture out into the mud, I asked if they would take Brian and Karen. They made a deal and we saw them off.
Cat was almost sad, not because they are leaving but because we are going to be stuck here, alone. There are no other guests and the way the rain continues to come in sheets it’s unlikely that there will be others. We had been tempted to hook a ride with them but we’d just end up at the cross roads in pouring rain and the next dry room is 40 kilometers down the highway. So, we have resigned ourselves to the fact that we are marooned by mud.
Politics, but not as usual!
Oh, by the way, the new Spanish Prime Minister declared today that Spain will withdraw from the “Coalition of the Willing” in Iraq. They will form alliances with France and Germany and the rest of “Old Europe”. That tidbit came to us via Sky News in the bar. They also aired the results of a poll taken in England before the Madrid bombings. 75% of Brits think that a terrorist attack is more likely since they went into Iraq. Is the “War on Terror” just creating more terror? The country still remains about equally divided over whether going to Iraq was the right thing to do.
Journalize, shower then lunch. Two young British girls, Ceri and Lucy, came in. They’re staying at Mayoka, the place that Cat decided we couldn’t possibly get down to with the bikes yesterday. They said that it is similar to Njaya but not as nice. Lucy said that she doesn’t mind a shared toilet but not when you have to walk 100 meters in the dark and rain. (It hadn’t dawned on us until this moment, the misery that the toilet down the path must have been for Karen. She spent 2 days riding out the ravages of African Guff Guff. We suddenly began to love our room.) Ceri is living here on a two- year contract with a non-profit that provides backup for the “Save the Children Foundation”. Lucy, her friend works with a group that’s similar to the Peace Corp but she’s just here for a visit. Food Man filled us all up with burgers and fries.
We walked down to the beach, took a few pictures then made our way back to our Cabin. I journalized while Cat familiarized her self with Zimbabwe.
Dinner at 7:00 PM, there were some German people but they spoke little English and you know how terrible our German is. Back to our bungalow and bed by 9:00 PM.
March 17, 2004
Nkhata Bay to Ngala Beach
Happy St. Patrick’s Day
Food Man, Dickson and Bar Man, Gilbert came out to see us off. It was cloudy and threatening but no rain at the moment. Paul, the driver and Leonard, his helper, pulled in right at the stroke of nine. The pickup is a wreck. He had parked on the hill but I asked him to pull over where we’d leaned the bikes. I saw him studying the layoff the land and when he had to roll forward to get started I understood. The starter or battery were not working? The six of us lifted then Paul and I tied the bike down. We got in, ready for him to roll backward and pop the clutch but he couldn’t get the thing into reverse. He pulled the rubber cover off the shifter and began repairs. The glove box is full of wrenches, he got the appropriate one and took the cover plate off the transmission. We were scrunched up in the seat and he worked over Cat’s leg. Somehow, he got the linkage working, we rolled back and she fired up.
The road was just as rough and rocky as we remembered. It took him 30 minutes to get from Nyala to town. He would cut the engine and coast down hills to conserve fuel. The mud added to the degree of difficulty.
In town we asked him to stop so that we could buy water. He asked for some of the money we had agreed to pay, he needed petrol. While I got water he ran across and bought a 5-gallon plastic container of gasoline.
At the crossroads we had him pull up near the roadblock. We got the bikes down then leaned them on the truck and filled our water bottles. At 9:30 we waved goodbye and began pedaling. The road was surprisingly ups and downs. Several had told us that it was flat. There is a Rubber Tree Plantation with large, mature trees that flank the road. Young guys stand bouncing balls made of rubber string and try to sell them for 50 Kwacha. We resisted but did get some good pictures of the way they milk the trees.
We rode into rain, thick enough to pull out the Ponchos. At 40 Ks out we found the village of Chintheche. Hungry, we pushed across the muddy parking lot to a café. Rice, veggies, and sauce. The owner, Agnes, was holding court with a group of young guys. Maybe relatives or schoolboys having an afternoon snack? When she heard that we are from America she told us that her cousin lives in the Bronx, in New York. She thinks she’ll visit him next year. She asked for our address and sort of suggested that she could stop by when she visits the cousin. We tried to explain that California is a far cry from NYC but she was getting it. We gave her our card and told her to have her cousin send an e-mail to us.
We said our goodbyes then as we were folding the Ponchos she came out and handed each of us a carved wood salad fork and spoon. She also had a carved wooden wine goblet for Cat. What a nice gesture, we haven’t had anyone offer to give us a gift since we can remember. I guess she like the picture we took of her and the thought of visiting us when she’s in the States? Yes, we often invite people like Agnes to our home. It isn’t real probable that she’ll ever make it but, if she does she would be more than welcome.
The hills continued but the rain abated. Sonja had told Cat that Ngala Beach is 80 kilometers from Nkhata Bay. We were at about 90 and struggling when a little pickup pulled over. The driver, Aaron, offered cold water and mileage advise. He thought it was 20 or 30 kilometers to Ngala. He lives there and knows the owners. Then, he said, “Maybe we’d better say 39 Ks, for sure”! Cat was already running on reserves and this was a crushing blow. Aaron offered to throw the bikes in his truck and haul us in. She talked like she would and I suggested that she take the deal and I would finish the ride. That was an absolute no deal. I did ask him to send out a search party if we weren’t in by 6:00 PM. As he pulled away I wished that we would have had him take the bags. We could have made mush better time but then, we don’t really know him.
The scenery was spectacular, the road continued to undulate. We were ground down to slow speed due to lack of strength, our legs were drained. We turned our blinking taillights on at 6:15 in deepening dusk and hoped that Aaron was on his way. Then, like a vision, a sign reflected in the headlights of a passing car. Ngala Beach Lodge with an arrow, 400 meters. I was getting our headlight out as it passed. In the almost total darkness I shined our little light up and confirmed. As I tried to get the headlight onto my helmet a guy, night watchman at Ngala walked up and asked to help us. “Yes, Ngala is just this way, follow me”. He started off with Cat following, I lost control of my bike while finishing installation of the light and it crashed to the ground.
I rode past our benefactor and as I did something fell from the bike. It was the salad spoon. The watchman found it and brought it to me. The fork was nowhere to be seen. Probably lost when the bike tumbled? As we stood talking a single headlight came toward us in the darkness. It was Craig, the owner, the search party we had been hoping for. Of course, we’d made it to the gate so, who needs a Savior, now?
Ngala is a very neat place. The room is actually two bedrooms, one downstairs and one up with a balcony and view of the lake during daylight. Craig helped us get the bikes through the obstacles and into the room. We wanted, no we needed a beer. He told us that we had time while the water for much needed showers was heating.
Wednesday is Pizza night at Ngala. When we got to the bar I asked if they had white wine. Craig looked along the back bar then said, “Bad news, we’re out”. I pulled our bottle from behind my back and said, “Can you throw this one in the freezer”? Craig told us that they had Carlsberg Brown and Carlsberg Green. It was Green of course, this is St. Patrick’s Day! We had some focaccio bread with the beer then headed for the showers. Lights thanks to a generator that stays on until 11:00 PM and hot water. Heaven, we are really depleted.
The gang, locals here for the Pizza also had a pool tournament going. They asked us in but we were too tired to stand or walk. Diana, Craig’s wife came in and took over at the bar so that he could get a shower. There were two guys, Graham and Tony sitting sipping suds. The others, Bernice, Tony’s daughter and her boyfriend Angus, William and Bernice, even Aaron, drifted in as we waited for our Pizza. We sipped our wine, nibbled the Pizza and got acquainted. Graham, Tony and Angus all work at a Sugar Plantation about 20 Ks down the road. Bernice is just recovering from bronchitis and Malaria. Aaron has attended school in Lansing, Michigan, USA. They’re all nice people, all interested in hearing about our marathon trip.
It was 11:00 PM, almost time for lights out by the time we got to bed. We had a feeling that the generator would continue to throb away until the last beer was drunk.
March 18, 2004
Ngala Beach to Sani Beach
Breakfast was great, real coffee, eggs and toast. Craig came in as we were finishing. He got names and phone numbers of people in and around Lilongwe that might be able to help us. His background before Ngala was boats. He has down sailing and tour cruising all over Africa. When we mentioned Dennis in Ziguinchor he talked about his memories of coming up the river there. We hated to go and he seemed to hate to see us go. We had a picture together in front of the building then shook, waved and headed out to the road. In retrospect we might have been better off just to stay there an extra day.
I’m now riding without sunglasses, another casualty of the bike crash last night? We rode slowly back to the highway, looking for the fork. Then we pulled up under the sign where the bike had fallen. The disturbance in the dirt was still there but the sunglasses and fork now have new owners. Onward, into the glare.
A Farmers Market was in full swing in the shade of a huge tree. The tiny village had produce and other wares displayed in rows. We looked for food but could only come up with a couple of cold Pineapple sodas. Then as we sipped a young girl sat down across from me and began nursing her baby. She talked with Cat and although the guy at the grocery said that there was no restaurant here she indicated that there was and she could take us there. We followed, just a few buildings down and into a shabby little place. We asked for rice but she, Unity, said all they have is Nshima, corn flour mush of a sort.
I took some pictures of the kids crowded around the doorway as we waited. Then after we ate as much as we could stand Unity asked for a picture of her and baby Patience. Then she called her auntie, Aida for a photo. A crowd had gathered. A guy came to me when he saw the camera and said, “Big man, take photo of Mother”? He, Royce, was a bit pushy and the type that I tend to ignore but his Mother was a darling. He shoved some of the kids back to make sure it was just he and Mom in the pic. I asked her to smile but she remained stone faced. I used my fingers to show a smile on my face, she got it and grinned, I shot. When they saw the picture the brash guy said, “My Mother is very smiling now”. He pointed to her heart. They didn’t ask for a picture, just to see it was enough for them. We’re hoping that we survive the Nshima without catching another ration of the dreaded African Guff Guff.
Fatigue was coursing through our bodies. We have just pushed them too far these past two days. The heat took a toll, too. It was late afternoon when we pulled into the BP Service Station in Nkhotakota. Cat found some cold water, we sat on the curb and drank. It is between 12 and 20 kilometers to the place, Nkhotakota Pottery that Craig and Diana recommended. Andrew and Junio, artists/Rasta men/salesmen, took a position in front of us and spread their wares for us to see. They called me Father and Cat, Mother. We explained that we don’t buy anything because we have no room to carry. They gave up on the sales pitch and began to wonder at the size and scope of our journey. It would have been refreshing to just sit and talk if we hadn’t been so tired and concerned about finding the Pottery Lodge. They weren’t sure but thought it was about 15 Ks from here. They did say that most of the road was downhill.
We set off and immediately began climbing. It was ups and downs that our spent legs didn’t need. It was also after 4:00 PM and hot. We were ground down to pushing on 3 of the hills. Had we been fresh we could have ridden them but not this afternoon. At the top of one we saw a sign, Sani Beach Resort 4 Kilometers. Our LPGB says that it has a nice bar but the rooms are sterile. Cat didn’t want to go on, fearing that it might be another 10 Ks or more. We took the dirt turnoff and were soon following a guy on a bicycle, another night watchman. He assured us, using all of his limited language skills, that Sani was a good place. The road of rock and dirt continued the same ups and downs as the highway with the added difficulty. We had to push a couple of times and the sun was sinking fast. We got into Sani at 5:30, just ahead of dusk.
We were both dog-tired almost to the point of ill. Surprise, Gary and Cathy’s great old Toyota Land Cruiser truck with tent atop was parked on the grass. We got in, got the bikes inside the room then went to the bar. They were as surprised to see us as we were them. It’s been more than 2 weeks since we ran into them at the Stone Age Site in Tanzania. We traded stories and just enjoyed being together while they ate and fended off a swarm of ants. They headed back to their camp and we went for the shower, cold shower that is. When the guy told Cat that the showers only have cold water but we could go to the ablution blocks (toilet rooms) and camping showers for warm she sort of hit the ceiling. He apologized then she suggested that they bring some hot water in a bucket for us. They agreed.
So, a bucket shower then back to the bar for dinner. It was just us, we think we’re the only Hotel guests and Gary and Cathy are the only camping guests here. We chose to sit in overstuffed chairs at a low table because Gary and Cathy had been seated at the only real table but we didn’t want to continue the battle with the ants.
Dinner was just okay. They too had no white wine but did chill our remaining bottle. We watched a woman washing dishes in the lake, as we ate. When finished she gathered them up and came back to the kitchen. Could it be that they have no sink or no water here?
Our tired bodies needed rest. We were in bed and snoring by 9:00 PM.
March 19, 2004
Sani Beach to The Pottery
A Day of Much Needed Rest
So, we woke up and were just getting around when the fellow from the Restaurant came knocking. He told us that the breakfast is ready? How can that be, we haven’t even ordered yet?
We finished loading then walked down to visit with Gary and Cathy. I caught them in action, he was zipping up the car top tent and she was putting the breakfast things away. They have quite an interesting lifestyle. They are just putt putting along the lake for the next few weeks then she will fly out of Lilongwe for Wales and he will drive on south to his home in Zimbabwe. He, again, assured us that we’ll have no problems traveling there.
Breakfast was cold egg, cold Sloppy Joe hamburger and cold toast. They warned us that they had it ready an hour ago and they don’t do reruns? The bill was a shocker, 3500 for the room plus almost 1500 in tax and tip. I complained, we showed them the LPGB with a quote of 2400 for the room. They were sorry then told us that they had a new owner since November 5, last year. I wrote a note on one of our cards, “The Rip Off in Malawi”, and left it for the new owners. They are South African and are currently in South Africa. We’d already decided to move on, this really sealed the deal.
It took 45 minutes to cycle the 4 Ks to the highway. Our leg muscles were burning and Cat was feeling nauseous. We picked up a bike buddy, Isaiah, along the way. We asked about buying some bottled water, he led us to a store. We waited, he ran into see if they had some. When he returned he was carrying one of those plastic bags that they bite the corner off of and suck. We poured it into an empty water bottle and found that we’d need 10 bags to fill our bottles. He again ran down and re-emerged with 9 more bags, these were cold in fact some were even frozen. We poured the cold in our bottles and stuck the frozen ones under the bungee on the back bags.
I went down into the store to pay and bought 3 Pineapple sodas. We three stood and savored them in the hot sun. What a nice young guy. He has worked in South Africa, somewhere near Cape Town doing something that we couldn’t understand due to language difficulty. He’s cycling to Chia Lagoon to visit a friend from school who is there recuperating from Malaria.
We waved goodbye to Isaiah and took the turn toward Nkhotakota Pottery. Craig and Diana had recommended the place. Yes, it’s another 4 kilometers off the highway down another dirt and rocky road. There at the end of the drive was a Mitsubishi Pajero 4WD with 2 bikes on a roof rack. The restaurant has some tables spread out in the shade of large trees. We waited there for the room to be made up. A couple came around the building, he was carrying a cycling water bottle. We asked if they were cyclists. He said, “Yea, American cyclists, we haul the bikes around but rarely ride them”.
Sam and Johanna are Jehovah’s Witnesses, here on a Mission for 3 years. During our conversation they asked if we’d seen any of the big animals on the road while cycling. We told them about meeting the elephants in Mikumi and he said, “Do you believe in God”? Probably just a figure of speech, like bet you wanted some help. I said, “Not exactly, we believe in Mother Nature and if she wants us returned to nature at the behest of one of her finest creations, then so be it”. They’re a very nice young couple, they gave us their e-mail and telephone numbers. They’re living in Lilongwe and invited us to call if we need anything.
Our Chalet is quite nice, getting the bikes to it through the beach sand was tough on two tired bodies. I jumped into the shower then we discovered that there we no towels. Cat went towel hunting while I finished my shower. I decided to dry off on the bath mat that was hanging nearby. When I pulled it down a huge spider fell out and skittered across the floor. It was about 1½ inches across but with legs extended it must have been 3 inches, as big as a small tarantula. I hit it with the mat but only made it angry. It charged at me as I flailed. Finally, a direct hit then toilet paper and a flush. The battle was over and Cat won’t know about it until she reads these pages. I think it’s better that way!
Lunch in the shade of a tree overlooking the shore of Lake Malawi. The rest of the afternoon was spent typing and resting, under the ceiling fan. Oh yes, Cat did find out about the big spider. She came upon three more ominous looking family members.
I want to go for a swim! What the heck is Bilharzia?
It was still hot and the beach looked inviting but, what about Bilharzia? Te Lonely Planet tells us that Bilharzia is a disease that occurs all over Africa. Tiny worms carried by infected humans and water snails transmit it. It can be contracted if you swim in lakes, ponds or any shallow water. There is a sign on the beach stating that this is a very low risk area but then, why take a risk? Remember Ceri? The young girl we met at Nkhata Bay lives here and has for two years. She said, “You really should take a swim just to be able to say that you have”. I asked about Bilharzia and she laughed, “You just assume that you have it, wait a month then go in and take the treatment”! I had to pass on the splash. No telling where we’ll be in a month and what the medical facilities will be.
Late in the afternoon we toured the Pottery Shop. It is a big operation. They ship internationally. There was a guy, Charles, throwing clay, making a cup. I took a little video of him and the rest of the people painting, glazing and making works of art.
Dinner was a casual affair. The Chef was also the waiter and we were his only customers. Service was great with food to match. Yes, he even had a decent bottle of wine for us.
March 20, 2004
Nkhotakota Pottery to Salima
Breakfast at 7:00 AM, under the same tree on the lawn. English breakfast they call it, eggs, sausage, bacon toast and great coffee. As we dug in a young girl, Justine, walked past. I said hello and she responded. “Where do you live”, I asked? “Here, in Malawi”, she answered. I told here that she sounded more British than Malawian. She laughed and said, I’m an American but I’ve been here for 3 years. Her hometown, she shrugged and reeled off half a dozen city names. She told of a difficult childhood, a dysfunctional family and lots of moves. Her Mother and Father divorced and Mom married money. Justine seems to be rebelling, she dislikes what she calls the phony world. She now relates people’s lives elsewhere to those of her friends in the little village where she lives. Her Mom and Step Father did visit once but wouldn’t stay in the village. They camped out in the most expensive Hotel on the lakeshore.
Justine is the girl from American that Aaron had told us about. She is on holiday and cycling the most of the length of the lake. We got the bikes out and posed then headed out for Salima together. Our overburdened bikes were no match for here light load. Our tired, aging muscles couldn’t manage to keep her pace. She soon bid us adieu and peddled away. Up the 4 Km dirt road to the highway and there she was, talking with a group of kids. When we pulled up they all jumped on the begging bandwagon. “Give me money”! She scolded them then I showed her how we always joked about how young they are and old we are and that they could get work. She translated then told us that it was a good way to respond, make a joke, which left the asker slightly embarrassed. She felt that they might hold back, not ask next time.
Cat and Justine traded bikes, she wanted to see what it is like, riding our heavy weights. Again, it wasn’t long before she was waving to us as she pulled away. We decided to make Benga, a village about 50 Km along, our lunch stop. As we slowly rode along looking for food we found her, seated in the shade eating a package of cookies. She was holding court with locals. They all find it hard to believe that she speaks their language. We sat for a few minutes, she asked the crowd where there was food, rice and beans. No R&B but there is a place with Nsima. Another goodbye, she is off while a guy she talked with led us to the little stand serving food.
Cat has developed a taste for the stuff, I find it hard to swallow. It’s mushy and almost tasteless. She loads it up with salt. I ordered chicken. All backs, necks and bones. The sauce did add a little something to the taste. There were 3 customers already rolling balls of white corn dough and dipping them in the sauce. They all tried to communicate but Sampson had the greatest command of our English language. Allan, a farmer with gray whiskers, did manage enough words to tell us a little about his business. Major, like Sampson, is unemployed. Sampson is married and has two children. He works in farming but says that there are no jobs.
Our supply of water is running low. We asked for mineral water but Sampson told us that there was none to be had in Benga. Justine had told us that she feels the “Bore Hole” water is usually drinkable. Sampson led us to the well, a group of kids pumped and I worked our filter. We poured our remaining mineral water into one bottle on each bike then filled the others. We’re not completely sure that it’s drinkable, for us.
The road began to undulate, slightly. It was warm but not hot. Again, we’re just 4 – 5 kilometers from the lake but it remains hidden from view and the scenery remained banal. (Cat’s biggest disappointment on this portion of our ride.)
We arrived at the crossroad to Salima and Lilongwe at 5:30. Surprise, as we rolled into the service station to get a soft drink and find shelter, Justine shouted out and waved to us. She had only been there about half an hour and had been befriended by a girl from Denmark who works at Kuti Ranch, Malawi’s first Wildlife breeding station, 7 km down a dirt road. They urged us, almost begged us to throw the bikes on the pickup and spend the night there. Our friends, Gary and Cathy are there, too. It sounded like great fun except for the Tent Camping only accommodations and self-catering. That would mean getting there, setting the tent and cooking dinner. It was already 6:00 PM and darkness was nigh. A handshake with the Danish girl, hugs from Justine then they wheeled out of the drive and we rolled down toward Salima, still 8 Ks away.
The Mal Tsalani Motel is in the heart of the village near the PTC Supermarket. That could fill two needs so we rode in that direction. PTC had just closed but the clerk let me into the darkened store. We got water and wine, the two main essentials. (Neither of us had had to dip into the Bore Hole water.)
Rain that had threatened all afternoon kept its promise as we rode down the dirt road to Mal Tsalani. The Motel was dark, too. A town wide power failure that had been plaguing Salima since early morning. It was dark inside, I stood the watch while Cat checked the room. Mosquitoes nibbled at my legs as I waited. The room was adequate and the hallway was lighted with lamps and candles. We wriggled the bikes through the narrow hall and into our two-room suite. They lay in repose against the maroon couch and chair.
Cat went for the shower only to fid that there was no water. We Complained and the young guy explained that all water from their tank had been used and the electric pump was idle due to the outage. Almost as he spoke the lights and fan came on.
We drank a couple of beers then began the cleaning process. Cat got a cold shower. I jumped in and had just begun adjusting to the cold when the pressure surged and gurgled. I had warm water. It was brown as it swirled round my feet but it was warm.
Dinner in a step down area across from the reception area. It was muggy and buggy. The rain had intensified but was beginning to wane. We asked for a fan to stir the air around and thwart the flying bugs. They delivered, we had chicken and chips in reasonable comfort. They had chilled our bottle of wine and it went well with the greasy but good food. We were hungry from the long ride and the tiny Nsima lunch.
Early to bed.
Sunday, March 21, 2004
A Bus Ride to Lilongwe
We awoke to rain, hard, heavy rain. It continued to pour during our included breakfast. Then, as tough on cue, Mother Nature cut it back to a drizzle. By the time we got out the door it was all over save the dripping from trees. The guys at the Motel told us that we could get a bus sometime between 8:00 and 11:00 AM.
Finding the Bus Station was easy, finding information about the schedule wasn’t. The best guess we got was that the Lilongwe Bus would be in sometime between 10:00 and 11:00. We leaned the bikes and watched as the other buses and mini buses pulled in and out. The hawkers run to the bus and hold their wares up to the windows. Surprisingly, they do a pretty brisk business with soft drinks, fruit hardboiled eggs and fried dough balls. Some of the shorter salespeople use sticks with a nail to hold their merchandise at window level.
When the bus finally rolled in at 11:15 we pulled the bags off the bikes and I pitched them up the steps to Cat who stacked them in the rear seat. I went up on the roof of the bus and helped as the Bus Company employees hoisted the bikes up. I strapped them down then, taking no chances, stood the guard as other passengers threw their bags and baggage up.
The back of the bus was hot as we sat quietly sweating, waiting for it to move and stir up a breeze. Fellow passengers stared, some asked where we were from but again, the language barrier kept us from getting to know them. One guy, Mr. Black, seated in front of us had a great look. I finally couldn’t stand not to take his picture. He was a little reticent but didn’t even know when I snapped the frame. He viewed it with detached interest until one of the young guys next to him began to talk about it with other passengers. They crowded the aisle and his chest swelled with pride. Many asked us to take their picture but we explained that we can’t give them a copy and we are short of disks. They seemed disappointed but understanding. I did get a shot of some cat fish hanging from the roof, dripping on the fisherman who’d caught them.
Traffic and hills slowed progress, it took 2 hours to go the 100 Km. (60 miles) The Lilongwe Station was teeming with guys wanting to help. I asked for the Bus Company employees and did receive their help. We stacked the bags off in front of a group of Police Officers. I tried to get their picture but, as usual, they told us it is forbidden when they’re on duty?
One of them accompanied me outside the gate to the front of the Station in search of a cab. We found a car with a roof rack and he agreed to take us for the price the Policeman suggested. He followed us back to the exit gate and waited. He would come inside but they wanted the equivalent of $2.00 to let him in. It took several minutes to get loaded and he was gone by the time we got to where he’d parked. We pushed around the corner and there he was, back in his original spot. He didn’t seem to be that interested in helping but did finally agree to the original agreement.
Bikes stacked on top and surrounded by bags, we were off to the Riverside Hotel. The Lonely Planet places it in the mid-range category but we found it to be quite nice. Maybe because of last night at the less than Mal Tsalani? The room was comfortable and feels clean. We had a ceiling fan but no screens on the windows. (We’re trying hard to complete our African experience Malaria free.) We even have TV with BBC.
After a fair and filling lunch we took the Mini Bus into area 4, the Old Town. A successful journey, we found and used an Internet Shop and a good selection of wine at the ShopRite Super Market. Our attempt to Mini Buss back failed as every passing bus was packed with people. A friendly taxi driver told us that the big political rally had just ended and all buses would be full for some time. We thanked him and continued to wait until it was obvious that he was right. He took us home and told us of his life while driving. He retired from the Army and is now beginning a second career. He is disappointed that he and his family can’t live on the retirement. I told him that the same is true in our country. He found it hard to believe since he like most people here think that all Americans are rich!
One flaw we discovered at the Riverside, they are Muslim owned therefore, no alcohol. We sipped our bottle in the room then walked to the adjacent Imperial Hotel. The food and wine there was expensive. Though the food was good they served us both a different dish than we had ordered. We pitched a bitch but agreed to take the wrong dish rather than wait another half hour. The best news was that they accepted our Visa Card.
A little CNN then bed time.
March 22, 2004
More Needed Rest & Business in Lilongwe
Cat’s Mom Glenys’s Birthday
Needed sleep led to late breakfast. They were almost out of some items but the best breakfast we’ve had in some time. We asked about bringing wine to dinner and the young restaurant manager from Nepal told us that they’re Moslem owned and it’s not allowed. When we expressed a desire to try their Chinese food rather than go out he said that we could drink in our room. We laughed and said, “Run back and forth for a sip between bites”? We’ve experienced this before and they were tolerant enough to allow a covered bottle at the table. He checked with the manager. He told us that it would be okay to bring our glass of wine to the table. Well, that’s progress?
There were 3 young people in the lobby when we headed out for town. I forgot the camera and went back, we missed several mini buses. We were sitting, waiting and when they pulled out, they offered us a ride. Erin, Kelly and Jamin are from Florida, here with a Religious based company, New Mission Systems. They analyze projects for various Churches and try to find ways to consolidate and share the work with other Christian Churches. Nice guys, dedicated, working for small dollars doing something that they believe in. We agree, there’s so much to be done here that it’s foolish and wasteful for several groups to just duplicate the same programs.
They dropped us at the Mini Bus stop and we hoped aboard a crowded van. The tout ran up and down the street calling for more passengers while we sat and sweated. He was successful, the 10-passenger van struggled and strained with the weight of its 16 fares.
They dropped us and did sign language to show us the direction to the US Embassy. Once in the Consulate Office we were told to wait. The girls at the window were taking a long time. I asked for the forms we need to register and the guy told me to go back out front. Geez we hate the bureaucratic run around. Forms filled and at the window the Malawi clerk was struggling with us when Kiera called out from the back that we should come to the door. She took us in and shared a lot of valuable info from the system and her own personal experiences. A really nice gal from Porterville, California.
With Kiera’s hand drawn map in hand we walked around the corner and down the street to the Mozambique Embassy. The late start, wait, then time with Kiera left no time. The office closes at noon, we got in the door just under the wire. A simple form, 1600 Kwacha each (a value as Visas go) and we were told to come back at 2:00 PM.
Arrested By My Own Country?
There are several modern buildings in the area. We decided to take pictures as proof that Africa is more than just mud huts. I did the point and click at one and the security guard called out. A guy standing next to me said, “You’re not allowed to take a picture of this building”. I asked why, I pointed out that there is no sign but the guard was now running across the street. He was courteous but forceful and asked me to erase the picture. When I told him I couldn’t he yelled out and that brought another green uniform toward us. Then a guy in a suit came out of the building that has a sign for an Insurance Company on it and informed me that it is the headquarters for US AID.
Unbelievable, eh? The guy, Zizwani, told me to erase the picture or I’d have to come with him. I don’t know whether it can be erased but didn’t want to, in any case. Cat had walked on as I shot pictures, looking for the Zimbabwe Embassy. She returned and couldn’t figure out what was going on. “I’m being detained by the United States Government”. She didn’t understand, I explained as we walked into the building.
Zizwani asked me to erase the photo. As far as I know it can’t be deleted on a CD-R disc. He asked me to take a seat and called a fellow Security person who told him that it could be done, right on the camera? I objected, I don’t want anyone changing anything. I don’t want to loose anything. At that point I asked to meet with anyone from US AID who is from the US. Zizwani was a bit hurt and put his ID Card in front of me to prove his status. Though not wanting to usurp his authority or hurt his feelings I told him that I’d feel most comfortable with a fellow citizen. He called one guy that refused to come. The second was out in the field but suggested another.
Joe D. got on the phone and began explaining why it’s important in these days of terrorism to maintain a high level of security. I suggested that they should post a warning on an otherwise inconspicuous looking building. When I asked what his position with US AID was he surprised me, “I’m in charge of security for the US Embassy”. I told him that we’d just left there after registering and meeting with Kiera. He chuckled and said, “I just saw you here. You don’t look like Osama bin Laden so I think we can cut you loose, let me talk with Ziz again”.
Ziz continued to seem slightly upset that I’d gone around him but was an instant friend. He talked about his job and how much he enjoys working with US AID. He even walked out with us and pointed the way toward the Zimbabwe High Commission. We shook hands and he apologized for any inconvenience. Just for the record, he did a very good job and, knowing that, US AID employees should sleep better.
Taking Ziz’s direction to the Zimbabwe Embassy we happened upon DHL’s office. They had our spokes and the Nutsert. (A tool to repair the stripped threads on Cat’s bike. A tool that I will have to learn to use.) So, we are ready to get road ready, again, thanks to LandRider and our friend, Brad.
A gate guard told us that the Zimbabwe Embassy had closed at noon. I turned to take a picture of the building under construction as a car pulled into the gate. The construction guys were great. They ran, jumped on a pile of sand and posed. I show the photo to them and they really loved it. All the others rushed to the fence and begged for me to take their picture. (Why don’t we find an inexpensive way to take photos for these people, photos that they can keep? Although so many people we meet seem happy just to know that they have been photographed.)
Cat was busy talking with Shame (Shame’), the guy that just pulled up in the car. He’s the Minister Counsellor and has invited us in, Says that he’ll take application for our Visas right now. Unfortunately, we forgot that we’d left our Passports at the Mozambique Embassy. Cat asked her usual question about how safe it will be for a couple of people on bicycles. Shame then asked if we were avoiding Zimbabwe as well as sanctioning her? He’s a nice guy. When we revealed our lack of Passports he laughed and said, “ I will see you tomorrow”.
Backtracking, we bought ham and cheese and picnicked just like the good old days in Lil’ Scotty. Well, except that we sat in the shade at a plastic table and watched street waifs work the trashcans for food or cans and bottles. Terrible, whether it’s here or New York City or even Oxnard. So many poor, so little money.
Back at the Mozambique Embassy, we had to wait and as we did Linda came in. She’s a Missionary and is doing a Woman’s Empowerment class just across the border. Though she’s originally from Illinois but has been here for over 25 years. She and her husband have 3 kids, all born here. The eldest, who’s in school back home, had some sort of problem and her husband is there, helping him. They do get back as a family about every 3 years. Pretty different life they’ve chosen!
As we walked out we asked direction, she offered us a ride. In fact she knew where the Ulendo Tours Office was and took us to the parking lot. They have just received the car we rode in, a big 4WD. She said it was pretty embarrassing at first because it was the same make and color as that of the President of Malawi. She is a typical “Salt of the Earth” person and a treat for us to meet.
Craig and Diana owners of Ingala Beach Resort had recommended Lindsay as the travel agent to see. We were toying with the idea of bus or flight to Victoria Falls. She told us of the marathon, 2-day bus ride, which made it easy to scratch that idea. The cost of a package to fly that includes Hotel was a wallet choker. We decided not to decide but to sleep on it. As we walked away we wondered what it was that we were thinking about? We turned back, walked through the door and told her to book us for the Wednesday flight.
The afternoon flew by as we paid too much for Internet access. Then, Chinese food back at camp Riverside. It was pretty good but they have a rule, no wine. We were able to circumvent by drinking from our water bottles. They probably weren’t fooled but put up with us. (The Manager had suggested that we keep the wine in our room then run back and forth between bites, for a sip?)
Some guy had called earlier, something about our restaurant bill? I told him that we’d stop at the desk and figure it out. The guy at the desk didn’t seem to have a clue as to what we were talking about?
We’d just settled in when the phone rang. This time the same voice was a little more specific. He is the manager from the restaurant next door. They had made a mistake on the Visa bill and he wanted us to come over and sign again. We’d had such a crumby experience last night that I suggested he should come over here about 8:00 in the morning, he agreed. We turned out the light.
March 23, 2004
Another Day in Lilongwe
Another great breakfast, and oh that orange juice, I drank 3 glasses. As we were going to the room we got a call. Lindsay was sorry to tell us that the flight was already fully booked to the Falls. Awe well, easy come, easy go. We’ll get there somehow. She even suggested that it might be less expensive from Johannesburg. Then a second, the manager next door asked if we could come by there because he forgot that he would need the machine to re-do the card.
The problem next door was that the girl should have charged our card in US Dollars. The manager was very nice, destroyed the old slip and redid. The mini busses only cost 35 Kwacha or 35 cents. The routes are strange so we had to go into Old Town then catch another to City Center. The city is divided into areas similar to Paris, France. One of the locals laughed and said it was completely unimaginable to number areas instead of naming them. Shame’ was his same outgoing self, except that, he could only take our application. The Visas are drawn elsewhere and would take 3 to 4 days. When we told him we wanted to get them and go he shortened the time to 24 hours then told us that we could easily get them at the border. He allayed the fears we’ve had based on stories. He said that we’d have our visas there in 30 minutes or less.
Land Reform and Redistribution
Of course the conversation eventually led to the political situation in Zimbabwe. He said, “Reporters can write anything they want”. Then he gave us a copy of a 50-page book called, “British Betrayal of the Africans”, “Land, Cattle, Human Rights”, A Case For Zimbabwe”. Aeneas Chigwedere, Member of Parliament for Hewedza Constituency, Deputy Minister of Education, Historian and Educationalist has quite a different opinion of the political events in Zimbabwe compared to that of most European and Americans. Chigwedere blames Great Briton. Our LPGB says that when Cecil Rhodes and his private army advanced into Zimbabwe in 1888 and granted land to white settlers he thought he had secured investments for future generations. However, by the mid-1990s whites owned about 70% of the arable land but made up less than 1% of the population. In a defense of sorts, they report that “white” farmers formed the backbone of the economy and to redistribute this profitable land to subsistence farmers who lack the skills to utilize it would have serious implications.
In 2000 President Mugabe held a referendum about land reform and redistribution. The populace responded with a resounding ‘no’. Between February and October 2000, 600 white-owned farms were seized by people claiming to be “War Veterans” even though many were too young to have been so. 12 white farmers were killed. Though the “War Veterans” were promised the land, opposition media feels that about 1/3rd has been given to Mugabe relatives and close advisors. What a quandary for us. Our Real Estate background has us adamantly opposed to any thing that might threaten Private Property Rights yet, what are the rights of these 98% whose families owned/used this land for millenniums before the coming of the Rhodesians? (As we write these lines President Mugabe himself has had his Finance Minister arrested. An expose in the South African press disclosed that he is building a 30,000,000 Rand villa on the coast near Cape Town! We’ll revisit this issue later.)
Back at Town Center Square, we stood in line at the bank only to learn that the phone lines were down, NO cash today! We dined at the Hungry Lion, a fast food place. The burgers were okay but the cockroaches skittering up the wall were disconcerting. A couple we met yesterday at the Internet Shop came in. They are traveling in a Land Rover we’ve seen. It’s painted white with black zebra stripes. He is South African, she British. They met in London and have driven back. In fact they’ve just been sort of Gypsy-ing around for the past 18 months. Prompted by a call from friends, they’re leaving now for Mali. He wants to explore, she told Cat that she wants a job and a normal life. Awe, I know well the difficulties of a relationship between two who are going in different directions.
I cleaned up and responded to e-mail messages while Cat shopped for drugs, prescription drugs that is. Another thrill a minute Mini Bus ride back to The Riverside, dropped our packages and relaxed a bit then shared a taxi back into town with some guys from Sri Lanka. Mama Mia, a great looking Italian Restaurant near Lindsay’s Travel Office had caught our eye. Their Pizza was great but expensive.
Two co-incidental meeting capped the evening for us. As we were finishing a couple stopped and said hello. Mark and Julie, the couple we met in Mzuzu who work at ABC, the African Bible College, had been dining here, also, and stopped as they were leaving. We talked about the soccer games and how badly the Californian boys were beaten. They felt that even in defeat they had achieved a big win. We agree that any time you can draw 30,000 people to an event it’s a winner. Such nice young people, so dedicated to their cause. I still have a tough time with the trade off of things for souls?
The second, as we started to ask the waiter to call a taxi our friend, Richard, the retired Army Officer, dropped a fare and waved to us. We had a ride.
A little CNN, not too uplifting, then sleep.
March 24, 2004
Day 3 in Lilongwe
An extra day in Lilongwe, specifically to gather cash. Breakfast then Cat went into town while I typed journal pages. Hip hip hooray, the phone lines were up. She left her Passport and Visa Card there and went across to check e-mails while they confirmed. Upon return she was deflated to hear that we’d been declined.
With picnic supplies in hand she mini bussed back to our little Riverside enclave with the bad news. I called Visa International and had them call us back. They are really nice and interested in solving the problem. They connected us with our bank, I re-explained the problem to them and was immediately cut off. Another call, more irritation, I asked the Visa International person to give them our phone number in the event we’re cut off again. The bank personnel informed her that they can’t call out but we could call collect. Gads, we’ve told them and told them, you can’t reverse charges from any country we’ve been in here, in Africa. She, the Visa International rep agreed to stay with us on the line. Awe, the problem, they refused the request because the expiration date the bank here typed in was incorrect. Okay, we’ll go back and give it another try. After we were disconnected I looked at Cat’s card and discovered that we have different X-Dates?
Cat jammed into another mini bus and went straight back to the bank armed with my Visa Card and Passport. Another turn down, not the card but the fact that I must appear personally and sign. She called and I was forced to leave the journal pages behind but admit, I was pretty tired of that project. I arrived, Cat was waiting, we stood in line, again then I signed the papers. We waited on a couch and were joined by another waiter. She was from Massachusetts and has lived here for several years. She’s definitely a “Yogi, Veggie” type girl. Her life evolves around her children, both of whom were born here, and her garden. She works, mostly volunteer, for several entities, one of which is the Peace Corp. When we mentioned our time with Justine she told us that she had helped train her.
Worth the wait? They finally gave up the cash. I took the Matatu back to Camp Riverside. Most of these inexpensive mass transit machines are in pretty bad condition. This one was worse than bad, the seat cushions had departed long ago. The back door flew up and our tailbones crashed down on the boards every time they hit a bump. The conductor would ask one of the girls in the back to pull it back down. As she struggled the rest of us sardine passengers choked and coughed as we inhaled the rich, semi toxic fumes. Cat shopped prescriptions and food for a luncheon picnic.
With drugs and sandwich items in hand, Cat returned and pried my tired hands off the keyboard long enough to wolf down bread, ham and cheese.
Dinner in the diner again. Tough steak and greasy chips. We did each enjoy a water bottle of wine as we chewed.
More CNN, more bad Iraqi news, more casualties. Lights out at 10:00 PM
March 25, 2004
Finalize Journal and Head for Salima
We were packed and ready to go but I insisted on finishing the Kilimanjaro to Malawi journal pages. Cat packed and bundled brochures, souvenirs and other non-essentials. We cycled down the street into Old Town on the oh so busy road. Several times we were forced to jump off the pavement into the dirt to avoid being hit.
With the journal safely sent to Wally the Web Master we went 2 doors down and bought US Dollars. Yes, you have to buy them here. They charge the Visa Card for a $500 cash advance then deduct a $70 fee. Highway Robbery but we fear getting into Mozambique with out it. I zipped the $430 wad into the pocket of my cycling shorts and we set off for the Bus Station. Passing through the stalls and crowd along the road felt treacherous. Lots of guys called out to us, suggesting that we stop. We kept our eyes straight ahead and made for the gate of the secure Station. Then, bad news, no buses until tomorrow. It was now 12:30 PM. I insisted that we ride to the Matatu area and find an alternative. It’s like a horde of seedy looking humanity, standing, stirring around, waiting for a bus or a victim?
Slippery, Slimy, Scumbag Thief!
We began to look for a mini bus with a Salima sign in the window. In the hubbub, fumes and dust we finally found a guy who assured us that they could tie the bikes on top and stack the bags in the back seat. As we pushed the bikes over to the van another came past, close to us. Guys jammed next to us and we were jostled as they all avoided being hit. I leaned my bike on the side of the bus, Cat went around to the front with a gang or helpers. Fearing that they’d grab a bag and run, I called out to her. She couldn’t hear me. I hated to leave my bike so yelled louder. Then a guy standing next to me said, “Excuse me Sir, your pocket’s unzipped”.
My heart sank, how could it be? The pocket was hanging open and the only thing in it was a 5 T Shilling, all our US Dollars, 430 of them, were gone. A very slick operator! So, what can you do in a circumstance like this? I was worried about Cat, she was around the front of the bus, unloading her bags. I began to yell to her to stop. She couldn’t hear but a guy that started around toward me with one of her bags got the point. He turned and called to her. She looked back around at me and I yelled, “I’ve been robbed, our money’s been stolen, put your bags back on the bike, watch your things”!
She couldn’t believe the words she heard. She started to come around but again I yelled for her to get her bags back on the bike so we could get out of here. Bags back on the bikes we pushed away then mounted up. Cat wanted to know what had happened, I told her that it was my fault. I felt safest with the money in my zipper pocket. Now, of course, I wish we had split it up and placed it in several locations. That’s what we usually do. She was pretty upset, I finally told her, “No use crying over spilt milk”! As we rode through the crowds that looked even more menacing we both yelled out, “Thieves, thieves”!
Back toward Old Town, we decided that we’d get more US Dollars then make a new plan. The Exchange Bureau apologized but they only allow one $500 draw on a credit card each day. She suggested trying the Bureau around the corner. The guy there was happy to see us and to honor our request. He again reiterated the cost, his fee is even more than what we paid at the other place.
With fresh Dollars spread throughout our wallets and bags we pushed to a fast food place called Nando’s. Pretty good but pretty expensive for fast food. It was chicken and chips served in a western style. Planning as we ate, we knew that we weren’t going back to the snake pit around the Mini Bus station. It may be unfair to generalize the people there as snakes but that’s how we felt. Most of them may be good people but our anger had swayed our judgment.
We began asking and looking for a place to spend the night. Cat wanted to go back to the Riverside Hotel but agreed that it would be tough to get up, eat and get to the Bus Station early. We found a B&B but got to the road and learned that it was quite a way up hill and away from town. A Policeman at a roadblock on the corner suggested the Hotel Lilongwe, just a few blocks ahead. We cycled the loop and found it, right on the main road. The price is over budget but they do take the Visa Card. I negotiated with the tough Desk Clerk then a young guy took me to see the room. He suggested a cottage, they’re less expensive and larger. It had CNN and AC, we took the deal.
As we pushed past the restaurant we asked if they were serving dinner. It looked as though they may have been booked by a group. The talkative manager assured us they were serving and they had plenty of white wine. We got settled in, showered and dressed.
When we returned, the same smiling, friendly fellow searched high and low but couldn’t fine any wine, white or otherwise? I told him that I would walk to the store. He said that they don’t usually allow that but under these circumstances it would be okay. I walked, we sipped and they served. Service was slow, they were too busy with the big party. The food was okay. We were back on the bed, in front of the CNN screen. BBC lulled us into sleep. Visions of pickpockets danced in our heads.
March 26, 2004
Lilongwe to Salima via Bus
Salima to Mua
We were both awake at 4:30 AM. Anxious to leave for the bus station by 7:00 we couldn’t get back to sleep. Up at 5:50, we dressed and were at breakfast by 6:40. They had a great buffet spread, unfortunately, they only provide one breakfast per room? Cat ordered coffee, I loaded up a plate and we shared. We’ll show em’!
We were at the Station just a few minutes after 7:00. Bags on board, again Cat stacked them while I did roof duty. With the help of two employees we hoisted the bikes up and I strapped them to the roof rack. Then, we waited, I on the roof and Cat inside. My vantage point allowed a great view of the activities. Newspapers arrived in bundles and caused a pushing, shoving contest among the Paper Peddlers. They would run out the gate with an armload, shouting. Several worked the Station area. As buses pulled in they would run and dance below the windows trying to make a sale.
Finally the driver started the engine, I slipped down and into a rear seat and we were off to Salima. The route is mostly downhill but the long slow pulls for the bus again affirmed that our decision not to ride was a good one. Our fellow passengers were well dressed and going to a church meeting. No characters like the trip up. We de-bussed in Salima at 10:30 and rolled out 10 minutes later. It was a pleasure to escape the streets and hit the countryside. Strange, as we cycled a guy called out, “Hello Pat”. I circled back and called to Cat. She hates to slow or turn back when we’re making good time. The guy ran to us and shook my hand. I thought it was the guy who’s pumped water for us back in Benga. Cat was sure that he said his name was Robinson. He called to his wife, she brought their 2 kids over. We took a picture, shook hands and rolled onward. (We realized later, when we saw the picture that he wasn’t the guy who pumped for us?)
The road is mostly flat, we rolled right along. Stopping at a cross road we sought food but learned that the only restaurant was 3 Km down toward the lake. After a short powwow we decided that we’d better do the down and back.
The Modern Tourism Lodge looks rough from the highway. A closer inspection confirmed that it was pretty much local, African. However, the guy that greeted us and seated us, Food Manager, Alexander, was a rare and unusual treat. We asked what a sign above our table meant, he laughed and said, “Eat well and be strong”. As we took a picture he told us that he’s called “Alexander the Great”. Lunch with Alexander the Great was a great. When he heard our story he went from table to table pointing to us and telling all the others in the room.
As he took our order he was puzzled that we didn’t ask for Nsima? It’s the national dish here but to us it’s just Ougali or Sadza, the white corn meal that doesn’t taste that great to us. Cat asked how it is made and he offered to demonstrate. The kitchen is in the back yard. They had a pot boiling and Alexander took over, adding corn flour and stirring. Then he told us that when you eat Nsima it fills you up and in the morning when you go to toilet, WHOOSH! That made everyone close by roar with laughter. We also got him and the General Manager, Stafford, did the Chewa language version of “You must be Crazy”.
"You Must Be Crazy," Chichewa
Back up to the crossroad and onto a warmer, undulating highway. We spent the afternoon climbing and rolling down the hills. Even had to push a couple of times.
Rolling down a small hill, we were confronted by a crowd of people walking toward us. They covered the entire road, stopping traffic. Our thought was that they were part of the Ruling Party, showing support for the President. Approaching, we began to realize that they had no signs or flags. I was taking a video when several people began to chide and show anger toward me. Oh no, we’re in the midst of a funeral procession. I shut the camera off, we stopped and stood reverently, as they passed.
There are dozens of Chip Cookers along the roadways here in Malawi. Wanting a picture, we pulled up at one. The guy cooking was friendly and full of fun. The picture and video will speak for themselves.
We looked for a sign for the Mua Mission. Alexander had told us that it is the only place to stay in Mua. There was a small sign for the Mua Catholic Diocese but nothing for the Mission. We passed through a collection of huts then the highway began to feel rural again. Across a bridge and into even more bush, we finally stopped and asked. The guy pointed back toward the tiny village and indicated that we should take the dirt cross road to the left.
So, we rode, turned left and were faced with not only dirt but a very steep dusty road. It was a tough push, our feet slipped and slid as we ascended. Still not convinced that we were on the right track we stopped and asked some guys at a house. They sang out in unison that we should just continue straight forward. We met another guy, Willard, a guide for the Mission. He invited us to follow and led directly to the gate. He went through a walking gate and opened the big double entry for us. It was 5:30 as we crossed into the courtyard of Mua Mission.
The place is 100 years old. Kenneth, one of the Priests and the only Malawian Priest, greeted us. We soon had cold beers in hand and a room for the night. It was a slight struggle getting the bikes into the narrow hallway. I drank my beer and pulled the rear wheels, we both had broken spokes. (By the way, I’m getting pretty good at this process, even fair at truing after installing spokes.)
Dinner is served exactly at 7:30 PM. I had finished showering but wasn’t dressed. Cat went ahead, I met her and the others but was about 10 minutes late. They didn’t scold but they had started eating. Food is served at a huge concrete table under a thatched roof. There is a woman, Irene, here from Norway. She works with an educational group that is stationed in Lilongwe. A Japanese guy, Naoto, came in late. He’s here working on some sort of project. Dinner was buffet style and pretty good. The best of it was being in the company of the Priests, Frs. Serge, Buchard, and Brenden. They were great hosts, the wine and conversation flowed freely. Fr. Buchard is famous for his local project of woodcarving. He started here 27 years ago and has built a group of 194 certified carvers. Even our Lonely Planet mentions him. They call him Father Bushy. Young Brenden worries that they don’t do enough to recruit new members. We told of meeting Sam and Johanna, the Jehovah Witnesses and their pride in the fact that they have built a Kingdom Hall every 10 kilometers. He feels that they are getting quite a few new members from the effort. Of course you know how we feel, the trading of souls for things?
It was after 10:00 PM by the time we turned off the lights.
March 27, 2004
Mua Mission to Balaka
Father Serge rattled around a little and awoke us as he trundled off to perform the 6:00 AM Mass. The call of an Imam, competition? Then the peal of bells, the call to Serge’s Mass. We relaxed and listened to the sounds of Mother Nature, birds calling and bugs chirping, welcoming a new African day.
Breakfast at exactly 7:00. Another round table of fairly good food in the upstairs dining hall. We felt obligated to tour the Museum and Willard was there to take us through. No, he didn’t wave the fee, the equivalent of $11.00 US but he did shorten the private tour for us. There are stories of the 3 major tribes or this region. Most are similar save the costumes and the way they addressed their Gods. Just enough difference to keep them squabbling amongst themselves. They all shared the custom of drinking home brewed beer whenever a member died, married or had a baby.
Walking back we found the woodcarvers, busy carving. Though they have 194 registered carvers there were only a half dozen plying their mallets and carving tools. Father Bushy caught us and insisted that we see his Hotel project. A worthwhile 45 minutes, he has completed 10 rooms with carvings inside and out. When opened it will house study groups and tourists. He is looking for money, just like every developer I ever worked with. The kitchen area is ready for appliances but those, refrigerators, range/ovens etc, etc, will cost about $20,000 US. They all have to be imported and even the Church is subjected to import tax.
Staring at 100+ Ks, we cautiously rolled down the steep, slippery dirt road and off toward Balaka. It would be more of the same ups and downs with the heat factor helping to wear us down. Lunch, a bus stop store had good bread but little else. We opened a can of tuna and made sandwiches and washed them down with 4 soft drinks as the locals stared. One gal had a kitten, we offered the tuna can and she accepted for it. What a treat, it got its head down inside and sort of chased the can as it licked. I worked on my front low rider rack. It has loosened and the bag is beginning to slip toward the ground. In the process I discovered that one of the cross braces has broken. The only patch up thing I could think of was to change the clip on the bag and push the broken brace up tight. Let’s hope it holds!
Late in the afternoon we stopped at a small bar, sat in the shade and cooled down with soft drinks. A young guy, Frackson, sidled up and wanted to talk. He spoke great English and asked about places we’d visited both n the world and Africa. Three boys were gyrating, dancing to the music. When I got the camera out they stopped and stared. I had to almost beg to get a halfhearted performance from them.
At the T-junction we stopped, looking for Popsicles. No such luck so we settled for a couple of soft drinks and a rest in the late afternoon shade. The ride from here in is generally a downhill run. The thing we hate about it is that we’ll have to backtrack most of it in the morning.
It was 6:00 Pm and dusk as we rolled into Balaka. The Priests at Mua had suggested that we stay at the Catholic Mission here. We asked but nobody seemed to know what we were talking about? An Italian guy we met on the street suggested a place. When we found it we took one look and moved on, it was really bad looking. A stop at the service station and a suggestion to try the Miambe Motel. The streets were full of loud music and people as we cycled into the center. We found the PTC Market and a bottle of wine then the Miambe. Inside the security wall the music was pulsating at max volume and there were dozens of guys, each with a beer in hand. They were in the midst of a Pool Tournament.
By now it was dark as pitch, we took the last room they had and felt lucky to have it. Typical dirty place and cold shower. Typical chicken and chips for dinner. At least they were warm and tasty.
Tired to the core, we were back in our not so cozy room, had the bikes stacked against the door and were under the covers by 9:30 PM.
Sunday, March 28, 2004
Balaka to Crossroads
70 Kilometers plus 18 wrong way Ks (88 total.)
It was easy to arise early. In the café and ready for breakfast by 7:00 AM, we were sure that we’d get away early. Eggs and chips, Orange soft drinks but no coffee. The Manager insisted that we wait as he’d sent for some. So, we polished off our so-so breakfast with a couple of cups of instant coffee and were finally on the bikes by 8:30 AM.
Backtracking, we pulled past a roadblock and saluted the Military. One of them called out as if to stop us but didn’t complain as we peddled on. Up, up, then as we crested I realized that we were headed toward the T-Junction. We checked the map and sure enough, we should have turned at the roadblock. Damn, a double backtrack. At least it was down hill.
Back at the military roadblock one of the soldiers, the one who had hollered at us, almost shouted at us when I asked directions. He seemed to think that we should have stopped and asked before. Almost as though we’d broken some law? I questioned that and he became even more insistent. “That’s why we’re here, you know”, he almost yelled at us. Rather than continue to question Cat took a conciliatory position, thanked him and we rode on.
It’s a VERY SMALL WORLD, After all!
The landscape was becoming more and more arid. On one downhill run we met a struggling cyclist. He had baggage strapped on the bike and was wobbling up toward us. We pulled up, he continued past us then stopped as we called out to him. I thought he was Japanese until he turned back. He had a strange accent as he introduced himself. Milton is from Sao Paulo, Brazil. He’s cycled north there to Panama then flew into Cape Town, south Africa and has been moving north here for about 1 month. At first we thought that he was having a hard time understanding English. He seemed to think quite a while before answering our questions. We asked about his experiences in Mozambique and he slurred out an answer. “No food there, no water”. Worried, Cat asked if he needed a drink of water. Though concerned for him, we hated to give any of our water away, especially if it’s in such short supply ahead. He laughed and said, “No, I drink Chibuku, you know Chibuku, the local beer”? With that he pulled a plastic bottle out of his pack and sucked down a huge swig. It was brown and dirty looking, he told us that some locals had given it to him. He held the bottle out and offered it to us. We told him we never start drinking this early, it was only 10:00.
As he listened to our story he struggled with language and Chibuku and said, “I know 2 Americans cycling. I met them in Ecuador, Tim and Cindie. Now this confirms our feeling about SMALL WORLD! Remember, just a few weeks ago we reported that a couple we’ve met on the Internet sent a message that they’d met Luis, our friend from Marbella, Spain? He is cycling from Argentina, his home, to Alaska. Now, Milton who met them is here in the heart of Africa and he also met them in South America. What are the odds?
Long uphill pulls followed by swooping descents the rest of the morning. Lunch in a poor village, Nsima with rice and cabbage. I had them throw in a little goat meat for flavor. Cat is beginning to like Nsima but it just tastes flat to me.
The afternoon sun filled the road with heat. The ups and downs filled our clothing with sweat. Our plan to reach Mwanza began to melt down. At the T-Junction we decided to find cold water. Every business was packed with people listening to the radio. Blantyre football team was playing a team from Zimbabwe. It reminded me of days in my childhood when we all huddled in front of a radio to hear a World Series Baseball game or the Indy 500 car race.
It took three stops to find the cold water. We sat, savored and listened to the announcer’s excited commentary in almost understandable English. During a break in the action we asked if there was a Hotel here. The consensus of the crowd was for us to go left 1 kilometer and we’d find a place. The sweat continued to run down our backs as we pondered, okay, we’ll call it a day. It’s another 49 Ks to Mwanza and about 40 degrees in the sun. (100 degrees F.) With our 18 Ks mistake, Mwanza would now be an undoable 127 kilometers.
Down the road to the left, we were stopped at a Police checkpoint. Asking again, they told us to go back up then right at the T-junction? We told them that we’d been sent here by the people at the store. They conferred, laughed and said, “This place isn’t safe for you, it’s for truck drivers and their girl friends”! So, the locals had sent us to the house of horizontal refreshment.
Back, up and to the right, we found a sign and rough dirt road. Up, and we mean up, a short driveway and we could see the little Dalitso Rest House. A young guy, Lenato, greeted us and helped us make a decision to take 2 rooms, one for us and one for the bikes. They were small and hot but cheap. We had both for less than $7.00, US.
It was really hot in the room. Lenato brought in an oscillating fan that helped, for a few minutes. It stopped, I investigated and decided that it was a problem at the socket. I pulled the plug out, tried to spread the prongs and one fell off, in my hand. Now I’d done it, he’ll probably try to charge us for the thing? I called him in and when he saw the cord he just shrugged, picked up the fan and disappeared. Back in just a couple of minutes, he had a replacement under his arm. He showed me that this one, too, had been broken. They had just cut the wire and left the two ends exposed. He took the bare wires and carefully inserted them, one at a time, into the socket. Wow, dangerous but it did work.
The other guy, Davis, told us that he was the cook. We asked for cold beers and he took off on the run. Back in 10 minutes, he had 4 cool ones. We threw them into the freezer to chill while we showered. Well, shower’s a stretch, they have a little building with the picture of a woman on one side and man on the other. It’s called the Bafa, woman’s is Akazi, men's, Amuna. Inside the building we found a fairly dirty floor with a bucket of water. It was cool but refreshing.
We were both up to here with chicken and chips. When Davis told us that was all he had Cat convinced him to cook a package of our pasta. He not only didn’t know how to cook it but had never seen or heard of it, before. The restaurant is a little shack back near the entry, at least 70 meters (150 feet) from the Motel. We took a seat and sipped our beers while Davis and Lenato struggled with the meal. When they finally got it together it was pretty good. They had garnished our pasta with tomatoes and chicken.
It was a fight, keeping the mosquitoes and other flying bugs off while we ate. They had a tiny radio on the table. We changed station and found some good old, mellow Rock ‘n’ Roll. The room was still hot though it had cooled considerably outside. No mosquito net, no screens on the windows, we cranked the crippled fan up to high and lay on top the sheet. Sleep came slowly.
March 29, 2004
T-Junction to Mwanza
Another of those days when it’s easy to get up early. We both had a good nights sleep, no bugs. However, when you settle in before 9:00 PM you’ve had your 8 hours at 5:00 AM. The sun also helps bring you back to life as it begins its climb into these African skies at 5:15.
The bags were packed, the bikes loaded, by 7:00. The boys, Lenato and Davis were already fired up and preparing breakfast. Light on ingredients, it is going to be Eggs with chips. We pulled a couple of soft drinks out of the cooler as we passed. They’ll be in lieu of juice. (Boy do we miss and talk about that wonderful juice at the Riverside Hotel!) Coffee? They are out but we have some packets so they will heat milk. All in all it wasn’t bad. They put the eggs on the chips then garnished the plates with tomato. Too bad that Cat can’t eat them, all the more for me. Sitting in the little lean to food shack with the cool breeze blowing through was maybe the most relaxing part of our day.
We took a few pictures of the place, Cat brushing her teeth and me at the toilet door. A guy, Patrick, sweeping and burning leaves, said, “What about me”? He pulled his wheelbarrow up and I took his picture. It was the usual fun, showing it to him then I noticed that the book he was holding was from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He smiled and said, “Yes I now Witness”! Another soul saved from the evils of Islam by the bricks and mortar? Awe, I shouldn’t be negative, there must be some pretty good trade offs? For instance, you can walk anywhere along the highway here and find a new Kingdom Hall every 10 kilometers.
Pushing off and waving our goodbyes, we only made a few hundred meters than stopped to fill our water bottles. The turn to the right was a turn to the up as Lenato had promised. However, we were soon flying down and thought that he may have been wrong? The big green sign half way up the hill says “Mwanga 46 Km”. That was good news, too.
After a great downhill swoop we found the curse that Lenato had predicted. It was all up and we mean, UP. Most of the first 20 kilometers was down, flat or slightly up. Now the grade stiffened and we were soon pushing. A soft drink stop at 11:00 and we watched two guys playing “Bow”, the game with the board and rocks. Our Grandkids play the same game, different name, back home.
Another village, another soft drink stop. The guys in the store told us that they had cold Lemon Twist then took off on the run to get some. We were almost ready to give up and move on when the breathless young guy got back. As we drank a strange looking man walked up and sat on a rock, nearby. He was disheveled, long dirty hair and black paint on his face. I asked and the guy at the store said that he’s crazy. He watched us drink then moved away, under a tree. I couldn’t stand it, I wanted to talk with him and get a picture. He spoke not a word, I tried but he wouldn’t respond, just stare. I held the camera up and he shrank back. I extended my hand with 200 Kwacha in it. He smiled then sort of bowed as I shot the first picture. It shows him from the knees up. Wanting a close up, my second shot was to be of his face. As I shot he dropped his head exposing his matted hair that had some blue and white material in it. I had been slightly fearful when approaching him. The look in his eyes told me that there was nothing to fear. He took the money, gently touched my hand, then shrank back into the bushes.
Those first 26 kilometers had flown by in less than 2 hours. The next 20 took almost 4 and a lot of that was pushing. It was hot in the sun. We were hoping for dark clouds that block the sun. Our water was almost gone by the time we finally rolled into Mwanza at 2:20. Soft drinks and left over pasta in plastic chairs in front of the BP Service Station. Several young guys were hanging out there. Cat asked one if he was in school. He told us that he works the night shift here but was just visiting his friends.
The Mwanza Hotel is through town, about 3 kilometers from the BP. We stopped at McConnell’s, the discount division of PTC Markets. They had no wine and the bottled water was warm. PTC is another kilometer. Hopes high, only to be dashed, I went in while Ca rested. They only have Village Wine, the one we don’t care for and, no water.
We settled for the Village and rode on, in the heat, up the hill to the Hotel. I went in and looked at the room. Expensive, 3,000 Kwacha ($30 US) But it does have a shower, fan and mosquito net. We took the deal then fell out with the girl, Phelice, over bringing our bikes to the room. As I argued she said that the Manager would talk with us. Anthony, a waiter, came and asked what we would like. We wanted, no, we needed water. He went to the bar to get a bottle for us then returned with the sad news, they are out of Mineral Water, too. He offered us a pitcher of ice water that he said had been boiled. We gulped it down and asked for another. This time when Cat asked if it had been boiled he said, “We try our best”? We weren’t sure what he meant, we hoped for the best and again guzzled it down.
The Manager wouldn’t come out. Phelice whispered that we could wait until he leaves then sneak them to the room. Anthony brought cold water that he says “they do their very best to boil”. We hope so because we guzzled a huge pitcher full. A young guy, Quan, rode up on a bicycle. He’s from Vietnam, here with the Malawi Red Cross, working with the HIV/AIDS issue. When he told us that his family lives in California now I said, “Garden Grove”. He was amazed at that guess and our stories. We made a date to get together for a beer at 5:30 tonight.
Phelice gave us the bad news, the Manager would probably stay until 6:00 PM. Okay, he wins, we unloaded the necessary bags and stowed the bikes. More bad news, there is no water. I stomped back to her desk but caught the Assistant Manager. They have an auxiliary system that they will kick in. We’ll have Cold showers but showers.
Quick, cold showers then off to meet Quan. He was late, we were into a beer, already. Arthur, the waiter was a full of fun guy. He talked with us, kidded us and brought more beers. Quan told us of his early life. He was only 1 year old when Viet Nam fell and the US pulled out. His Father had worked with the US Army so he was sort of shunned by the new Government. The family had a small rice farm and he was allowed to work it. Quan told us that he is unique, he only knew life in a Communist country until he was 15 years old. He feels that it was a good life for a kid. Then, his Aunt who had married a US Army guy and moved to California, took him to study in America. He graduated from Cal Irvine. He’s lived in New York then took jobs over seas. He’s a seasoned traveler.
HIV/AIDS, the African Plague!
Quan’s job here is with the Malawi Red Cross. He is charged with getting statistics on HIV/AIDS victims in this area. I told him of our meeting the German Doctors in Ghana who told us that they only had a 4% incidence but there were “hot spots” of up to 8%. He shook his head and then shocked us. In this little area 25% of the population are victims. Unbelievable but his explanation is even more so, “This is a border town, truck drivers pick up women, bring them here or take them away from here. They rarely use protection, they often spread the deadly virus”. There’s no treatment here, when diagnosed the victims are just sent home to prepare to die. They do have an auxiliary made up mostly of families of victims past. They make house calls, do what they can to ease the pain and help victims prepare for the inevitable. The worst is for those who have children. They know that within 5 years they’ll be among the thousands of orphans. Even worse, they may also be victims if Mom was positive when they were born.
Quan had to head home, an early day tomorrow. We invited him to dinner but he’d already eaten. What a nice young guy. Arthur served up a pretty good meal. We were back in the room by 8:00 PM and under the covers in half an hour.
March 30, 2004
Pat Pulls Up Sick in Mwanza
Sometime during the night I woke up feeling terrible. The African Guff Guff struck with a vengeance and I feared that I was going to throw up. (Geez I hate that feeling!) Was it the goat, the dirty dishes or Arthur’s boiled water? Whatever it was, it didn’t affect Cat. She was feeling fine and ready to roll onward. We decided to just cross the border into Mozambique and stay there if I wasn’t feeling better. (A short but uphill ride of 15 kilometers.)
We dressed then went to breakfast. I felt dizzy and that old terrible feeling in the throat that precedes vomit visited again. I couldn’t eat, left Cat at the table and went back to bed. I had thrown in the towel, we will stay another day here.
Cat went walking, looking for bottled water. The nearby PTC still has none, she’d seen warm bottles at Mc Connell’s yesterday but forgot how far back it was. There are no taxi vans in Mwanza so she walked. Along the way she explored village streets, small stalls and shacks with the usual junky merchandise. She found a tailor and had him stitch the thread bare, ripped leg of my shorts. It proved to be a 3 km walk down and another back with a heavy burden, 6 liters of water. Her short cut back took her through the residential area of tin roofed shacks and cornfields, a real eye opening adventure. She felt safe but did get a lot of stares and a few “Hey Sista” and catcalls.
A package of soup mix was among the heavy treasures she hauled back. They don’t offer soup so the kitchen made the Cream of Chicken soup. They served it with toast. It was pretty much cornstarch and I couldn’t eat. I just retreated to the room and back into the darkness of sleep.
Cat wanted a shower but there is still no water. The staff brought 2 big tubs of warm water, she was relegated to yet another bucket bath. She hates to have to use soapy, dirty water to rinse. We even had to dig out our Tupperware food container for her to rinse with. I did a quick splash bath then crawled back into bed. Cat had found a pair of black shorts on her tour of town. She cut the inner padded pants out of my old pair of shorts and transplanted them.
Cat’s like a cat on a hot tin roof, so much energy that it’s hard to control. She decided to walk up the road, take a look at the hill that we’re faced with. She returned with stories of big, beautiful mountains and more calls of Mzunga (white person) and Sista. I was sleeping soundly when she returned. Still energized, she went to the bar and watched TV while writing notes for our journal.
Dinner, I had a few bites of rice but it didn’t go down too well. They saved most of it and I slunked back to bed while Cat ate and drank, heartily. When she came into the room we both hoped for the energy to move on, tomorrow.
March 31, 2004
Mwanza to Tete, Mozambique
86 Kilometers on Bike, 20 in Frank’s Truck
It was really easy for me to get up early, with a day and a half of sleep under my belt. At breakfast by 6:45 AM, I even got some cereal and a boiled egg down. Cat ate like a truck driver.
It was a pull but nothing like we had heard it would be, to the border. We crossed the Malawi border with ease only to find that the bank we’d heard about was closed. The guard there pointed to an Exchange Bureau in a trailer across the roadway. The rate there wasn’t as good as the bank might have been but worth taking so that we could move on.
The Mozambique border lies 5 Ks and 500 meters above Malawi. The scenery remains unchanged then the Immigration Check Point. A pretty mundane crossing as crossings go. The people looked at our Passports and Visas, stamped in an automated style, collected a $3.00 fee and pointed toward the gate. There were a couple of gals there, one Brit and one from the US, waiting for a bus. They’d been on one of the African Truck Tours but got bored and jumped ship. They were trying to catch another truck tour.
For us it was more ups and downs. Some villages, most small, one pretty large. I was beginning to feel bad. We stopped for soft drinks and ended up in conversation with an interesting guy. I thought he might be a teacher, the kids all knew him and he seemed to control them. He had a small radio hanging around his neck playing Rap Music. No, not a teacher, just a local guy passing the time of day. He told the same story of a town with no jobs, no future. When we asked why he stayed he shrugged and said, “This is home”.
They had no food or mineral water here. Cat ate some left over rice I had sardines and a biscuit. The village people drifted in and stared. A hurried snack then back in the saddles, we still have a long way to go. Cat was feeling strong, I was beginning to fade.
After another 30 Ks of small ups and downs I had to dismount and lay in the grass. Dredging up energy, we went on for another 5+ kilometers then pulled up at a little food stand. I got a Cola and sipped, we talked then Cat went to the side of the road and began hoping for a truck. It was almost 5:00 PM and we knew that darkness would set on us, soon.
There were few cars and trucks but a big, empty rig pulled up and the driver, Frank, asked if we needed help. We did! He and helper, Hampton, lifted the bikes up over the side rails, into the truck. We climbed up into the cab and Hampton stood in the truck bed, we were off to Tete. They drive a load of coal into Blantyre then deadhead back, every day. The Malawians use the coal to dry tobacco. Seems like a real waste of fuel and time, but tobacco is the “Cash Crop”.
As he drove, Frank told us about his daughter, a 6 year old. He’s a proud Papa. When I asked if he wanted more kids he laughed and said that he wants to make sure he can give his daughter a good life before he makes that decision. When we pulled into the loading area of the Coal Mine we figured this was the end of the line for us. It was nearing dusk and Frank had told us that Tete was another 10 Ks down the road. Then he surprised us, “We’ll drop the trailer here and take you to the bridge, just outside Tete”.
Coal Drivin' Man
There were miners standing on the conveyor belts that will load Frank’s truck in the morn. One guy ran up the pile of coal and indicated that he wanted a picture. Another ran up and tried to play King of the Coal Mountain. He quickly lost, I quickly got the picture. Our new found truck friends soon had the trailer disconnected and we were off to the bridge. He and Hampton helped get the bikes down onto the ground then we all sat and talked as they wrote their mailing addresses. Of course we invited them to come to our home, after we return in ‘05’. Cat and I called out, “Obrigado”, in unison as they pulled away. (Mozambique was a Portuguese colony until 1975.)
Back on board, I was still woozy, from the truck ride and the Guff Guff. It’s a short 3-4 kilometers into town. We rode across the bridge over the Great Zambezi then took a left, looking for the Motel Tete. It is billed as “The Best” in our Lonely Planet. They just forgot to tell us that it’s 2 Ks out of town and that it would be fully booked tonight. Back tracking, we found the dirt road turnoff to Motel Le Piscine. It was dark by the time we found our way down another dirt road, along the riverfront.
The Motel is a falling down 50s looking place. The owner, a woman, looks like she’s time warped into the earlier glory days. She’s definitely Portuguese and definitely hold court at a table every night. She agreed that they had a room for us then turned us down when we asked to take the bikes into the room. A young African guy took up our cause and explained in Portuguese what we wanted. She finally agreed to take us but we’d have to park the bikes in a storage room.
Le Piscine, the swimming pool has lapsed into a terrible state of disrepair. It is only partially filled with slimy looking green water. It looks like a great mosquito breeding ground. Our room is tiny but it does have a toilet, shower and an all-important Air conditioner. The shower was cold and the bed sagged badly.
Dinner, pizza and it was pretty good. Portuguese TV but our pal, the English speaker was entertaining.
April 1, 2004
Another Day of Healing in Tete
After our not included breakfast I began to fade, again. I went back and lay on the bed. I couldn’t make the call, we were doomed to another day at Le Piscine. Cat used her usual high energy to make a trip into town. She reported back that it is a pretty ugly place. She did find an Internet Shop and a nice little café for lunch but no Supermarket.
We walked back to the lunch spot. There is an ATM but it was swamped with cash hungry customers. There must have been a hundred or more people standing in line. Lunch, grilled ham and cheese and a burger, were great. We topped off with some sweets from the patisserie. A real treat!
A little Internet and e-mail then I walked back to the room. Cat stayed with the e-mails. I stopped at the ATM because there were only 6 people in line. I got a couple hundred dollars as cushion. We fear being stuck in Mozambique and running out of money. There are few ATMs here and they’re far between.
When I had the money safely in pocket I decided that I should find Cat so that she wouldn’t see the short line and draw more from our account. I got lost, never did find the Internet Shop then circled the blocks and headed back down the main street to Le Piscine. I was just ready to send out a search party when she knocked on the door.
Dinner in the inside dining room, again. We met and talked with a guy, Salvatore, who we’d seen sitting with Madame, the owner, last night. We thought he might be the husband but he straightened us out quickly. Well, at least as quickly as his limited English skills would allow. He is just a Hotel guest, he lives in Portugal and owns 3 grocery stores.
Steak for dinner along with the halting conversation with Salvatore then we walked the edge of the slim filled pool and hit the sack.
April 2, 2004
Tete to Changara
Early breakfast then off, on the dirt road that edges the Zambezi River. We circled left, out past the Motel Tete and beyond. This is one of those places where town ends abruptly and scrub brush takes over. The road was all up at first then ups and downs. I felt okay, not great but at least okay. Resting had been a good thing for me.
We soon decided that Mozambique is going to be pretty plain, pretty boring arid land. It’s a long way between places and there are plenty of ups and downs to break the monotony. Not moonscape like the Western Sahara, this is a place of huge rocks, mud huts and little else. The locals seem friendly as we pass through their domain. Begging has ceased or is it that we just don’t know that they’re begging because of the change in language? People speak Portuguese and local languages unlike in Guinea Bissau where they spoke a blend of the two.
Tired and hungry we pulled up in a narrow valley filled with green farms. Sitting on long grass we opened a can of Corned Beef. Cat likens it to Dog Food. I needed food and it went down fairly well with the piece of bread we found at a small store. As Milton had warned, there was little food and no water here. Food, rest, shade then back into the heat.
I could feel my body failing, fast. It was so hot that I took off my cycling jersey. That must have been a sight to behold for the locals. Arms browned almost to black then white, glaring white torso. I didn’t care about looks, I was beginning to hurt. As a final measure against the heat I removed my helmet. You know it’s hot and I don’t feel good when I ride bare headed. My breath seemed hot enough to scorch as I exhaled and it blew down on my chest.
Changara is a small, dirty crossroads town. Vanity did take back over at the edge of town, we stopped and I pulled my jersey back on. We pulled up at a bar, I sat at first then lay on the cement in the shade while Cat went inside seeking shelter and food. A young guy, Gil, began trying to tell her of a place. They came out and she was almost embarrassed to find me laying there, surrounded by curious locals. The soft drink she got did have a good effect. I sat and sipped and stared back. It’s hard to be an Ambassador of Good Will when you feel like hell.
Gil led us down a dirt street toward what he called a Rest House. The place looked eerily like Boron, the desert town where I spent 7 years selling groceries. The Rest House has the only rooms in town. It is surrounded by wall and fence, the big gate is falling down. Still pretty shaky, I took a seat in the shade while Cat checked the room. She returned with a two-word report, “Very bleak”!
The room is small, the double bed covers most of it. The best news is, a mosquito net and fan. The really bad news is the toilet and bath. They’re side by side and have no running water. A cement slab with footprints to help you aim and a rectangular hole to squat over. It’s what they call a “long drop”. The bathhouse is just a big bucket of dirty looking water and a small cup to pour with. Oh yes, there is no light and darkness is closing in. It will be flashlight trips tonight.
In fact, there is no power in the entire village until 6:30 PM. The language problem had us wondering about food. Gil had talked with them then told us that they’d send out for chicken and chips. He helped us jam the bikes into the room then we bid him goodbye and sat on the bed in the gathering darkness of our room.
The lights shone and the fan began to whir at exactly 6:30. Still no food, and the corned beef didn’t stick to our ribs? We asked one of the guys and he indicated that we should continue to wait. So, we went on a splash and dash to the slimy floored bathhouse. Not really feeling clean but cooled off, we dressed and went seeking food. More delays then finally at 9:00 PM we had chicken and chips at an outside table. Cat was starving but I was beyond hunger. I ate a little of the chicken but couldn’t take the greasy fries. She devoured most of the chicken and all of the chips.
Of War and Children
Two guys, Owen and Sam joined us. Owen speaks English, Sam works at it. Owen told us that he had been sent to school in Zimbabwe during the war years here. That’s where he learned English. Cat asked what the war was like and Owen sat silent for a moment. When he spoke we could tell that it was painful. He was just 5 years old when war came to his village. Dead animals and people lay in the street. The experience has left a permanent scar in his sub-conscious and the fear of death still lingers there. After Portugal pulled out of Mozambique the vacuum left several factions fighting for power. There were no winners, only losers and Owen was among the victims. (His story made us think of Helga, remember her? We stayed with her and husband Juergen when we drove through Germany. She lived there during WWII and when she, her brother and mother tried to escape they walked into a battle zone. She too saw the horror of death, bodies lying beside the road. She too told of a seeing the scenes in her dreams and the gripping fear of death that is always there in the back of her mind.)
When we finished eating Cat offered the leftovers to the boys. They jumped in and ate up every morsel. They wanted to hear more of our trip and stories of America. They both have burning desires to visit and travel across the US. Though we hated to cut short an interesting conversation, we were both dog-tired.
The long drop facility, darkness save the beam of our headlamp and the cadre of cockroaches added a new meaning to the expression, “A quick trip”. When Cat went I she yelped and I ran to her aid. There was a big frog in the corner. Convinced that it could do her no harm and may even eat a few of the roaches, she warily squatted while it warily watched.
Another discovery, the bed has no sheets, just a blanket and spread. It was warm enough so we just lay on top, listened to the bugs and birds and slowly drifted off.
April 3, 2004
Hitchin’ Rides to Harare
It was Cat’s night to really feel the wrath of the African Guff Guff. She began making trips to the terrible toilet at 2:00 AM, frequent trips, about every 20 minutes. She had to compete with the big frog and cockroaches that scurried every time she dashed. I felt sorry for her and since I was on the outside edge of the bed I was up with her at each dash. Then after 4:00 she really began to feel sick. She threw up dinner including the huge plate of chips she’d downed last night. Couldn’t make it to the terrible toilet so she just had to let fly in the cornfield just outside our door. It was a horrible night for Cat and an awful experience for both of us.
Awake at 7:00 AM, we lay in bed and discussed our options. Changara is the last chance to choose to go no to the south as we have planned or cross into Zimbabwe. The route south will be 4 days of desolate. Though she fears Zimbabwe Cat is in no position and too weak to argue at this point. Uncertainty, one of our favorite parts of this adventure now leaves us questioning its value? Faced with villages like Changara and Rest Houses like this one for at least another 4 days and Mutare, another bad border town, we decided that we must to get to civilization, see a Doctor and stem the flow of this damned diarrhea.
This morning I have a little appetite, Cat has none. Food doesn’t even sound good to her. I worked out an arrangement with Owen for some eggs and sausage. Cat lay on the bed and tried to relax. Owen says that there are buses to the border and he’s sure we could take the bikes on them.
They have a table set at the edge of their outdoor kitchen for us. I took a seat and watched as the girl that Owen says is his Uncle Andy’s Mistress cooked my eggs as she washed a big plastic tub of corn. A neighbor’s goat wondered in and ate some of the corn while her back was turned. She shooed it off but wanted nothing to do with a big donkey that also came looking for easy food. She yelped, Andy came running and chased it with a stick. This free show is so different from any kitchen back home yet it seems quite normal, here. I knew that Cat would love to watch but this morning she needs to be near the long drop.
Andy is pretty industrious. He has a small bar that fronts the street and also serves food for guests and locals. His big business seems to be as a local distributor of beer and soft drinks. His helpers unloaded two trucks and stacked the plastic drink crates inside a warehouse already bulging with Cokes and Beers.
My eggs were cold and the chips greasy but I did manage to get most of it down. This is my first food of any substance since day before yesterday unless you count the half can of corned beef and dinner roll. I’ve been taking a local remedy that’s similar to Lomatil and it seems to finally be working this morning. I had thought that it may have been part of the reason I felt so badly yesterday.
Owen volunteered to help us get to the bus stop. A hurry up packing frenzy then I got the bikes out into the courtyard. Cat was too weak to push, Owen volunteered for that job, too. What a nice young guy. I took some pictures of Andy, his family, mistress and helpers. For some strange reason we seemed to develop a feeling of camaraderie or closeness that overcomes language and cultural differences.
Owen and I pushed, Cat followed. At the Y Junction she found a seat in the shade and we waited. Owen stuck with us, he’s going toward the border to check on one of his family’s farms, make sure the workers are working. When the first Matatu pulled past it was already packed with people. Not a chance for us let alone our bikes and bags.
Plan 2, I stepped out in front of a 4WD as it came toward us. The driver pulled up and cautiously told me to step around to his window, away from his wife. A really nice guy from Zimbabwe who has been trying to find work and a life in Mozambique. His daughter’s sick, his wife’s nervous and they are headed back to Harare to their family and Doctor. They think the little girl may have Malaria. No room in their car but he did offer to help find another. Then a little pickup truck came around the corner. The bed was full of things covered by a thick plastic tarp. Walter lives in Harare and works for an Engineering firm. They have delivered some tractors to Mozambique and he’s been there setting them up. The truck’s too small but he didn’t care. If we don’t mind sitting on the load and a couple bags of rice he’s taking back to his family. We quickly stripped the bags off the bikes then threw them in and lay the bikes across the top.
Cat and I sat on the rice, Owen climbed in and sat on the tailgate. We were off to the border. The wind whipped around our faces but Owen was facing forward and taking it in the face. I handed him my sunglasses and as he put them on I remembered him telling us how much he likes California’s Governor Arnold as the Terminator but he loves the Rambo. (They watch videos every Thursday at his uncle’s place.)
He looked like a Rambo and it was obvious that he liked the glasses. When we got to the family farm he had me knock on the cab. Walter stopped, Owen hopped out, a handshake, a brief hug then we were off and he walked into the field and out of our lives. Well, at least for now, we both feel that somehow, someway we’ll see him again, someday.
It seems a miracle, the way that when we really need help, help appears. Walter took us by the hand and led us through Mozambique Immigration then we walked while a Security Guard watched our things. The people at the Zimbabwe Immigration were nothing like the horror stories we’d been told. There was no delay, maybe because of our Angel, Walter’s help. The stories we’ve heard about 4 to 24 hour delays were less accurate for us than the 30 minutes that Shame, our friend at the Zimbabwe High Commission in Lilongwe had predicted.
Then, he followed us across the border and found a guy who would exchange our Mozambique Meticaish for Zimbabwe Dollars at a reasonable rate. This was down clandestinely behind a parked truck well out of view of the Border Guards. Then, Walter apologized, he’s not going directly to Harare or he’d just let us ride along. Again, as Angels will always do, he drove us to the bus station and told us that we might have to wait 3 hours for the next one to Harare. As we pulled up a local coach was pulling out. He jumped out, ran to the door and explained our situation. The driver and his helper even helped carry bags and the bikes aboard. Another apology, Walter explained that this local bus will stop at lots of small towns so the trip will take longer than if we waited the 3 hours. We could only thank him from the bottom of our hearts and tell him we’d rather be sitting on a bus that in the station. As Walter drove away waving we realized that we hadn’t taken a picture of him? Too ill? Too hurried or just not thinking? Darn, double darn!
As Walter had warned, the bus ride was a grinder. They seemed to stop at every pillar and post. I was in recovery mode but The Cat was suffering. Her head throbbed and she felt nauseous. Maybe just the affect of not having eaten today and from losing all her dinner from last night?
At a Police checkpoint, the uniformed one stepped aboard, looked at the bikes hanging from the rack behind the driver and laughed. The driver and conductor laughed, waved him away and left him standing in the dust as they drove away. In just a couple of kilometers another Police Officer waved them down. He came aboard and took no BS, they argued but he insisted, they had to turn back. We felt that the problem was caused by us and our bikes? I asked a guy across the aisle, he listened then said, “Don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong, they did”, and he pointed to the driver and helper.
Back at the original checkpoint the driver and helper got out, argued then agreed to a citation. We guess they sited them for partially blocking the aisle or because the bikes posed some other sort of safety problem? Our fellow passengers sat quietly some mumbling but no anger. Maybe they’re used to thing like this? When the driver came back aboard I asked what the problem was. He just shrugged and said, “No problem”.
Off we went but as we neared Harare another stop, another delay. It was getting close to dusk and this time our fellow passengers began to complain. The Driver left then most of the others got off the bus. Some went into the bushes, others just stood together and discussed the problem, a problem we will never understand.
Walter had asked the Driver to drop us at the Holiday Inn. He told us that if the Inn was too expensive we’d find several nice small places nearby. The Driver pulled up at the curb and they assisted by handing the bikes and bags down. It was 6:00 PM and getting dark. We loaded the bags and pushed into the H. I. Parking lot. The attendants tried to stop us and told us that we would have to leave the bikes in the parking area. We ignored them as though we didn’t understand their English and pushed through the front doors.
Our entry took the Front Desk by surprise. The rate is high but we’re not going back out into this strange city in the dark. We’re at home for a couple of days. Cat started to ask about taking the bikes to the room. I whispered to her that old adage, “It’s easier to get forgiveness that permission. We pushed to the elevator, both bikes fit in and we were on our way up. The staff just stood there with open mouths.
Long pants are required in the Spurs Steakhouse downstairs. We both had the little salad bar, Cat chose a quesadilla and I had a burger. Wine, too, of course. The Hotel isn’t the only thing above budget around here.
We were both so tired that the bed and 8:30 came at the exact same moment.
Sunday, April 4, 2004
Lazy Day in Harare
Strange, when you want to sleep in and can sleep in, you can’t? My Grandfather told me that you miss the best part of the day sleeping in. He also said that I wouldn’t understand getting up early until I was old, like him. I think I get it? Bio Clock?
By the time we fiddled around with bags, cloths etc. it was 9:00 AM. The buffet downstairs is very nice and very, very expensive. How expensive, how does $20 per person sound? Wow, it’s a far cry from Denny’s Grand Slam for $2.99! We tried to make up for the extreme cost through huge consumption. I really outdid myself. Oh yes, there was entertainment, too. A Church group using the adjacent room filled the pool area with their songs. We stood and watched as they clapped and sang. Unfortunately, there were more singers and Preachers than parishioners.
The streets of Harare are quiet this morning. Maybe because it’s Sunday? Most stores are closed. Wondering, taking pictures of some pretty impressive buildings, we found Quick & Easy Internet Café. The door was open but the machines were sleeping. They sent us down the street to another branch. We blew an hour cleaning up e-mails then circled around the streets to a Super Market. Surprisingly well stocked. Well, the stock is generally home grown product. Imports are rare and really expensive. Though the Hotel has “guaranteed” that we can drink the water, we bought a 2-liter. (The tap water has a strange taste to me?) Awe yes, local wine is also the name of the game. They do have a small wine region here.
Across from the store is a row of small stalls. Most have produce that looks much better than then that in the store. Bananas and a beautiful mango will supplement breakfast in the morning.
When we got back in the young guy who cleans was in the midst of making the bed. We just sat at the table and watched TV. I had made copies of the original pictures to 2 CDs and put them in one jewel case to send home. The extra was in the trashcan. When he began emptying it he pulled the case out, looked it over carefully then asked, “Are you throwing this away”? We assured him that we didn’t need it and he asked if he could keep it. Of course, then he asked if Cat would write a note saying that we had given it to him. (To keep him from trouble with the management we supposed.)
Lunch, a picnic in room. Unfamiliar items, shoulder ham, strange soft cheese and a red drink called African Twist, strawberry lemonade. I wolfed most of it down. I have been ultra hungry now that the Guff Guff has subsided. Cat is still affected and just picked at the food.
The afternoon was journal for both of us. I’ve gotten so far behind that Cat is hand writing the days as we go, now.
Dinner, we walked across to the fast food strip. As we exited the parking lot the Gate Guard warned us, “Be careful there are thieves out there”. That put us on high alert. The place was crowded and some of our fellow patrons looked pretty suspicious. Three stood at the entry flashing wads of Zim Dollars and suggesting good rates of exchange. We have been offered 5,000 Z Dollars for $1.00. If we partake it would cut costs but we’re a little chicken. There are stories of guys that grab your money and run as well as horror stories of Police setups and arrests.
Another gorging, I ate every scrap of my large Hawaiian and Cat ate most of her mushroom-less mushroom. (They had no mushrooms, they seem to be out of lots of things a lot of the time. The effect of the International sanctions and boycott, we assume.) Two movies and the evening was a late one. Sort of like propping up at home and relaxing. Unfortunately, we both felt queasy. Cat thought she might throw up but was able to quell the urge.
The movie ended and the lights went out at midnight.
April 5, 2004
A Frustrating Day in Harare
Sleep in if you can, I can’t. Cat did for a while but the rat-a-tat-tat of the plumbing as I showered finally got her. I zipped across the street for coffee and cinnamon rolls. First disappointment of the day, no coffee and the rolls were hard and cold. Back in the room we ate our bananas and the wonderful mango then Cat called the front desk for more instant coffee. (There is a cool hot water pot but they only provide 2 little slim packs of coffee?) I gave up on the desk and went searching for the guy that cleans our room. He gladly handed me 4 more packets and I slipped him 1,500 Z Dollars. (Not quite 35 cents.) He was as happy with that as he was with the CD case, yesterday.
Off to the Bank, but we happened upon the Zimbabwe Tourist Authority. This would be one of the 2 the best stops of the day. Tsvakai gave freely of the info and maps they have. She called to verify that we’d find a room in our first stop, Beatrice. I asked and she gladly offered to do the “You Must Be Crazy” in Shona Language, for us.
"You Must Be Crazy," Shona
When came the bank and the beginning of frustration. They sent us to the e-banking department across the street. The nice lady there called then assured us that we could use our ATM card to draw cash. Fearful of carrying a wad around we went in search of the Travel Company that Tsvakai had suggested. They had us take a seat and as we sat, impatiently waiting we realized that it was getting close to high noon. The US Embassy probably closes at noon and we wanted to check in with them, register and say hello. Promising to return we dashed out and down the street, through Harare Gardens, an open space in an otherwise busy city.
Getting in the Embassy was fairly simple. The typical surveillance but the guy with the wand asked to see our Passports then smiled and said, Americans, you can go on in. Oh, they do take the camera and my Swiss Army knife for safe keeping however, they ignored the sign, “Citizen Services, 13:30 to 16:00”. We were whisked into Ellen, the Consular Section Chiefs, office. Then came the 2nd of our 2 good stops of the day. We took a seat then she came whirling into the room with a big box of flowers. A dynamo from Pennsylvania, she’s been in the “Service” for 20 years. She says that she can and will retire, soon.
We talked about the situation here in Zimbabwe. When I expressed the feeling that the boycott was hurting things she fired back. The problem here is Mugabe, he runs the country or would like to run the country like Castro runs Cuba. She worked in Cuba in her early years and drew the following conclusion. When Castro was young he surrounded himself with bright, young, patriotic followers. Then, as he aged he grew paranoid about their potential power. She feels that he had many of them killed. In fact she mentioned Che Guevara and said, “You don’t think it was a coincidence that he was where he was when he was killed, do you”? I told her that I didn’t know about that but it has made him an International hero. We see him on shirts and posters, everywhere.
Back out and back to the Travel Company. We wanted to explore the possibility of a 3 or 4-day trip from here to Victoria Falls. The agents were gracious and insightful but when it boiled down to more than $100 US per day, EACH, for a 13 hour bus trip, there and another back. (4 days, two spent on buses?) Then the news that all flights are booked until after the 15th, due to the Holiday. (Easter has snuck up on us.) This would start this day’s chain of disappointments.
Back to the nice lady at the bank. She waved as she left for lunch and indicated another woman we could talk with. The new woman looked out ATM card over carefully then told us that it wouldn’t work. She tried swiping it twice as if to prove her point. No, they only do cash advance? What happened here? She had no idea why the other gal had assured us but she quickly unassured us. She suggested we try the ATM machine outside then told us that the maximum daily advance from it was 2,000,000 Z Dollars. That’s less than $50 US. (The bank rate is 4,400 Zim Dollars to $1.00 US. We’re glad we didn’t risk the street exchange, our book warned of grab and run artists as well as Police setups. Not worth it for the small difference.)
Okay, the Internet Café across the street would be even more frustrating. I wanted to see the new sized videos on our website. The guy there assured us that his 2000XP machine would do it. WRONG, we wasted half an hour and a dollar without ever seeing a single video. While I struggled Cat walked back to the bank. We decided that we had better try to draw out 2,000,000 on her card and the same on mine. We may need the $100 before we get out of Zimbabwe. Another exercise in futility, the machine turned her down, flat, on both cards?
We did move to a different Internet Café and collect a few new messages. As we did I decided that the urges and gurgles I have been feeling all day should be checked before we leave town. (Also, we figure that what ever I have, Cat probably has, too. She feels like she’s on the mend but then, so have I.) The bank lady recommended Avenues Clinic and marked the location on our map. Another walk, oh we tried to hail a cab but they seemed to be non-existent.
They had me fill out a basic form then asked for a 3,000,000 deposit before the Doctor would see us? We dug around but couldn’t come up with that many Z $. I flashed our Visa Card and he accepted.
Almost a 3rd good thing for the day, Dr. Rudo (Her first name.). As she entered the exam room she brought along an air of confidence. She’s young and thorough. I told her of my recent bouts with the African Guff Guff and asked for stool and blood tests. First things first, they took blood pressure, checked heart rate and temperature. All vitals were normal for an old guy. She brought a container for you know what and prepared to take blood. Cat asked what the tests would cost and that brought on the bad news. “It’s too bad you came in after hours, the costs double after 4:00 PM”. It’s now 4:20, what a gaff.
What else is new, today? They double the costs after 4:00 PM. The already expensive tests will now cost double. Then Dr. Rudo suggested an option. We can wait, take the sample in and give blood in the morning. That will save half and we wouldn’t have the results until almost 10:00 AM tomorrow, anyway. We liked the way she thinks.
Back out front, the guy at the admitting desk swiped our Visa Card and, you guessed it, we were declined? Why not? He tried twice then we dug out every Z Dollar we had. We made his 141,000 Z Dollar amount but didn’t even have cab fare left.
Walking back in the gathering gloom was tricky. The sidewalks are full of holes and uneven areas. The lighting is poor and we began to think of the advice we’d heard so often, avoid walking at night. The big neon Holiday Inn sign was like a sign from above, well 7 stories above at least.
Long pants on and we went down to Spurs Restaurant. I forced down a combo, Chicken and Ribs. Cat had fish. She is so good, sometimes.
Journal, TV and the end of the frustrations.
April 6, 2004
Blood Test Results the off to Beatrice
An early arising, packed then off to the Medical Laboratories and a blood test. Desiring to be the first in line, we decided to take a taxi. The desk suggested that the fare should be 5,000 Zim $. The first driver quoted 7,000 and referred us to a guy across the street. He took the 5,000 but his tacky old taxi wouldn’t start. He handed us off to another. We were at the door of the Lab at the stroke of 8:00 AM.
There was a line of others already waiting? We checked in then waited. At 8:30 we were ushered in and they took blood. The woman suggested that they’d have the results in one hour. We told her that we’d walk to the Bank and be back.
Winding our way through the streets, we bought bananas before we found the bank. Cat wanted to look for a bargain but I just wanted bananas, we paid the ridiculous price of 500 each for them. (About 11 cents each) Unlike yesterday, the ATM was anxious to spew cash unto our hands. We took the max amount from each of our two cards then went on to the E-Bank Center and got more cash from our Visa Card. We need enough to support ourselves for the next 9 days. Planning cash is a real problem, here. We need enough but if we over estimate we’ll end up paying 20% to a pushy moneychanger at the South African border.
It took several asks to find a Café that is serving coffee. Angela’s is a nice little place. We wished that we’d found it sooner. The instant coffee was just okay, a little weak. We had muffins purchased along the way. The lunch menu looks great, maybe we’ll circle back if we’re rolling late?
Another taxi dilemma, we soon gave up the search and hoofed it back through the park. There is a very real fuel shortage here. Cars were lined up for half a mile waiting to get a fill-up. That explains the severe lack of cabs.
The gal at the desk almost scolded us about being a half hour late since they had worked hard to have the results ready. We used the taxis as our excuse. The Avenues Clinic is just around the corner. Dr. Rudo wasn’t there, one of her colleagues looked the paper over and his diagnosis was positive, the results were negative. The stool sample will take 3 days so we arranged to call on Friday. There was a taxi at the gate that whisked us back to the Holiday Inn.
By 11:30 we had the bikes down the elevator and were ready to roll. The staff gathered around and offered advice. Each had there own idea until one grabbed a pen and drew a simple map. Rather than struggle on the main street he had us routed down 4th Street, which curves around, changes names twice then has us on the road to Beatrice. We did stop for water and an attempt to find sunglasses. If we’d known how tough it was going to be to replace them, Owen wouldn’t have the pair. Awe, what’s a little discomfort compared to the great feeling we had in repaying his kindness with them?
Traffic was thick through the streets of town then thinned as we reached the countryside. As businesses thinned we found a Steer’s Restaurant and decided that we’d better get food while it was available. Pretty good for fast food. The girl there, Noma, told us that she has 2 sisters living and going to school in Pennsylvania. She wants to join them and she really wants to see California.
There’s a huge Cemetery at the edge of town. Business was booming, folks were dieing to get in there. Three processions past as we pedaled. Interesting, the family sits around the casket in the hearse. Two trucks full of singing people turned into the Cemetery as we rode out onto the plains.
It was a warm and sunny day, the road was flat to slightly rolling. We were in Beatrice by 4:00 PM. Riding in reminded us of Jefferson, Oregon where my sister Joan and her family live. Small town USA, small town Zimbabwe. A soft drink and directions to Beatrice Motel and we were home for the evening.
Our room is pretty basic but we do have a toilet and tub. No warm water though and the floor was teaming with ants. Cat got the girl from the front to bring DOOM, the insect spray and they soon had the little critters on the run. The exodus was only temporary, they were soon back in full force. More spray and a towel to cover the bodies. Cat bathed away the dust in cold water while I fixed a broken spoke and changed out her shifter that has begun to growl and become shiftless.
I got most of the chain grease off in the cold water and we went to dinner by 7:00 PM. There was a crowd of locals hovering around the bar. We took pictures and talked a bit then settled in for Beef Stew, Rice and Chips. They did have Bin 16 wine. It’s a Zimbabwe wine and the best we’ve found, here. Apparently the sanctions apply to wine since neighboring South Africa has some of the worlds best from her hillsides.
The lounge was still abuzz, we finished our wine and watched. Bed by 8:30 PM. The young guy here did find a fan that works. We’re I twin beds with a breeze to keep the mosquitoes away. We slept.
April 7, 2004
Beatrice to Chivhu
The funny old phone began to ring at 7:00 AM. We were already up and packing. I tried to answer but the line was dead. It rang again and again? Finally Cat picked it up and waited. The waitress was calling to take the order for our included breakfast. Eggs, sausage and bacon. At the table by 7:30, all the food was cold. The coffee was weak, we thought it was tea. There was a bag in the pot. The gal showed us that it was packaged that way, we had to dunk and press it to strengthen the brew.
Off we rolled just a few minutes after 8:00 AM. The roads are narrow and the traffic a little
thicker than yesterday, here. Plenty of buses and trucks but they all seem to give us space enough to ride. Oh, we were both blown off the road a time or two by the big ones but all in all, we felt pretty safe. The opposite lane was full of Mercedes, BMWs and big SUVs. Most were pulling boats, headed to the water. We learned later that there’s a big BASS Competition during the coming Easter weekend. Most of them were filled with whiter faces. South Africans coming in hopes of winning, big.
The landscape, the scenery is reminiscent of South Dakota. Cornfields, grasslands filled with cattle, even a dairy with lots of newborn calves. No small villages along the road, no groups of kids calling out for money. It looks and feels affluent here?
An unfamiliar feeling, the bike began to sway as I pedaled. Thinking it was the road, I rode. Then, as it worsened I saw the problem. My front tire was flat. We leaned the bikes against a tree and began the process. Tube out, changed and re-installed only to feel it go flat, again. The patch didn’t hold, it couldn’t hold because the tire, one of our thick thorn proofs, had come apart at the seam? Damn, back up on the real wheel, pull apart and replace. I hate fixing flat tires, especially twice in one stop!
The only stores seem to be Butchery Shops. They do have soft drinks but little more. For lunch we stopped at another anomaly, roadside rests. They call them layouts here. Shade from a tree, a concrete table and benches. A fine spread, Cheddar Crackers called Cheezys a can of tuna and raisins for dessert. A familiar name, Greyhound Bus, came rolling past as we enjoyed.
The road started to undulate slightly. The ups a little longer, it seemed. As we pulled into Chivhu we rode through the smoke of a big truck. The cab had been completely destroyed. Just a skeleton of what it once was. The trailer had been pulled back but half the cargo had been saved. The other half was being scavenged by locals. They were pulling at the smoldering boxes and ripping the hot steel from the truck body. Cat was worried that there were bodies under the tarps. I thought it was just cargo but she convinced me not to get a picture.
A young boy nearby offered help. He suggested that there is a Hotel in town and one down the side road. His advice was that the Chivhu Motel was the best place. It was a country lane and an uphill pull. The place is typical, run down and dirty looking. With the bikes in view, we had a cold beer and relaxed. It was 4:30 PM, we were home for the night. A couple of young guys, Steven and Moris, came in. Steven lived in the US, on the east coast for 7 years. He had some interesting stories. He loves Boston even though it’s all too often too cold. Moris has only traveled in adjoining African countries but is determined, “God Willing”, to get to the USA. Steven insisted on buying Cat a second beer. My stomach wouldn’t allow. He is working at an Auto Parts Store here but was a Medical Tech at a Convalescent Hospital in Boston. We talked about the average American’s concept of Africa. Lions and Leopards behind every bush and uncivilized people. He got a telephone call from his Mother at the Hospital, the people he worked with were shocked to hear that they have telephones in Africa!
They were curious about our opinion of Zimbabwe. Cat told them that she had been afraid to come. They agreed that there is a lot of bad press and some may be deserved. The Land Reform issue burns hot in everyone’s minds here. To Realtors, like us, who have fought for Private Property Rights it’s hard to envision the Government taking property away. However, when we observe from the perspective of the majority rule, it doesn’t make sense that less than 3% of the population here own 90% of the land. Of course, something had to give, perhaps if the White Farmers had worked with the moderates it might have been a different story. The turbulence of the past 5 years might have been avoided?
After a shower, with warm water we might add, it was an hour wait for dinner. The dining room was empty save us until a couple of guys sat next to us. Interesting, we had chicken that we ate with our forks and hands. They had chicken and Sadza. In African tradition they ate with their hands. Their chicken lay on the side, untouched then they took it along as they moved to the bar.
Steven and Moris urged us to cycle the short route through Chaka. They knew of a place called The Golden Spider Web Hotel there. I spent an hour trying to get the phone number then get a call in to confirm that they’d have a room. No luck, the phone just rang and rang. Giving in but not giving up, we decided to try again in the morning.
The Security Guard knocked on the door just as we shut down the lights. He asked us to keep the porch light on, it’s the night-light. It drove Cat nuts and she couldn’t sleep. At midnight I turned it off. No more knocks, guess they can live without it?
April 8, 2004
Chivhu to Chaka
96 Kilometers (83 with a 13 Ks backtrack)
Breakfast at 7:15 AM. Warm hamburger and an egg, cold white bread. The coffee was about as weak as it gets. There was a group of Prison Guards seated next to us. They knew nothing of The Golden Spider Web Hotel. I tried the telephone again to no avail. So, it was back to plan 1, the long route.
On the way out another guy suggested that we should stop at the Police Station and ask about the Golden Spider Web. A good idea, between that and a search for an air hose to get the pressure up in my tires. The Police knew nothing, a different area, they don’t have a station in Chaka. Oh, and the air, not even the tire shops could help us and we stopped at three? A nice guy stopped us on the sidewalk and asked where we were going. After getting past the big story he told us that he was pretty sure that the Golden Spider Web was open. He suggested that we stop in Mvuma, 53 Ks out and ask. They would know and, they have several Hotels there, too.
On the brighter side, we found a Spar Market, a well-stocked place that looked European. We remember shopping in Spars, we think it was Denmark or Germany. Cat got picnic supplies and 4 liters of water. I waited and chatted with some local kids. One wanted to get his bicycle and go with us to Cape Town.
On the horns of dilemma, we pedaled out of town. At the crossroads we chose the straight and narrow. Plan 2, we’ll do the Mvuma thing and hope for the best. There is a sign, a weather worn Golden Spider Web sign that pointed in our direction, we rolled.
More open space Ag land and small rolling hills. There is a mine of some kind and we were sure that we were entering Mvuma. I had the place pegged at Kilometer marker 190, Cat thought it would be 193. We pedaled up a stiff hill and into what appeared to be deeper countryside. Finally, we ran across two woman at Km 196. They let us know that we’d passed Mvuma. Damn we hate to backtrack! Down then around a corner and 1 K off the main road to a tiny village.
We went none stop then pulled in at the Shell Station for soft drinks. There were a couple of Police sipping Cokes. I asked, they said that Spider Web was open. We were heartened then the thin younger one admitted that they weren’t really sure. Asking about a Hotel here, he shook his head and told us that there was a Lodge but it was pretty bad. He suggested we try the telephone at the Super Market. We rode around the corner and saw a telephone shop. The girls there were in the midst of a SCUD party. (Scuds, that’s what the locals call the Chibuku Beer. It comes in brown plastic containers. It’s the same brown icky looking stuff that Milton was slurping at 10:00 AM, remember?)
They were all in pretty happy moods but sad to tell us that phone service was out, throughout town. One of the guys with a bottle of beer in his hand assured us that Golden Spider was definitely open. We know the first 6 kilometers of the road, we also know that it’s still 30 Ks to Golden Spider Web, we headed out.
Back up the hill, past the spot where we met the ladies and on, into uncharted territory. We are intrigued by the name, Golden Spider Web and are hoping that our beer-drinking friend was correct. What kind of place would Spider Web be? We pictured something, hopefully as good as Chivhu had been to us.
With only 10 kilometers to go we pulled up at a Tourist Stop. The signs for Biltong pulled us in. It is jerky, beef and game animal dried meat. They offer a big selection of craft items but nothing we needed or wanted. The prices for a soft drink were 4 times more than we pay in the villages. Sitting in the off and on again sun we ate our ham and cheese and again reminisced off the times we enjoyed in Lil’ Scotty.
With more ups and downs and sore butts we limped into The Spider Web and a most pleasant surprise at 5:00 PM. The grounds were absolutely gorgeous. Groomed to the hilt and surrounding wonderful looking white, thatched roof buildings. The place is definitely some ones dream. Pushing up then leaning the bikes, we went inside, took a seat on one of the couches and had a beer, this is luxury.
Jeremiah took us on a tour of the place. They only have 3 rooms. We looked at the two that he recommended but they only had a tub, no shower. We both want a hot shower. The third choice was a small hut, finely furnished but small. We struggled to get the bikes in then enjoyed that HOT shower.
Dinner, rump steak for both of us. Not as great as the place but pretty good. Dennis, the owner, joined us as we ate. The place was a dream, Betty and Don owned it, developed it and she poured a lot of love into it. Her touch is evident, everywhere. Dennis talks about her like she is his Mother. Don and Betty owned 3 farms and The Spider Web. Dennis told us that the Land Reform people had their eyes on the place for a long time. They took 2 of the farms and The Spider Web. Don and Betty were left with one farm that had a house for them to live in. She has been ill, fighting Cancer. They were spending a lot of time, Dennis said that he drove her to the Doctor in Harare many times. They finally gave up and moved away, to South Africa.
Golden Spider Web
Inside The Web
Dennis applied and got the Golden Spider Web. He also took over a cottage industry that Betty had started. They hire and train women from villages to stitch lace items, tablecloths, napkins, even clothing. It gives the women income and self-confidence. This, too was a Betty idea that Dennis is keeping alive. He has formed a partnership and they have even added to the list of customers Betty had going. I asked how he got along with the squatters on the adjacent farms. They did harass him in the beginning, break windows, puncture his tires but he called the Police and they put a stop to it.
Dennis told us that Don and Betty pretty much lost everything but she clings to life despite medical predictions. They live in Bloemfontein, we hope we can find them, talk with them if we pass near there. I would love to hear their story.
Cat asked Dennis to help us call the Protea Flamboyant Hotel in Masvingo. He promised to come by in the morning, give us a tour and make the call. We topped our evening off with cake and ice cream, chocolate for the Cat, sponge cake for me. What a treat!
Our 96 K turnaround tour had us ready for the bed. We had to shake the little black specks, Cat thought bugs, off the bed linen. I think it was dropping from the thatched roof. No fan but then, it was cool to the point of cold outside tonight. We pulled the mosquito net over the brass headboard, killed the lights and hit the hay.
April 9, 2004
Chaka to Masvingo
Another feature of the Spider Web is the huge rocks all over the grounds. We took pictures under a rock that is balanced on two others. I tried to figure out how they ever got a crane big enough to lift it. Several old antiques are scattered around including a great looking old Ford truck. I began taking pictures of everything. You’ll see some of them on these pages.
Dennis came before we ordered breakfast. He led us to his current project, the revival of the bar. It is another Betty project that is almost completed. The Christmas Shop is full of hand carved figures of the nativity. The lace shop has a lot of things and more being created by a couple of gals there. To enjoy the dining room you just have to see the pictures. Oh, and the rocks, nature stacked them long before cranes had ever been invented.
Using Dennis’s cell phone Cat spoke with the Protea, they have a room but recommended that she book. We had decided that we would rather be in town at The Chevron, a sister hotel. Try and try but there was no answer. So, we’ll just take our chances. Dennis bid us adieu, he is driving to the Eastern Highlands and back today? Breakfast was very good, enjoyable fuel for our ride.
Dennis has predicted that we won’t find Mineral Water in Chaka or any of the small stores along the road to Masvingo. Jeremiah was going to boil some but we all forgot. In a hurried attempt the staff quickly boiled a pot then put it in the freezer. We poured it into the water bottles still too hot. I feared that we’d melt them. We each have one bottle of mineral water. We decided to drink this stuff only if we run out of mineral. We’re so tired of being sick!
The road and weather was friendly. We cranked hard. A stalled truck had reflectors out on the road. Cat, head down, hit and broke one of them. We stopped and told the driver. He walked back and tried but it was beyond fixing. What a nice guy, Blessing, what a strange name for a tough looking driver.
Lunch, we pulled out the chicken pies we bought from Jeremiah at Spider Web. The small village we stopped in was partying, everyone seemed to have a SCUD in their hands. We sat, observed, ate and got the heck out of there. As we were mounting up a young guy, John, staggered over and wanted to know where we were from and going. I tried to explain but he was 3 SCUDS to the wind.
The final 20 Ks was a little bigger challenge, hills and valleys. It was 3:00 ish when we pulled into Masvingo. Lost, following the Lonely Planet map and asking, asking, we pulled up in front of the Chevron and into a wild crowd. At first we though we had thrown ourselves into a political event. Too much beer, boisterousness and rowdy activity, they were Soccer Players and fans here for a big game with the locals.
Room selection was a problem. The ones on the ground floor only had tubs. You know how we like our showers. They didn’t want the bikes in the room and the stairs seemed to present an immoveable obstacle. They found a room up and wanted us to put the bikes in their baggage room. It was way to small, they shifted attitude, the Bellman helped me push up and we put them into the only two spaces where they’d fit. It’s cramped but it’s home for the next 2 days.
The ceiling fan wouldn’t work, the same nice Bellman ran for an oscillator. It wouldn’t work, either. He dragged it back out and returned with a new looking model. There’s no place like home.
Dinner, pasta and a glass of less than so-so wine. We briefly met a Japanese guy, Yash. He’s a Water Quality expert and had been here for 2 years. He and his friend, Ken, are going to visit the Great Zimbabwe Monument so we set a meeting for the morning, maybe we can share a car?
There are two movie channels, we switched back and forth then landed on a film unknown to us. Cat snoozed, I was stuck watching until 11:30 PM.
April 10, 2004
A Day at The Great Zimbabwe
Yash and Ken were already on the deck near the pool having breakfast. They have already sort of made a deal with a guide to see The Great Zim. We began to talk across the deck then invited them to join us. They carried their food over and we talked. They have a sort of deal with a guy but when they told us the deal it sounded expensive. The front desk had mentioned a guy to us, Kenneth. As we spoke he came in. His deal was a lot better, we asked him to wait while we talked. The guys felt like they should call the guide they’d talked with. As if on cue, he walked in. They discussed his price and service. He wanted as much as Kenneth but he wasn’t a guide, just a driver. We told him that we would have to talk about it. Kenneth came back in and we fine tuned his deal, trip out and back, guide service then he will take Yash and Ken out to a lake where there are Paleolithic rock drawings. We took his deal, the other guy was disappointed and tried to drop his price but we thought Kenneth was still a much better deal for the 4 of us.
As we talked with Kenneth about the time we’d have to spend on his tour a woman at a table nearby spoke up. Wendy introduced herself and assured us that Kenneth was correct, we’d need at least 4 hours to see The Great Zimbabwe Monument properly. We were convinced, we would get ready and meet out front in 30 minutes.
Kenneth’s car was not his at all. He had hired a guy to drive and wait for us. The guy’s car was a compact clunker. We jammed the 5 of us in, 4 across in the back seat that was designed for 2. Then a quest for gasoline. Two stations in town were dry, the gasoline shortage is having an affect here. Out on the highway toward Great Zimbabwe to another station. Another dry spot but the driver and Kenneth wouldn’t give up. They introduced us to the station attendants who were impressed with the story of our trip, enough so that they were able to find a 10-liter can of fuel. The driver had to pay almost double the going rate per liter but he felt it was better, maybe even cheaper than driving back to town and searching.
The tour of The Great Zimbabwe was great. Kenneth really knew the place and tiny details that made it all the more interesting. We climbed to the top, surveyed the King’s Kingdom, even sat in the cave and called for wives. The King had many wives and would call out for one. The sound boomed out of the mouth of the cave and directly into the women’s quarters below. How handy for the King. Here like everywhere else, as Mel Brooks said, “It’s good to live in a Kingdom, if YOU’RE THE KING”! Late in the tour Kenneth did become a little redundant but he was such a good guy that we forgave him that.
One of the important features, the 10-meter high (35 feet) high Conical Tower. It looks and was thought at first to have been hollow and full of treasures but it is solid stacked stone. Kenneth struggled with how to explain its significance. He talked about fertility, crops, cattle reproduction then finally said, “It’s a phallus”! He was embarrassed, I couldn’t let that one go so I said, “How’d they ever get a condom that big”? Okay, a stupid joke but Condom is a very big thing here with all the HIV/AIDS problem so I thought it was timely.
Call For Wife
A Mystery, Who Built the GREAT ZIMBABWE?
Interesting, 2 sources of info discuss how Europeans couldn’t or wouldn’t believe that the Great Zimbabwe was constructed by Africans. Our Lonely Planet puts it thus; “Despite nearly 100 years of effort by colonial governments to ascribe the origins to someone else. (In fact anyone else.) Conclusive proof of the Bantu origins was established in 1932 by British archaeologist Gertrude Caton-Thomas. Outside influences did play a role in the development of Great Zimbabwe”. (Hey, outside influences always play a role in all development, don’t they?)
The name Zimbabwe comes from Shona language and means great stone houses. This city of 20,000 inhabitants at its prime became Capital of a Kingdom that stretched from eastern Zimbabwe, across Botswana and modern Mozambique and South Africa. The area was first occupied in the 11th century. Construction of the hill complex began in the 13th century and completed over the next 100 years. There is so much National Pride in this place. You can feel it in the way Kenneth describes each area. You can see it in the faces of the African people who are climbing up the hill and through the stacks of stones with us, today. One older woman dressed as though going to church surprised us, as she passed us near the top.
It was only in the mid to late 1800s that a fellow named Cecil Rhodes formed the British South African Company and in 1888 began granting mineral rights in exchange for guns and bullets. Finding little gold the colonists took farmland on the Mashona plateau and called their new country Rhodesia. It was called that until 1980 when the African people gained independence. The pride became the name of their new nation.
The guys, Kenneth, Yash and Ken left us and headed for the Rock Drawings. On the way back to town the Compact Clunker blew a tire. The driver pulled off the road into a ditch. I wondered how he’d jack the car up on such an angle? Well he wouldn’t, there was no need to, he didn’t have a spare? So, it was walking to town time. We had wanted to see the Protea Hotel Flamboyant. It’s a sister to our Chevron Hotel but the rate is lower. We have considered making a move if we decided to stay over again tomorrow. It was pretty plain and a long way from town. We decided after a brief walkthrough that we’d just stay put. Thought we’d have lunch there but discovered that we didn’t have enough money.
It’s a long walk back to town. I was trying to flag down a bus when 3 guys in a pickup stopped and invited us to jump in the back. Cat was reluctant, I was tired of walking. They pulled up right in front of the Hotel and dropped us.
It was 3:30 and we were starving. Lunch in the restaurant where we could charge it. Back to the room, I worked on the journal pages for a little while. Cat researched South Africa. I was completely fatigued. I fell asleep and slept through the afternoon. It was 9:00 PM by the time we went down for dinner, just a bowl of soup.
Bed by 9:45 PM.
Sunday, April 11, 2004
Easter Sunday in Masvingo
Our plan to cycle today went out the window at 4:00 AM. I had a recurrence of The Guff Guff and speaking of out the window, it was pouring rain. It’s 110 Ks to Runde River and the next accommodations. Cat was disappointed but I need rest, maybe it was the walking or the intestinal bug that had me feeling stiff, sore and fatigued.
Wendy, the gal who had insisted that we take time at The Zimbabwe, was having breakfast. We joined her and enjoyed hearing about her family and their life here in Zimbabwe. She was born right here in Masvingo, met her husband here and raised her family here.
Wendy suggested that we see her Pharmacist, John. He won’t be open today but she says that he’s always there, just look for his big blue 4WD truck out front. She was correct, he was talking with a young guy in the doorway of his store. We explained my problem and how it continues to ebb and flow. His suggestion was a med similar to Lomitil. We hate the stuff because it doesn’t cure anything it just plugs things up. John agreed but felt it important to do just that rather than risk dehydration. What a nice guy, it was almost like having a consultation with a Doctor. We had to dig for change as he didn’t have his cash register set up.
Most of the stores are closed for the Holiday and or Sunday? We walked around, tried the Internet Shop in a third floor walk-up. Huffing and puffing, sure that it was for naught, we were surprised to find the door open and a line of anxious users awaiting a turn at the keyboards. I sat and waited, Cat walked around the block hoping to find a fruit stand for bananas. It took more than 2 hours to work our way through the more than 100 messages that had accumulated.
I needed rest and wanted to journalize so it was back to the room for me. Cat got sandwiches from the Café downstairs and we had a little picnic in the room. I relaxed, Cat went back to the Internet keyboard. It was after 5:00 PM by the time she gave up the machine to another anxious user. We relaxed, had a glass of wine then went down for dinner.
We had made a date with Wendy to have dinner together this evening. She was a delight, and we gained insight into her life and life here in Zim. Her husband’s career has been in the meat packing business. He worked for a large firm for 30 years then retired. His plan to relax for a couple of months then find some other job became 6 years of retirement. During that time the two of them drifted apart. She is a talker, a social person, she says that he’s a introvert. She want to go out, see people and enjoy life. He likes being at home, puttering with his car or other mechanical things. That’s the reason she likes to have tea here in the morning and often come for dinner, too.
Wendy love to talk politics so we had a great, spirited conversation. We share her feelings that our country is in over its head in Iraq and there appears to be no end in sight. She told us that her daughter who lives in Johannesburg was coming up to visit her and then on to Harare to see her sister. She’ll be staying at a place called the Elephant and Lion Hotel. We think we may be there and will try to meet her.
Another of those emotional partings, we’ve only known Wendy for 2 days and met just 3 times yet we feel as though we’ve known her for years.
Early to bed, tomorrow will be a cycling day, Guff Guff or no.
April 12, 2004
Masvingo to Runde River
Two Years on the ROAD!!!
Yes, it was 2 years ago today that we set off on this great and wondrous Odyssey. Some days it seems like it was just yesterday, others it seems that 100 years have come and gone. Though we maintain fairly close contact with our family it’s been 2 years without holding the Grandkids or spending time with the girls, son-in-law David and Cat’s parents. We do miss them and lots of our friends back home but the daily thrust into the unknown and meeting new friends helps. We’re still completely convinced that our efforts, the exhilaration and pain we have experienced, are worthwhile. We especially enjoy maintaining contact with so many of these friends, old and new, around the world. Thank You For Being Our Friends!
6:00 AM, we were awakened by wind driven rain pelting against our window. Uugh, we need to get moving, The Cat is getting stir crazy. I began to have second thoughts about leaving as the storm seemed to be gathering. Somehow, in my mind, I feared that this was just the front of a huge tropical storm. I doddled over breakfast, hoping that the wind and rain would stop. Cat stood her ground, “Let’s go, it’ll clear up” she insisted.
Bikes down the steep stairs, we were committed. As we pulled the ponchos over our heads I felt a shiver, maybe the cold? Perhaps an omen? The wind was in our faces and it was wet, cold and wet. We struggled up the road that we’d walked back down day before yesterday. There was little traffic, who’d be out in this if they didn’t have to?
Thirty minutes of struggle then the rain lightened. Just as we began to think the worst of it was over another sheet of wet blew into our faces. I was convinced that it would b like this, maybe even worse, for the rest of the day. Cat continued to press onward as she shouted above the wind, “We’ve ridden in worse”!
Most of the ride was up, the scenery is dry looking, even in the rain. After an hour of cold and wet the sun broke through and the wind died down. This was desert or close to it. Boring sameness in the landscape until we neared the village of Lundi. Huge, beautiful rock formations began to dominate. The road continued its constant winding uphill pull. There are lots of small booths with carvers and their carvings. I now wish that we’d taken some pictures of them. I did pull next to a full sized carving and get a photo with Molly, the sales lady.
With only 3 bread rolls on board that we’d snagged at breakfast we began to search for food. There are no service stations or stores along the way. Finally, at 1:30 PM, we pulled up at rest stop. Sitting at a table in the shade, we ate the rolls smeared with lots of peanut butter, washed down with water. The sky is now only partly cloudy and it is hot. So much for the fears of a typhoon.
The map and some locals we’ve talked with tell of a downhill run to the Runde River. Flat rocks washed into strange shapes by eons of water have an artistic look from the bridge. It’s a climb away from the bridge to the Rhino Motel. The owner, a young Afrikaner woman named Sjaleen, expressed anger and disgust about the Land Reform Act and it’s consequences as she checked us in. Her family also owns nearby farms. She says that native Africans often stop and threaten or remind her that they could take the place. Though she expresses confidence that they will continue to own the property the uncertainty must be demoralizing at times. Though we are becoming convinced that something had to give we also feel that there should be better ways to accomplish the goals. Wouldn’t it make sense to term ownership out over time? Time for current owners to make plans for their futures and for future owners to prepare for the responsibilities. Time for the Government to amass monies to pay for the improvements that the current owners have made. Awe, it’s so easy to be an armchair quarterback.
Dinner at Sjaleen’s attached Safari Grill Restaurant was very good. We enjoyed a conversation with Donald, who is here with The Cotton Company, trying to help farmers work Cotton into their crop mix. He is also exploring the possibility of expanding into soybeans, a crop that does well here, too. A local couple enjoying a drink and dinner told us a little about their simple life. They didn’t speak much English but we could get most of what they were trying to tell us. She made it perfectly clear that they want their daughter to travel to America.
Tired and full of good food, no TV to tempt us so it was an early to bed evening.
April 13, 2004
Runde River to Bubye River
Early to bed, early to rise. We enjoyed a huge, included breakfast. Returning to the room we met a couple, Atti and Anna. They have been farming here since 1974 but are driving into town to get money and “clearance” to take their personal possessions and move to Zambia. They aren’t Rhodesians, they moved here from South Africa and bought the farm 30 years ago. Though they will lose most of their money the loss to him is much greater than Zim dollars. He, like most farmers, loves his land and the things that it produces. His main product was cattle but he had also expanded into the Game Farming industry. He had 80 giraffes, 300 Eland and other small herds of grazing animals. He said, “This is the best grass, grazing land in the world, I have sent cattle to market that ate only this grass and they were judged too fat”.
The sad part of their story is that the squatters who have taken over are plowing it under. They have planted corn, the crop that they understand, the crop that will feed their families. Unfortunately it’s too wet here for corn. He says that their crop is mildewing on the stalk. They decided to move north to live with their children in Zambia when the squatters cut their telephone lines. “To keep you from communicating” we asked? “No”, he responded, “They use the wire to make snares to catch the game animals. They kill and waste them because they break into the corn fields”. Atti and Anna are sad, no doubt about that, but like all pioneers they seem to be taking it in stride.
More up this morning. A beautiful day on the road. The grassland that Atti described surrounded us. Both sides of the road were endless expanses of knee-high grass and thick-bodied cattle. Some of the hills had us pushing. Fearing darkness we ate a hurried lunch, rice and beans, at a café in the village of Rutenga and stopped for soft drinks 30 Ks further along. The rest of the day was just a hot 9 hours of pedal or push. We did enjoy a rush of honks and waves from passing cars and trucks.
It was after 5:00 PM when we finally pulled into the Elephant and Lion Hotel. As Cat checked in I got her a beer and a lemon drink for me. We sat on a patio in the shade, sipped and talked with Peter. He’s a transportation consultant. We talked about the current political situation here but he is confident that change is in the wind. Although not quite sure when or how it will come he thinks that the Land Reform will be changed and farmers will be compensated. We hope that he’s right about that.
Peter approached as we pushed in the direction we thought would get us to our room. He had seen us on the road. He and his wife Melanie are ferrying their caravan down to South Africa for his mother to use. Another family, Mom, Dad, Grandma and 2 kids came up as we talked. They too had seen us struggling along this afternoon. Peter helped us find our thatched roofed Chalet and we made a date to dine together later.
Cat called the bathtub a birdbath. It was small and had no shower. Well it did have hot water, and as Greg, a guy we met in Detroit, Michigan and The Rolling Stones once said, “You can’t always get what you want”.
I wandered out and met our neighbors, 3 gals, Pat, Karen, Ema and their 3 kids, Caroline, Brendan and Michael. I introduced myself and asked if one of them was Wendy’s daughter? No, they’re from Harare, headed for Joburg and a shopping spree. We met Peter and Melanie and walked along the river to the restaurant. The place was packed. The fellow who checked us in came by and told us that we were lucky we came in when we did. He has sold all his rooms for tonight. David and Melanie say it’s because it’s a week of school holiday. They’re both teachers and they too share Peters confidence that life will return to normal someday.
We ordered a glass of wine and sat under a tree on the riverbank while we waited for a table. David suggested crumbed Eland but it had already sold out. The 3 of us had Impala, Melanie chose a light dinner of chicken. The caravan to David’s Mom is actually a secondary reason for the trip. Melanie is an operatic singer. She will appear professionally for the first time day after tomorrow. We talked music although her brand is a far cry from our Cajun and Zydeco.
Pat, one of our next-door neighbors at the Chalet approached our table as they were leaving. She offered to let us use a flat that she and her husband have in Cape Town. What a kind gesture, we were amazed by her open, unsolicited and kind offer.
Another early to bed evening.
April 14, 2004
Bubye to the South African Border
The expensive, not included breakfast was abundant and filling. One item on the plate and our first taste of it, Boer Sausage, was a dry beef sausage with little taste. As we were eating a gal approached and introduced herself. It was Lydia, Wendy’s daughter. She and the kids, Callen and Chad, were going our way, back to the Chalet. A very nice girl and the kids are good-looking and well behaved. We had fun with Chad, he was riding his bike.
Loaded up, we stopped to say goodbye to David and Melanie. He got some Top Raman and canned foods from the caravan for us. The noodles are light and easy to pack. The canned food wouldn’t work but we thanked him anyway. What a kind thing to do. We told Melanie to “Break a Leg” tomorrow night then bid them a fond farewell.
Lydia and the kids were loading their things into the SUV. We pulled up, talked a little about Wendy, her Mom and family. They really are a tighter family unit than Wendy portrays. At any rate it was great meeting, the kind of fluke meeting that we love. Connected to another person, another time, another place.
The kitchen made sandwiches for us. There’s not going to be anyplace to stop between here and Beitbridge, the Zimbabwe Border town. At 9:00 AM we leaned the bikes against the cement elephant in front of the Hotel for a picture then pushed off toward South Africa.
Another day of continuous, slow up, up, up. It’s a day of strange road kill, too. As we rode through a small village two kids were pulling a dead donkey off the road by its hind feet. It must have been hit recently as it was leaving a slick wet trail of blood on the pavement. Oh yes, Cat’s favorites, snakes. We’ve seen quite a few small snakes on the road but today there’s an abundance. One in particular was at least 2 ½ meters (5 feet) long and it wasn’t flat, it looked almost like it could crawl away.
Then there are those bugs, millipedes that are a half meter long and, huge strange looking fellows. We’ve named them crash bugs. I wanted to get a picture of one and in my excitement I forgot to signal that I was stopping. As I braked Cat crashed into my bike then fell out into the middle of the road. I threw my bike down and ran back. A truck was coming our way so I signaled for him to pull across the road. She sort of crawled to the shoulder and I got the bike. She skinned up her elbow and knee. She’d slammed her head on the road too, thank goodness for helmets, never leave home without them. A close call and it was all my fault. She was pretty shaken but gathered her courage, climbed back on board and we pedaled onward. What a tough woman!
Lion and Elephant sandwiches at one of the concrete rest area table. They were a little greasy but tasty. They went down easily with our lemon drinks then we jumped back on the bikes and headed south.
We were in Beitbridge by 2:30 PM. It’s a typical dusty border town. I had been worried that we’d run short of Zimbabwe Dollars so we pulled another 9,000 out of an ATM on the way out of Masvingo. Now here we are, on the edge of South Africa where they have little or no value. We searched for a bank only to find that they’re all closed today, still celebrating Easter? The guard posted in front of Barclays Bank told us to come back tomorrow. When he heard that we need to cross the border this afternoon he asked us to wait and went searching for a moneychanger.
Cat was nervous, she fears being arrested on our last day in Zimbabwe. When the guard returned he was followed by a tall, nice looking African woman, Angela. She didn’t look or talk like an illegal moneychanger. I liked her, Cat remained wary. Angela motioned for me to follow, up the stairs and into the ATM area on Barclay’s porch. We knelt down, she kept peeking over the railing as we counted out money on the floor. I did get a little nervous when Angela was asking about our trip. As I explained that we’d been on the road for 2 years she exclaimed, “You must have a lot of money with you”? I assured her that what was spread in front of us was what we had. (Creative truth, we did have $350 US stuffed here and there but I meant Zim money!)
You can imagine the size of our pile of Zimbabwe Dollars. The size of her pile of Rand was disappointing. We will lose about 20% in the transaction and Rand are trading at 6.49 to $1.00. I did get her to give a little extra, to round up to the next 100 Rand. As she re-counted the stack of Zim bucks she peeked out again and told me to duck down. There were two guys hanging around next door. “They’re very bad guys”, she warned, “They’ll follow you to the Border and press you to change money then try to grab your wallet”.
Back down at the bikes, Angela told us that she really respects our effort and again warned us about the bad guys. That made Cat a little nervous, she was ready to get out of Zimbabwe and away from the border. All border areas seem to share this lawless, dangerous, almost ominous feeling of impending bad, about them.
The Zimbabwe border is also typical. Covered lanes of cars and trucks, sitting idling and waiting for clearance. We leaned the bikes against the wall, Cat went inside and I watched through the window. She wound her way through the maze of 3 windows, got the appropriate stamps and we were on the way, across a bridge and into South Africa. We somehow got onto the driving bridge. Two Police Officers on the old bridge above yelled and tried to get us to turn back. The wanted us to come up and use the pedestrian bridge. NO WAY, WE WERE ON OUR WAY TO SOUTH AFRICA!
It’s hard to believe that we’ve now been in Africa for 6 ½ months. We’ve come a long way and learned a lot. Our total accumulated distance is 21,700 Kilometers or 13,454 miles. That’s a lot of sitting on a bike seat. That’s a lot of sore BUM, as the BRITS would say. We’ve also had our share of the continuing African Guff Guff and lately it’s cramping muscles. Our hamstrings, calves and feet have begun rebelling. It’s pretty painful and can wake us up with a start in the middle of the night. Small complaints when we consider the distance we’ve covered and our ages.
Our next issue will be a ride to the Cape. We’ve heard so many good things about South Africa that we worry about being disappointed if they’re not true. So, come along next issue, it should be a great ride and we hope another good read.
WorldRiders2 Pat & Cat Patterson