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Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #200 on: November 22, 2018, 06:12:37 pm »
We found an ATM machine. We used several cards to get enough cash. Then we had some dinner at the mall. By then it was dark. Night fell at around 6pm, as we were still on the same time zone since South Africa, but we had travelled quite a long way East.

We walked back in the dark, which was quite tricky (and unwise) as there was no pavement and the road was dangerous with fast moving cars. We had to walk by the sandy track that could have holes, garbage etc…

Back at the house, there was a young woman waiting. We had seen her at Croc Valley camp, she was in our safari car the previous day. Veronica was Colombian, looked like a super model. was studying in Barcelona and backpacking around during the summer holidays. We freed the third bunk bed of our stuff. I had not used dormitories for quite a long time!

There was no hot water, and none of use fancied stepping into the filthy bath, so no shower for us that day!

At least the WiFi worked so we read stuff in our respective bunk beds and chatted with Veronica. It seems the baboons stole her breakfast too, in Croc Valley Camp!  :lol8:

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #201 on: November 22, 2018, 06:13:43 pm »

Day 54 – Malawi, Senga Bay, Cools Running Camp – Sunday 22d July – 126kms

Early morning, Alistair walked to the little shopping mall with Veronica, to get some food for breakfast. Veronica also needed cash, as she had crossed the border the day before, like us.

I would not fancy using buses around here! She told us that she had to take a taxi from the border to the bus station. She was on the front seat of a car with 3 other people, while 6 people were crammed at the back! Taxis are communal in Africa! But the mini buses are even worse according to Veronica!

After loading the luggage onto the bikes, we left town and the filthy Japan house! That it was rated 8.5/10 in booking.com is unbelievable! It just shows you cannot trust any of those ratings online!

It was a short 2 hours ride to Senga Bay. Along the road we saw plenty of kids by the side of the road. After all it was Sunday.

They had a long stick with what looked like dead mice, 10 to 20 mice, skewered in those sticks. Sometimes even more, tightly packed. I found out few days later, talking to an Ozzie expat living in Blantyre, that the kids were really selling roasted mice, which is considered a snack in Malawi!

Some of them are roasted with the skin on. Not sure they are even gutted! The sight of them was rather revolting, with those little legs and skinny tails sticking out!

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #202 on: November 22, 2018, 06:15:24 pm »
Finding Cool Running Camp was not easy. Even with the GPS. We had to turn back, stop at a fuel station and ask for directions. It had good reviews and was also recommended by a fellow traveller.

The place was very pleasant. It was very reasonably priced. For 10 USD each, we decided to take the wood hut with real beds rather that set up our very small tent. We had a late lunch of toasted sandwiches on site and didn’t do much after that; the place was full by the end of the day.

our very pleasant shack:

We also had dinner there. The local fish was excellent. It should be, as we were by the edge of lake Malawi. The lake is so big we could not see the other side. There were waves and it looked like the sea.

Women were doing the laundry on the beach while kids played and swam around.

After our early dinner there was not much to do. It was dark. Most people seemed to have gone to bed very early, so we moved to our hut, away from the many mosquitoes. Our beds had mosquito nets, which was really useful.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #203 on: November 22, 2018, 06:16:51 pm »

Day 55 and 56 – Malawi, Senga Bay – Monday 23rd / Tuesday 24th July – 0 km

We woke up early. After breakfast we did some laundry and planning. WiFi did not work, so I did not buy a voucher.

WiFi is rarely free in Malawi, except in high-end hotels. Malawi has a hotspot system throughout the country. You buy vouchers to access WiFi.

Except, if the power is off, there is no signal. Power cuts are a frequent occurrence in Malawi and most places have a generator. In towns the power cuts are actually planned and you know which time of the day and which days are the cut off!

So, our planning that day was mainly with the lonely planet and road map, as the power was off most of the day.

It seemed, from a tourist brochure, that for Mozambique, we needed to get the visas at a consulate as they were not giving them at the border!

Things change constantly with Mozambique visa thing, so we had to find out what was the latest situation on this.

In the afternoon, a group arrived, some with British accent. They were a mix of Brit/ Ozzie expats and some of their family, visiting from the UK. We had a good chat with the Ozzie expat and his wife. They told us they knew of Europeans who had crossed into Mozambique and got the visa at the border. But it was a lot of hassle and things with Mozambique change almost daily, so they recommended that we would be better off sorting the visas in advance.

I found out there was a consulate in Blantyre. It was in our way, so we decided we would stop there for few days.

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Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #204 on: November 22, 2018, 06:18:22 pm »

Day 58 – Malawi, Senga Bay, Cool Runnings – Wednesday 25th July

We were planning to leave, but the place was so pleasant and relaxing that we decided to stay for a 4th night. We spent the day reading and lounging around the various chairs, sun loungers and sofas, with a bit of “Murder in Paradise” thrown in on TV for a change!

Paying the bill:

If you find yourself in Senga Bay, make sure you drop at Cool Runnings. The Lady owner contributes and has created so many charities it is incredible. She is doing a lot of good locally. As an ex Nurse she also had consultations in the morning to help the locals children. She is amazing. And her place is incredibly pleasant.

Offline 2StrokeDan

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Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #205 on: November 23, 2018, 07:04:02 am »
I enjoyed your ride report, very refreshingly done on small machines!

Offline Fransw

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #206 on: November 23, 2018, 08:57:56 am »
I enjoyed your ride report, very refreshingly done on small machines!

Agree, small bikes all the way! Interesting the more experience travellers become the smaller the bikes!...
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Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #207 on: November 23, 2018, 05:37:48 pm »
I enjoyed your ride report, very refreshingly done on small machines!

Agree, small bikes all the way! Interesting the more experience travellers become the smaller the bikes!...

Indeed, my first trip (one year in South America) was on two BMW F650GS (single cc Funduro version) with all the trimmings: panniers, bags, more luggage than we knew what to do with. There is nothing wrong with that.

However it did not work for me. We had too much luggage and with very little experience of riding off tarmac, there are many places we could not go as I could not ride my bike there. In addition my bike broke down everywhere (Alistair's bike was reliable though - he had the Dakar version).

Outside of the western world, if your BMW breakdown, or any sophisticated bike that requires to be plugged to a computer for diagnostic and resetting of stuff, you can be left in big trouble.

Then we rented two small YBR125 in Vietnam and spent 3 weeks lost in the northern mountains. Suddenly I was unstoppable! It was so much fun.

So we went the other extreme and got 2 Honda XR125 from eBay to ride all the way from London to Mongolia and Back. It was epic but we did it.
Then we went back to Russia and central Asia fro few months, to explore further, on a couple of 250s. The weigh is perfect for me. The handling superb, and I can do without luxuries. If we need luxuries, we stay in a nice B&B and get a nice meal at a nice restaurant. Most importantly I can handle the bike on any sort of terrain, usually. I am not great in very deep sand but I managed fairly ok with it. It is extremely rare that I drop my bike these days.


Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #208 on: November 23, 2018, 05:39:53 pm »
Day 59 –  Malawi, Cape Maclear, Funky Cichlids (south shore of lake Malawi) – Thursday 26th July – 176kms

We finally managed to extract ourselves, reluctantly, from Cool Runnings, and rode to the south shore of the lake.

The weather was slowly getting warmer and less cloudy. On the day we left, it was clear sky but not too hot. Perfect weather to ride. We rode through the sandy streets of the village, back to the main road.

We planned to spend 3 nights in the south shore and get to Blantyre, the second biggest town in Malawi, on Sunday only. The plan was to get to the Mozambique consulate early Monday morning for our visas.

We took a short cut through some (mainly) pleasant trails with fun drops through river beds that took the bikes suddenly down then up. It was fun.

The backpacker place we had selected in the south shore had great reviews, but they only had room for two nights.

It was now the high season, with plenty of backpackers from Europe. Cape MacClear was easier to reach by public transports than Senga Bay, I guess.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #209 on: November 23, 2018, 05:41:24 pm »
There were lots of backpackers and long time travellers, most of them in their early 20s.

I am always a bit bemused (and a bit envious) by very young long time travellers. When I was in my 20s I had to save a lot just to be able to afford a bicycle from Decathlon to commute to my minimum wage job! How do they finance their trips?

The place was funky with music, nice bar area and cheap drinks. A G&T for a pound will attract the backpackers!

We settled in a room. The shared bathrooms were functional with hot water from solar panels. The water was pumped from the lake.

We explored the village which was much more touristic than in Senga Bay, with lots of shops selling craft and colourful clothes and bags.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #210 on: November 23, 2018, 05:42:35 pm »

The lake is fresh water, so the locals use the shore to wash their clothes, bath themselves, do the washing up, pick up water to take to their home. There are constantly women and little girls working on the shore doing some washing and men showering very conscientiously.

I read a review in Google, about Cape McClear, and a woman posted an outraged review of the place she was staying in, because the locals were using the lake this way near her lodge! I was a bit puzzled by this. The locals have barely electricity, and certainly no running water. And it is THEIR Lake after all. Which shows not all travellers get enlightened while exploring the world!

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #211 on: November 23, 2018, 05:44:01 pm »

Day 60 – Malawi, Cape Maclear, Funky Cichlid – Friday 27th July

We booked a room in another lodge for Saturday night. And then decided to go kayaking in the lake. It had to be done. It was nice to go kayaking once again, We used to do this often at weekends, when we lived in Rio, years ago.

As we came back, two hours later with our kayaks, soaked, we decided to go for a swim too.

The weather was splendid and the water was warm at last!

It was only later that Alistair mentioned some disease from snails.

He went digging his emails and found the document the nurse at the surgery sent him.

There was significant risk of Bilharzia in all bodies of fresh water, including in lake Malawi.

Oh well, considering the showers and all taps were with water from the lake, swimming or not in the lake would make no difference.

We talked with the funky Cichlid’s manager whether there was any risk. She said they recommended everyone to take XYZ treatment as prevention. Well, lucky we asked, as they may tell everyone, but not one of their staff told us. And there was certainly no notice, board or any sign of this!

Bilharzia can be fairly dangerous and fatal if untreated. Although the risk of catching it is very small, it is best just to take the treatment as prevention, especially as it is a single dose to take 6 to 8 weeks later and cost about 2 pounds. So we planned to buy that in a pharmacy in Blantyre. Easier than asking for it to our GP, back in London, who would refuse to prescribe it.

The tests are apparently rather costly; so all the people living by the shore of the lake (including and especially all those Europeans and Americans volunteers or workers) take a tablet every 2 months.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #212 on: November 23, 2018, 05:44:55 pm »

We did not do much after all that. We read some books again. These few days on the shore of Lake Malawi was a bit of a holiday for us, before we tackled Mozambique.

The Wi-Fi at the backpacker hostal was working pretty well. I bought a voucher for about 5MB to get ahead with my planning. Who knows when would find working Wi-Fi again in Malawi? It was a wise decision!

My research online showed various addresses for the consulate in Blantyre.
Alistair tried to phone the embassy in Lilongwe, but all the phones numbers we found online or on guidebooks were incorrect.

Emails were also incorrect, for both the embassy in Lilongwe and the consulate in Blantyre.
The phones for the consulate were also incorrect! Including from a Malawi magazine aiming at tourist info! The Mozambique embassy and consulate were rather elusive in Malawi!

Finding an affordable place to stay in Blantyre took also some time. The fact, that, as usual, Google and booking.com seem to place hotels and guest houses in random locations, making them look like they are in town instead of 30 kms away, did not help.

Any promising place we found we had to cross-reference the address using other sites, and find out it was actually totally out of town!

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Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #213 on: November 24, 2018, 06:31:28 pm »

Day 61 – Malawi, Cape Maclear, Eco lodge – Saturday 28th July, 500 m ride.

We packed up everything and rode out of the Funky Cichlid. The place was fully booked for the weekend so we moved 500 meters down the road to the Eco Lodge.

The room with shared bathrooms was cheaper than the Funky Cichlid, at 20$ instead of $30, but the communal space was less comfortable and the bar very small and poky. We realised that lots of people from the Eco Lodge were actually lounging at the Funky Cichlid’s large open bar and lounge area, as we recognised lots of people there having a late breakfast!

Our room was away in some sort of wasteland, in a poky place with lots of junk lying around. I guess at that price we could not complain!

Once unpacked and changed, like everybody else, we walked along the beach back to the Funky Cichlid to lounge! We could not get a signal from the hotspot at the Ecolodge, so that was another good reason to go and lounge and have a nice cheap dinner at the Funky Cichlid instead.

So we were having a relaxing Saturday by lake Malawi.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #214 on: November 24, 2018, 06:33:26 pm »
Day 62 – Malawi, Blantyre – Sunday 29th July – 275kms

It was finally time to move away from Lake Malawi and get on with our trip. We left the lake and rode to get to the second biggest town in Malawi.

The road, for 60kms, was just constant roadwork with deviations through sandy tracks.

 It was slow going with constant people walking around and goats and sheep roaming free. This had been a constant for a while. There were constantly people and farm animals along the road, a village after another, nowhere to stop for a quick pee or a quiet rest. :-\

For once, at a police checkpoint, the police stopped us. They usually did not bother with us.

After the usual questions (where do you come from today, where are you going) the guy asked Alistair for money to buy a drink! It was so disappointing as so far it never happened.

Alistair told the guy we needed to get cash from a bank, as we had no cash with us. He let us go with a smile, so the encounter was not particularly traumatic.  ::)

In Blantyre, after some search, and despite the GPS, we rode around for a while before finally finding our guesthouse. 

In booking.com it had great reviews. The place was as to be expected for 35$ a night including breakfast in a big city! It was a bit of a dump! Alistair spent most of the nights there hunting massive mosquitoes as the mosquito net above our bed was full of holes and was so small it was probably for an infant bed only!

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #215 on: November 24, 2018, 06:37:04 pm »

Day 63 – Malawi, Blantyre – Monday 30th July – 0kms

We woke up at 6am. It was daylight soon after 5am and dark soon after 5pm. With regular power cuts and no WiFi or any sort of entertainment, we went to sleep early.

Soon after breakfast (microwaved cold fried egg, an ok sausage and some sort of fried potatoes) we walked to the town centre.

The Mozambique consulate, according to the guesthouse owner, who described in booking.com that it was close to the Mozambique consulate, was in the town centre. We walked the 3kms  to the address we had for it, only to find out it had moved two years ago to another location. It was even further away. The only clue given by the doorman, at the old address, was that the new embassy was near a Roman Catholic Church, located down the road somewhere.

After a lot of asking and a lot of walking under a blazing sun, we finally found it. There were quite few Roman Catholic churches!  Inside the embassy, the lady at the desk told us the visa would cost us 115$ each, but we could get it for cheaper at the border!  If we had known that ... :-\

So we walked back into the town centre and looked for an Internet cafe, as Alistair had to print some docs for our limited companies accounts.

After that, we tried to find a cafe to sit and have a drink. The only place we found was in the local luxury hotel. Blantyre must be the financial centre of Malawi as we could only find Banks and insurance companies offices in the town centre and nothing much for food or drinks! Where do the local bank office workers go for a drink after work, or a mid morning coffee or some lunch? This remains a mystery to me!

We then walked back to our grimy guesthouse. My steps App, which work offline on my phone, showed we walked 15.5kms that day! Not bad.

With another power cut and not much to do, we went to sleep early again.

During our expedition in town, we managed to get the tablets to treat Bilharzia. So we won’t die then!  :biggrin:
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Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #216 on: November 24, 2018, 06:53:05 pm »
Make mine a Boxer with a shaft!!!!
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Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #217 on: November 25, 2018, 06:36:53 pm »

Day 64 – Malawi, Likhubula village, near Mulanje – Tuesday 31st July – 100kms

We left Blantyre early and took the scenic route, as we had plenty of time. The plan was to get close to the border with Mozambique and cross it very early the next day.

We bought fuel and filled the jerry can as well. Once we crossed the border into Mozambique, if we could find an ATM machine it would be hard to buy fuel, until Quelimane, over 360kms from the border. So we needed a 360km fuel range at least, just in case. From my investigations it seemed very few places accepted credit card payment in this region of Mozambique!

We had decided to avoid Zimbabwe, as we did not want to get caught on protests and unrest around the presidential election, should things take a bad turn. So the plan was to cross by a smaller border further east and ride across all of Mozambique.

The ride south of Blantyre was beautiful as we rode across vast tea plantations through stunning rolling hills. The villages around seemed more tidy and prosperous generally. As usual, there were constant busy people along the road, walking, selling stuff or waiting for a client to take around in a car, mopped or bicycle.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #218 on: November 25, 2018, 06:38:47 pm »
We decided to spend the night near the Mulanje Mountains. It was touristic so finding accommodation would be easy.  We took a trail off the main road and found (eventually!) a pleasant backpacker place.

There were louts everywhere vying for business, on the main road, mainly posing as guides to go hiking into Mulanje Mountain. We had no intention to go hiking, but they were persistent.

Once settled into our very clean and comfortable room we went for a little walk. Back at the backpacker place, the locals just stared at us from the road, as we sat by the windows. Even the kids! Some lads would try get our attention (more guides?).

We had dinner at the guesthouse and chatted with a deutsche family on holiday in Malawi.

The wife had spent a year as junior doctor in Malawi few years earlier. She was now back with her husband and kids for a holiday.

After that we went for an early night, as we had to leave very early the next day, in order to cross the border and make it to Quelimane before dark.

Offline maria41

Re: Around Southern Africa on 2 small bikes
« Reply #219 on: November 25, 2018, 06:41:18 pm »
Day 65 – Mozambique, Quelimane – 400kms - Wednesday 1st August

We woke up at 6am and left the Mulanje backpackers place soon before 8. We stopped at the petrol station to buy some more fuel, as well as get enough water and snacks for the day. We knew it would be a long day.

Then we rode to the border with Mozambique.

My head was full of all the blogs, books and websites I read during my research, back in England: the armed gangs roaming and holding up cars and trucks on the roads, the robberies, the army escorts on some roads, the insanely bad roads… I did not know what to expect. The UK Foreign Office was alarmist as usual (you would never leave the UK, or even London, if you listened to them!) while the USA CIA advice was more nuanced.

Malawi had been good; at least we enjoyed our stay around the lake. It was designed for tourism and catered well enough with fantastic backpackers accommodation and plenty of stuff to do around the lake if you are sporty.

The food was fine especially the fresh fish from  the lake.

The country is still very poor, but the tidy tea plantations and busy business centres shows that maybe the country is now starting to pull out of deep poverty. It was still one of the poorest countries we crossed so far, in our trip, but we saw schools everywhere, children walking in their school uniforms, all the various churches and canny mosques with water pumps next to it, in every village, farm animals roaming everywhere. Too much unemployment was the main issue I would think, with too many young men sitting around not doing much, most of the time, while the girls and women were spending too much time carrying heavy loads on their head, fetching water or doing constant washing by the lake. But they looked happy, always smiling and joking with their friends. There was a feeling of hope.

All this was about to change… We got at the border at 9am.