If Botswana was ‘boring’ then the last couple of weeks since my last update have been the complete opposite (unfortunately not always in a positive sense!) They have been very very busy so I must try and be careful not to try and cram too much in. I will try and put the most boring stuff at the end, as Jo de Klee very honestly told me in his last message to me “your blogs are a bit on the long side for me so I read the top and bottom and the look at the photos and your map!!”.
***I have just finished writing and have reread it - I know this week is long, and not all that humerous, but its hard being funny when you are dripping sweat onto a keyboard and there are flies buzzing around your face, with UNSPEAKABLY slow internet! Next week I’ll be back in full force (I have had a couple of amusing ideas, but this week there is just too much of actual country and update to cover!). Disappointingly, the internet here again is so slow that I have only been able to upload a couple of photos. Will do my best to find somewhere else in the next few days.
I will try then to split this update up into 3 parts - my time through Zimbabwe and Mozambique (focusing mainly on Lady Love) and then a 2 part edition of my time so far in Malawi.
No longer than 20 hours after writing my last update did things start to go wrong! Things had, after about 40 days started to show signs of wear and tear; my tent bag ripped (fixed with duct tape), my water bottle holder snapped (fixed with duct tape), my sleeping mat has holes in it (attempted fix with repair kit), my shirts and shorts are all ripped (as yet, unfixed), my pedals have slowly bored holes through the soles of my shoes, my handle bar grip has ripped and started coming off (fixed with duct tape), my inner tubes look like a patchwork quilt. However, although these issues mean that each evening I spend fixing something, it hasn’t really affected me. What did affect me was that about 2 hours outside of Harare my rim (the wheel) broke!
I think that this was probably down to my amateur bike repair skills and originated in my fall in Zambia, but finally a real mechanical challenge! I temporarily fixed the wheel (with duct tape. Obviously.) and straightened it up a bit and tried to get moving. After an hour or so it was completely bent again. Straightened it up. Hour later, wobbling all over the place. To add to this the rain had started coming down, and I had just finished Allen Carr (come on Allen. 4th time lucky) so was feeling a little tetchy! After my third stop and ‘truing’ of the wheel, the heavens opened. Lightening like you wouldn’t believe. Desperately seeking shelter, I took refuge under a shack selling sweet potatoes, yam and butternuts with four lads. After two hours of chatting with the boys (From Right to Left: Cathy – wearing a rosary. Jerry D - after Jermain Defoe. Annie- short for annoying guy. And Paddington – his real name) the rain still hadn’t stopped so I asked them if I could stay the night in their hut, I was a little worried about the wheel I must admit, but knew, one way or another; I’d have to get through it.
That night should have been a peach. Escaped from the rain, sleeping on a dusty floor of a roadside shack, having just cooked myself yam and sweet potato the lads had given me on an open fire. However, at about 3 – “Ayyan! Ayaaaan! Wake! Wake!” The boys were back. Hammered. Three of the boys (Annie, Paddington and a paralytic Cathy) were back to chat to the White Guy, and make him drink. After I had tried a bit of their Chibuku (vomit flavoured local brew) I made it quite clear that I wanted to go back to sleep (as many a poor unfortunate soul have discovered in the past. Don’t wake me up. Especially if you’re pissed. Ever. Even if I’m sleeping in your shack.) Cathy had by this stage completely passed out on the floor beside me, whilst the other two continually reintroduced themselves to me, I think, convinced by my hostility that I didn’t recognise them. I eventually hoisted Cathy onto my shoulder and marched him outside and down the road a bit towards their village. Dumped him on the side of the road and said good night to the other two, whilst at the same time trying to pull it off that I was making a joke, haha. Not sure if they bought it, but they certainly wouldn’t remember it!
The following day I made it about 120ks, constantly stopping and adjusting my wheel. Very boring! Eventually the rim completely went and I had to hitch the final 30km to Mutare (in a vast juggernaught. In the cab there was a bed, a girlfriend, a beer drinking driver, three women a two small children and a baby. We all sat in a line squashed along the bed - I looked like a milky button in a packet of minstrels!) I love hitch hiking, I have done it a fair amount of it – don’t worry, the 10000 is distance pedaled, I don’t count the lifts – usually for convenience sake, you meet the most bizarre and fascinating people.
All the shops were closed, so in the morning I wandered down to the local hardware shop (the only places that sell bike stuff – “TIA”, there are no fancy bike shops here), they sent me down the road to try and get it mended, they said no, try here, who sent me back to the original hardware shop. Not looking good. After about 3 hours of standing in the shop discussing options and essentially just looking at each other, one of the lads phoned Francis (why this wasn’t his first move I will never work out) who, apparently, had a bike just like mine. Francis arrived and, thanks be to God, said he had a spare rim in his garage. By the next morning I had a new wheel – a rusty, wobbly and heavy new wheel but one that definitely worked! Honestly a miracle. I think this, with a million different example from this trip, only shows that if in Africa you are patient and relaxed you will always be fine. The moment you get stressed out and snappy, game over. People will just close down and ignore you. (Whilst all this was going on I had sneakily decided and requested my hero of a Dad to be at the ready to post one to Patrick Garety, a friend of mine on in Lilongwe (10 days ride away) who I was planning on visiting)
By the time I was in no mans land between the Zimbabwean and Mozambican borders I had had a puncture. Too late to turn back, in Mozambique now. By the time I was through immigration I had had three more punctures. Tube in, hssssssss. Other tube in, repair original. Hsssssssss. Two tubes out, both being repaired. One back in. Hsssssssss. Finally it sounded like one of the tubes wasn’t puncturing (the rust inside the rim was puncturing the tubes from the inside) and off I went. STUNNING Mozambique, beautiful day, smiling uber friendly peohssssssssssss. Shit.
Ended up hitching (losing a lot of time here- two short days from Harare, day off in Mutare. Now another day of(f) wheel repair. Not ideal. **Am now a fair way behind my needed average but still feeling optimistic.) this time with a batty, kind, 60 year old Mexican missionary lady (another story) to the next town, where, guess what? I fixed my wheel with duct tape! Lining the rust and screws to protect the tube. Without labouring the point (he says after a thousand words….) the wheel made it to Lilongwe, however like the other one I had to straighten it up every 3 hours or so. And it slowed me down a fair amount. But without Francis and the wheel I would never have made it to Lilongwe (where my shiny new wheel was waiting for me!), so in reality I was very lucky.
Quickly, as I know that I have barely written about it this week or last. I loved Zimbabwe. Despite the weather (Extreme heat, extreme humidity, extreme rain. Muggy.) it was amazing. The people were very interesting, and kind. And it was interesting to be back in a mixed race country. The white people continued not to wave at me and the Black people would not wave or smile unless I did first at which point I would be greeted by a massive smile and return greeting. I had to initiate it though otherwise it was a hostile glare.
My 5 days in Mozambique were awesome. I absolutely loved it. The people were unbearably friendly and the scenery was spectacular. With great Zimbabwean peaks to my left (West) and out to my right, great hilly plains with the occasional very random seeming mountain just popping out of nowhere. Aside from the smiling faces I cycled through boab forests, through hundreds of little river valleys, past uncountable roadside stalls (what these stalls sell - as with the whole way alonge -depends on the terrain etc. that the village is in. Ranging from veg (again localised), to charcoal, to fuel (where do they get it from?!), fruit, clothes, etc. etc.)
Apart from my first night in the Chimoyo where I was trying to mend my wheel - I didn’t see any other white people and no evidence of tourism, sleeping in the bush for the four nights after that. Perhaps I enjoyed meeting the people so much because we didn’t share a single word of language. In a way, quite refreshing not to say How are you? To every single person I pass. My Portuguese amounts to a mix of my ultra limited Spanish and Italian (Bene bene una cervesa per favour grazie gratias gliiiiii estrella) so we were left with just smiling and waving. The huge beaming smiles, left me shocked that this was a country that has been through some horrific civil war.