Malawi At Ground Level: Chipata to Mua
Entering Malawi things were immediately different. The mood was new and life at ground level looked vastly different from its neighbor Zambia still only 100 meters behind us…
One thing that distinguishes Malawi from other countries is the absence of cars. Other than mild congestion within major towns, such as the capital Lilongwe, there is rarely any traffic. Sometimes we pedal for hours without seeing a single automobile. The ones that do pass provide ample elbow room and make Malawi the most bicycle friendly place we’ve cycled to date. Even more so than in Zambia, the bicycle is the (non-auto)mobile of the Malawian people. Thus, we ride beside and amongst locals all of the time.
When we first decided to travel in Africa, we most wanted to have an authentic experience…to meet Africans and be with the people. Clearly, we stand out from the crowd. We are a little lacking in melanin; We wear funny clothes; Our communication skills (unless you count charades) are pretty atrocious; We eat with sporks, and our bicycles and gear are clearly a step up (or twenty) from the locals’ Chinese made varietal. They scream “I have money” to the locals who may cycle as many as 50-60 kilometers in a day just to earn a couple dollars selling wood at the weekend market. Despite all of our glaring differences, being at ground level with the people has bridged at least part of the gap.
While the cycling here has thus far been pretty non-strenuous (which Gin and her non-padded derriere do appreciate), it can get a little monotonous. Albeit a wonderfully beautiful country, there are some long stretches of road where the landscape varies little… just more hot tarmac rolling past fields of corn, cassava and cane. There are also endless single lane bridges under which there may or may not be children playing in the stream below, depending on whether there are crocodiles known to inhabit the waters. Thankfully, there are are always the people. We generally say or reply, “Hello, how are you?,” or, “Fine. And You?” about 350 times per day. While this can become a little exhausting after several dozen kilometers, the genuine squeals we hear from surprised children or the toothless grin and thumbs up from an elderly woman provide the inspiration and interest that keep our pedals turning.
Here are photos and captions from our trek from the border to Cape Maclear: