1-5 April A l-long way to Lilongwe

I’ve done 17,478km in total so far. And it was quite a long way to Lilongwe, and unfortunately I arrived the wrong way….on a bus. A major mechanical failure may have stopped my trip but today some nice guys in Lilongwe fitted a new rear hub and cassette. So I am relieved to say I will be back on the bike tomorrow. Phew!

Here’s the rest of our journey from Nkhata bay to the capital of Malawi….

1 April – Kande beach 60km

After a day off in Nkhata bay, we eased ourselves back into cycling with a short ride to Kande beach. The only hard part of the day was pushing the bike through sand for about 2km to reach the beach. The campsite was beautiful and well worth a stop. Imagine white sands, hammocks, clean bathrooms with geckos on the wall, and a very cool bar to hang out in. We were the only guests in the whole place. We still had a great evening, watching Manchester draw against Bayern. I fell asleep in a hammock under a mosquito net and the stars.

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2 April- Nkhotakhota 140km
I was determined to get to Nkhotakhota and heavy rain in the morning and a puncture in the afternoon made it hard. There wasn’t much in the town though when we arrived at night and found a cheap guesthouse.

3 April – Senga Bay 131km
In the morning, we passed campsites which would have been much nicer than our guesthouse so I would recommend looking for those if you go to Nkhotakhota. At Senga bay however, we stayed the Mufasa campsite, right on the beach, and just awesome. We took another rest day and I enjoyed a kayak trip to Lizard Island where the monitor lizards live. Although it should be called Hidden Lizard Island because I didn’t see any of them. And at the campsite there were ants everywhere…take some ant powder if you camp there!

20141023-174223.jpgThe beach at Senga Bay

5 April- Lilongwe 50km (Should have been 120km)
The morning started badly and it just got worse. A huge downpour delayed us leaving early. And then I changed the rear cassette and the chain. The part that the cogs slide onto (known as a freewheel) crumbled into pieces in my hands. I fitted them back together but after 50km on the road, there were some very bad noises and the chain went slack because the freewheel had stopped spinning. A friendly local helped me but it couldn’t be repaired so I stood and waited for a bus. When one came past it was completely full but amazingly, they stopped.

“Er… I need to get to Lilongwe with the bike on the van. Is it possible?” I asked, very tentatively.

“It is not possible, but we will make it possible” he replied with a big smile.

The people inside the bus said nothing, and even after waiting for the guys to strap my bike on the roof, pile my bags on top of them, and then somehow budge up to make a tiny space for a sweaty cyclist to squeeze in, they just smiled and started asking me questions about my trip. I was obviously a novelty while waiting for ages and having tons of people and stuff crammed in a bus was everyday for them.

Oddly, I felt no panic about the bike despite being sure that they wouldn’t have the right part even in the capital city. They repair and reuse everything here.
And sure enough, in Area 2, in the centre, a shop sold me a new rear hub and cassette for £8 and a guy by the side of the road fitted it for £6. (I haggled him down from £10 which was far too expensive). And the new part works. OK, it’s nothing like the original and I now have only 6 gears on the back but I can get moving again.

I also got my shoes repaired for less than £1.

So I have spent an extra 2 days in Lilongwe but only losing 2 days is not too bad. And the Mabuya campsite is a really great place to meet people and enjoy a beer or two. Or three.

And there you have it…. Lilongwe, a Long way, the wrong way, …. but there’s always a way 🙂

Next … Zambia. What rhymes with that?

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