110km from Lilongwe to Mchinji
34km from Mchinji to Chipata
570km from Chipata to Lusaka
18,192km so far
Zambia is all hills with long grass and trees stretching out for as far as you can see. The people are friendly and polite, and the constant ” how are you” from the kids is never tiresome because it is rarely followed by a request for money and almost always by smiles and giggles. They just love to say hello to a Muzungu and it’s always nice to say hello back.
Despite people being everywhere, finding a place that has a meal is tricky as most tiny villages only have shops selling soft drinks and biscuits. And when you do find food, it’s usually Shima ( corn pulp) with some meat.
And the cycling is just plain tough. It’s 570km of relentless rising and falling from Chipata to Lusaka . So a day over 100km is a very big day of cycling and quite exhausting. The other challenge is finding somewhere to stay each night. But that’s also part of the fun.
The first night after leaving Chipata was spent in a mosque in a small village 10km past Katete. The chief’s name was Robert. We had to be taken to him to ask to camp, but he said it was fine. And very safe. We asked to camp behind the mosque but the leader of the mosque opened a room inside where it was warm and we didn’t have to worry about rain. A toilet outside and even a kitchen area. Quite amazing.
Earlier in the day I had needed some roadside help as the new parts were already causing problems. The wheel stopped turning. It was a sign that all was not so good with the new parts that had been fitted.
The next day I got some entertainment when a drunk man pestered Alex begging him for money to buy Chibuku. Alex put up with the guy all through his meal until he got on his bike to leave and pretended to wave some money and got the drunk man to chase him down the road. The villagers all laughed their heads off.
That night we found a guesthouse in a small village 20km before Nyimba. The owner, a Mr. K.P. Lunga, was very proud of his toilet even though to reach the toilet you have to cross a courtyard, open a gate, cross a lane, open another gate before reaching the small outhouse. “It’s very deep!” He told us with pride. We were glad for that. Nobody likes a shallow poop-pit.
That night we ate Shima (maize) with chicken and I tried the Chibuku, or “shake shake”. It’s the local brew which comes in litre cartons. It is of course made from maize, and full of little grains, and quite disgusting. But the locals love it because for 3 kwacha (30p) you get a litre of stuff that gets you drunk.
In the morning the sun was out and we had an early start at 7am. We ate Breakfast in the tiny town of Nyimba after having to ask the normal question at the restaurant “Do you have food”? and being told “no. not ready”.
The whole day I had Very bad noises from my rear hub but the wheel was spinning so it was ok.
The next night we stayed in a guesthouse at Luangwa which is at the base of the river Luangwa which stretches up Zambia (and the reason why the parks are called South Luangwa and North Luangwa).
I was happy to have sausage and chips. I hadn’t eaten all day.
I was rudely awoken at 6am by noisy ladies “talking” in the room next door. It seems every conversation African women have sounds like a loud argument. And then when one started playing Celine Dion loudly on her phone, I knew it was time for me to get out of there.
Out on the road we met a South African cycling to Nairobi to raise awareness about the plight of lions in Africa. Check out walkingforlions He had a support car, and barely any weight on his bike. We were very jealous. But his friends in the car gave us mars bars and bananas. Awesome!
The day itself proved to be one of my bad days. The chain kept coming off and the wheel was not straight and was touching the frame as it span. I had no idea how to repair it. I must admit I was starting to think I would have to catch a bus again. But in a tiny village, I found a bike mechanic who removed the rear wheel, found the broken part and managed to get me back on the road again. I can’t tell you how happy I was, even though we only managed to get to Rufunsa, where we camped outside a police station.
The next day, the bike was working perfectly and I managed 130km to Chongwe. I also managed to lose Alex so I had to find a place by myself to spend the night.
In Chongwe I met John, a nice guy who puts up phone poles for a living. He wants to make music though and played me a tune he had recorded. It was excellent but he needs to find a record label. He let me camp outside his tiny room because the guesthouse was so expensive. Unfortunately my campsite turned out to be a bad choice. As we sat chatting I heard a loud crash snd snapping noise behind us.
John’s drunk friend Winter managed to fall face-forward flat onto my tent, breaking the poles. I wasn’t pleased. The tent had survived since London but a drunk man had managed to demolish it and it wasn’t me. Another friend called Abel did an amazing repair job though and it was all ok.
The final day to Lusaka was a bit flatter.
All in all, Zambia is a relentlessly hilly cycle ride, but there are nice friendly people living inbetween all the long grass and trees.
Tomorrow Alex and I are parting company again. I have been incredibly grateful to have such great company but he wants to go to Namibia so I will do the next 500km to Livingstone alone. And then to Botswana.