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:

Bike Touring Malawi - Kids
The little girl with maize flour all over her was adorable.
Bike Touring Malawi - Vargo Titanium Stove

An audience around Gin as she works on a meal while camping at a Police outpost on our fist night in Malawi.

This is a fairly common profession here… massive loads.
Bike Touring Malawi - Portrait
Bike Touring Malawi

Mountains begin to loom as we near the Great Rift Valley.
Malawi Bawo
Malawi Bawo is played everywhere. It is difficult to keep up with as gamers move the beads over the board with blinding speed.
Malawi portrait
A photo shoot ensues as we duck under the portico of a mosque in a small village.
Malawi portrait
Malawi portrait
Malawi portrait
Malawi portrait
Malawi bicycle

Death sleds, as we call them, carry goats bleating sad sounds as they are taken to market.
Malawi portrait

Ducking out of rain under the porch of a house, I captured this guy doing the same.
Malawi portrait

The building under which we decided to take shelter was once a tea house (shown at top), but now a home as we were greeted at the door and invited in to a very dimly lit dirt floor abode.
Bike Touring Malawi
Weather moving over the rift valley escarpment range.
Bike Touring Malawi Bike TOuring Malawi
Malawi portrait
Bike Touring Malawi - snack
A new found roadside snack of fried potato wedges… delicious.
Bike Touring Malawi - toys
Malawi is a very poor country and these toys made from Shake Shake (cheap local beer) cartons are a reminder.
Malawi portrait
A portrait of a man in Dedza Pottery (a major pottery school that we accidentally discovered when we ran out of steam and took off at a sign pointing down a dirt road).
Malawi Kids
Some kids are slightly shy here.
Malawi Kids Bike Touring Malawi
Most houses and structures were once a store.
Malawi sign

No comment on this sign.
Malawi carving

Carvings are abundant in central Malawi.
Malawi carving
Malawi Küche Küche

Unfortunately the beer has gone down hill here… only one brewery, the local Carlsburg. Kuche Kuche is their best offering and a bomber, like this one, is usually a buck-fifty.
Malawi carving
They saw us coming from a mile away… literally.
Malawi rift escarpment road
Unfortunately, one of the most scenic passes here, going down the Rift Valley Escarpment, was not so scenic as a major three day rain event was in play.
Cape Mclear Malawi

Cape Mclear on the southern shore of Lake Malawi.
Cape Mclear Malawi
Fish drying by the shore…
Cape Mclear Malawi
Cape Mclear Malawi
A child waits as mother washes laundry at the lake side.
Cape Mclear Malawi Cape Mclear Malawi
Cape Mclear Malawi

A fine specimen at the run down Cape Mclear National Park museum.
Cape Mclear Malawi
Gin shows off her riders tan at Otter Point.
Cape Mclear Malawi

Baobob trees in the village roadway.
Cape Mclear Malawi
The Lucky Band plays us an African revision of Who Let The Dogs Out.
Cape Mclear Malawi
Cape Mclear Malawi



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