adventures, exploring, loving

Reflecting on Malawi so far – A place of authentic and raw beauty

For the past ten days the Joburg2Kili team and I have been exploring the beautiful country of Malawi on our Qhubeka Bicycles – we have now cycled just over 3000km. We have spent most of our time cycling up the western shore of Lake Malawi and stopping off at some amazing campsites along the way. Here is my five-point reflection on our time in Malawi so far:

  1. I thought we had seen a lot of bicycles in Zambia but it doesn’t come close to the number of bicycles there are here in Malawi. It has been truly incredible to see just how bicycles are so important to the lives of Malawians. They use them to not only get around from one village to the next but mostly to transport goods such as goats, pigs, charcoal, wood, petrol and even up to two additional passengers. The bicycles that are used to transport passengers even have number plates. In the town, Salima, we must have seen at least over 1000 bicycles so you can imagine how many bicycle mechanics there are in each village which seems to be a booming industry.
  2. My parents came through to join us for a few nights at Senga Bay and then followed us up to Nkhotakota where we all stayed at Fish Eagle Lodge. It really was so wonderful to catch up with my parents and for them to experience a bit of our journey with us. I particularly loved our rest day spent at Fish Eagle Lodge where we just relaxed on the beach, read books and learnt to play two new games. Bobby taught us the one game called Farkel which you play with six dice and my mom absolutely thrashed us all. The other game is a local Malawian game called Bawo which is played with marbles and a specially designed wooden board. Warrick and I have now bought our own Bawo set and I can’t wait to teach more people to play this fun game.
  3. I have fallen in love with Lake Malawi. The best time on the lake is definitely at sunrise especially when the water is completely flat and still and nothing beats checking out the sunrise on an early morning run along the beachfront. I was really happy to see how that the lake has not been spoilt by tourism and is still so authentic. You get to see how the lake is used by the Malawians not only for fishing but to wash clothes and pots and pans and for the children to swim and play all day. However, it has also been an eye-opener to see how under-developed Malawi is as a whole and most people live very rural, basic lives here.
  4. We have stayed at some incredible campsites during our time in Malawi so far. The two places that have really stood out for me is Cool Runnings in Senga Bay and Ngala Beach Lodge. Cool Runnings is run by a lady called Sam who has created a beautiful oasis of a campsite looking over the lake with a funky bar area. We had four nights at Cool Runnings and found the staff incredibly helpful. Further north up the lake is a place called Ngala Beach Lodge run by Sandy and her husband. Ngala offers a great campsite location on green grass down by the beachfront looking over the lake – a perfect spot to watch the sunrise.
  5. I was warned that the cycle leg through to the town called Mzuzu was going to be really tough with some serious climbing and it definitely did not disappoint. It was my hardest ride of this journey so far and I hit a really low moment when the road got too steep for me to peddle and so I had to start walking for a few meters. I felt really frustrated with myself as the guys managed to ride the whole way up but I know they are stronger than me on a single-speed bicycle. There was one more climb that I had to walk a bit again but then Warrick suggested that I ride up the steep climbs by riding zigzags to make switchbacks up the mountain which really did make a big difference and I managed to climb the rest of the way to Mzuzu. Although the climbing was super slow and difficult we were rewarded by some spectacular views of lush forests in the area.
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