We’ve made it to Tanzania – The uphill push towards Kilimanjaro

We have had some seriously tough riding over the past few days since entering our final country on the Joburg2Kili Expedition, Tanzania. But before updating on how things have been going in Tanzania, as we haven’t had much luck with signal the past week here is just a quick update on our final days in beautiful Malawi.

We had one rest day at Chitimba Camp by the Lake and decided to go check out the town of Livingstonia (Derrick also wanted to go to the hospital there to get a doctor to check on his knee which was troubling him). We had been warned that the road up to the town has 21 hairpin bends and you definitely need a 4×4 so we all jumped into the Jeep. The road was hectic with lots of rocky patches and narrow bends but the further you get up the mountain the more spectacular the views. We finally got to the top and found the local hospital which was quite an eye-opening experience. Unfortunately, the doctor wasn’t able to help Derrick with his knee pain so we headed back down the treacherous road. On our way down the mountain we stopped at the Mushroom Farm which is a lodge and campsite with incredible views looking over the Lake.

The next day we cycled a relatively easy 80km to our last stop along Lake Malawi called Mikomo Beach Lodge which is just before Karonga. As the only campers we were able to take the prime spot on the beach to camp for the night. It was then time to say goodbye to the Lake and make our way to Tanzania. We had an early start as we had a 60km ride to get to the border post. The ride was relatively flat and we made it to the border much earlier than we expected. Bryan had stayed behind at the campsite to fill the water tank on the trailer which can take up to an hour and so he was still behind us when we got to the border so we had to just sit around and wait for him. We then headed over to the Tanzanian side and we all thought things were going quite smoothly until you have to start the whole car registration process. We ended up waiting for 3 hours to get both cars and the trailer processed including travel insurance so we were all feeling quite exhausted by the time we had to start riding again.

Joburg2Kili Team with Rob from Rugwe Avocado Farm
Joburg2Kili Team with Rob from Rungwe Avocado Farm

One thing that has been so interesting to note on this journey is that as soon as you cross over a border you instantly notice you are in a new country as the people, vegetation, signs, houses and advertising are all different. Crossing into Tanzania the terrain changed from dry savanna to tropical forests. The last 50km were really tough for us all not only because we had already had a long day waiting at the border but because we ended up climbing over 1000m in elevation. The day was running away from us and we only got to the turnoff point to the Rungwe Avocado Company where we were staying for two nights as the sun was setting. Bryan met us at the turnoff and we loaded the bicycles onto both the Jeep and Ford and drove up to the farm. Warrick was put in touch with Rob who owns the farm and we were all very grateful to both him and his wife Petra for letting us stay at their amazing farm.

The next day we had a rest day and decided to go and check out the Ngozi Crater Lake which Warrick had read about online. Derrick’s knee was still troubling him so he decided to give the hike a miss. The rest of the team jumped into the Jeep and we made our way to the start of the hike. Rob had mentioned to us that we must make sure to pay the entrance fee and to try get a security guard for our car as the place is quite remote and there had been incidences in the past. We got to the turnoff and noticed that there was no guard at the hut so we waited around for a bit and eventually two locals arrived who we negotiated with on the price and one of them called First jumped into the Jeep with us to be our security guard. We had to drive down quite a rocky and narrow road to get to the parking lot at the start of the hike. The hike took us about 30 minutes which takes you through a beautiful forest to a viewpoint looking into the crater lake which was really spectacular and untouched.

View of Ngozi Crater Lake
View of Ngozi Crater Lake

We then headed back down to the Jeep and found our car guard had done a runner which was very annoying. As we drove back up the rocky and narrow dirt road we came across a Toyota vehicle with some hikers we had seen on our way up that were stuck in a rocky section of the road. They were locals and didn’t speak any English but through some hand signals we managed to explain to them that we would try get them out with the Jeep using a tow rope. The first challenge was to get the Jeep past them as they were stuck in a gorge. They managed to reverse down and make just enough room for the Jeep to sneak past and then we got the tow rope all setup. The Jeep managed to hurl the Toyato out of the rocky patch it was stuck in with ease and we then said our goodbyes to some very grateful Tanzanians. To view a video of the Jeep pulling out the Toyota, click here.

We then headed back to Rungwe where we picked up a few supplies and Bryan sorted out some sim cards for the team which took a couple of hours. We got back to the Avocado farm just in time to enjoy the sunset. Derrick was not feeling at all well and had slept basically the whole day. Luckily Rob’s wife, Petra, is a doctor and she did a few tests which indicated that he might have malaria but she wanted to do some more tests at her practice in the nearby town Mbeya the next morning.

Riverside Campsite View
Riverside Campsite View

The next day, Gareth, Cam and Warrick headed off on a really tough 128km cycle to a place called Riverside Campsite with Bobby in the Jeep following behind them. Derrick and Bryan went ahead to Mbeya so Derrick could get some more tests done and Bryan could get a few supplies. The ride was seriously tough with close to 1500m of climbing. The last 60km were also on a really bad road with plenty potholes and big trucks and buses flying past. We also had quite a few mechanicals on this leg having to replace both Warrick and Gareth’s back wheels and Gareth getting a flat tyre. We eventually got to Riverside campsite which doesn’t have much in terms of facilities but is a beautiful location on a river. Derrick got the results of his tests which had come back that he didn’t have malaria but was just burnt out and needed to take it easy for the next few days.

Camping in the Car Park of Amana Guest House

The next morning, we planned to ride close to 90km and would then hopefully find a suitable bush camp to stay at for the night. Derrick received more results of the tests that were done and it turned out he does have malaria but luckily he had continued with the treatment and was already feeling a lot better but would not be riding for at least another 2 days. The cycle was once again really tough with over 1000m of climbing, a headwind, busy roads that were under construction so we often had to ride on these dirt road diversions which were super dusty with all the trucks and buses driving past. Bryan went ahead to find a place for us to setup camp but unfortunately the best he could find was Amana guest house in a little town called Makambako where the team decided to take rooms rather than camping but Warrick and Cam setup their trailer tent in the car park. We were all feeling really exhausted and decided to find a restaurant for dinner which ended up being very average.

Cam & Warrick at Ngwazi Sailing Club
Cam & Warrick at Ngwazi Sailing Club

Today we had a short but really hilly 65km ride to Ngwazi Sailing Club with over 700m in climbing. It was also really misty and cold when we left town, which also made the start of the day more challenging. We had our first near accident as Cam braked suddenly as it seemed as though a truck was about to drive in front of her which caused Warrick to come off his bike but thankfully he has no injuries. We will be staying here at Ngwazi Sailing Club for one rest day tomorrow, which happens to be Warrick’s birthday.

Enjoying some family time at Senga Bay, Lake Malawi

The past few days have been spent relaxing, meeting up with some family, eating lots of delicious local fish and enjoying spending time at the beautiful Lake Malawi.

boat-trip-malawi-2-800x600On our first rest day at Senga Bay, Lake Malawi, we arranged an afternoon boat cruise to the nearby island called Lizard Island. Once at the island we snorkeled, Derrick went fishing, Cam and Bobby read their books and Warrick, Bryan and Gareth decided to swim to some nearby rocks where they wanted to rock jump into the lake. Our boat guide, Michael and his colleague prepared a Butterfish braai for us all which included a very generous serving of rice, tomato/onion mix and spinach. We then left the island in the early evening allowing us to view the sunset as we headed back to the shore which was really spectacular. That evening, Derrick’s father and step-mom arrived at the Sunbird Livingstonia Hotel where we met up with them for a wonderful dinner spent catching up on the past week’s adventures.

The next day, Derick and his parents headed back to the island in the late morning for some family time. Bryan kindly volunteered to donate blood as Sam, the owner of Cool Runnings Campsite, volunteers at the local clinic and cancer centre and had a patient that desperately needed a blood transfusion and luckily he was a match. Cam decided to get her hair re-braided as a lot of the braids were coming out from them blowing around in the wind whilst riding. One of the staff at Cool Runnings arranged for one of the ladies from Senga Bay to come through to the campsite to do her hair which was great – nothing beats getting your hair braided with a beautiful view of the lake.

Dinner on the beach in front of Cool Runnings Campsite with Derrick and Cam’s family

That afternoon, we all headed back to the Sunbird Livingstonia Hotel as Cam’s parents, the Armstrongs, were due to arrive. We all then had some afternoon drinks together with both Derrick and Cam’s parents before heading back to Cool Runnings where Warrick had arranged with them to prepare a dinner for us all on the beach. Electricity certainly is a luxury here by the lake and it seems to be the norm to not have power for at least 6-8 hours a day. Unfortunately, Cool Runnings did not have any power that evening for our dinner; however, they made a plan and we had an absolutely delicious meal on the beach.

The next day, Derrick’s parents had to return to Blantyre for business so Derrick, Gareth and Bobby went through to say goodbye to them after having some breakfast at the hotel.

We had heard that Monkey Bay and Cape Maclear are two tourist destinations worth visiting along the lake so we decided to make a day outing to visit these spots along with the Armstrong’s. It is meant to be about a two-hour trip but it took us nearly 3.5 hours to get there. Warrick’s mapping app suggested we take this dirt road as a short cut which ended up being very slow as it was filled with potholes; however, it was an eye-opening journey for us all as we really got to see how poor this country is and how most Malawian people live and spend their days. It is also very evident how desperate they are for rain in the area as the land is just bone dry. The dirt road eventually took us back onto the main tar road we should have taken from the start and we made our way to Monkey Bay.

We were pleasantly surprised to find that Monkey Bay is actually not touristy at all. We drove into the Monkey Bay Lodge and hoped to find a suitable restaurant for lunch but unfortunately they had no food or drinks to offer us. The lodge has a great view of the Monkey Bay port but that was about it so we asked them where they recommended we go instead which was Cape Maclear. To get to Cape Maclear you drive through the Lake Malawi National Park, which is set in a beautiful mountainous, rocky terrain and ends at the Lake.

Cape Maclear – Drying out little fish like biltong

At Cape Maclear we headed to Mgozo Lodge which was recommended to us by two Scottish girls who said it had the best food. After a delicious lunch, we all decided to take a stroll down the beachfront. It is amazing to just see how the lake is so important to the locals and how full of life it is; there are tables of tiny fish being dried out like biltong, hundreds of Malawians cleaning fishing nets, washing clothes, pots and pans and children swimming and playing in the water. After the boys had a swim in the lake we decided to start making our way back to Senga bay.

Lunch at Mgozo Lodge at Cape Maclear

We drove back along the tar road avoiding the dirt road “short cut” but we hit traffic hour on our way into the town of Salima; however, this is not your normal car traffic we are used to but rather bicycle traffic.It is incredible to see how many bicycles there are in Malawi and it really is the main form of transport in the country. You see people using their bicycles for transporting everything from wood, charcoal, goats, pigs, petrol and additional passengers. We finally made it back to Cool Runnings after negotiating the bicycle traffic along the way. Cam & Warrick went for dinner with the Armstrong’s at the Livingstonia Hotel and the rest of the team went to the next door restaurant along the beach.

Where the Malawi are we?

Our campsite at Mama-Rula's in Chipata
Our campsite at Mama-Rula’s in Chipata

We spent our last day in Zambia on a rest day at Mama-Rula’s Campsite in Chipata which was much needed after some hard days of riding our Qhubeka Buffalo bicycles. Bobby was still not well and so he decided to go through to a local doctor, which was recommended by the owners at Mama-Rula’s. The doctor did some tests and gave him a dose of anti-biotics, which seem to be working well and Bobby is back to his normal entertaining self.

On Friday we all got up before sunrise to get packed up and ready to head off to Malawi. After our 3 hour experience at the Kazungula border crossing into Zambia we thought we better give ourselves plenty time to get through the Chipata border into Malawi especially as we still had just over 100km to ride that day to get to the Duck Inn.

Favio-border-crossing (800x600)
Meeting Favio from Argentina who is travelling around the world on his bicycle

We were much better prepared this time for the border crossing having gotten local Malawian Kwacha the day before and being better informed about the costs to expect to incur to get the cars through the border. However, it still took us about 2 hours to get through but it was a much easier process.

At the border we met up with Favio M Giorgio from Argentina who is cycling around the world. His bicycle weighs about 65kg with all his worldly belongings on him and we wish him all the best with his incredible journey.

Once through the border the ride was fairly flat and downhill for most of the way to our planned campsite for the night called the Duck Inn. Although the Duck Inn is not really a campsite, Warrick managed to speak to the manager, Scott, who was happy to have us come through to stay for the night. It really is such a beautiful spot looking over a big dam with lots of birdlife – a real gem.

Derrick enjoying the view at Duck Inn
Derrick enjoying the view at Duck Inn

From Duck Inn we had a short ride of just over 50km to Lilongwe. We were in for a real treat in Lilongwe as Shahid Samamad from Pulsit Electronics who is a contact of Derrick’s family very kindly put us up at the Sunbird Capital Hotel for the night. Big thanks to them as it was such luxury to be able to sleep in a bed for a night – it really is the small things you come to appreciate so much more when camping for nearly 5 weeks. Warrick was in contact with Scott again from Duck Inn who recommended a restaurant for us in Lilongwe called Kat-man-doo where we all went for dinner- the Nepali Momma’s are amazing!

Sunbird Capital Hotel

Yesterday we got up at sunrise after a great nights’ rest at the hotel and enjoyed having a buffet breakfast before starting our 120km cycle through to Lake Malawi. We originally had planned to do this distance in two legs but decided to rather just get it done in one go and enjoy an extra rest day at the Lake. In the first 20km of the journey we were met by Peter from the Malawi Travel Guide who came to meet with us which was really great. He has an awesome website called Travel Malawi Guide with all the info you need to know on where to go in Malawi.

Peter from Travel Malawi Guide kindly came to meet with us on-route to Lake Malawi
Peter from Travel Malawi Guide kindly came to meet with us on-route to Senga Bay, Lake Malawi

The first 60km of the ride was really hard going as we had about 900m of climbing and we also had a 30km/h headwind we were riding into. But thankfully as you head closer towards Salima the route flattens out although the road is very eroded and so you have to be very careful as you ride through to Senga Bay.

On our first day in Malawi riding on-route to the Duck Inn two British couples drove past us and stopped to find out about our journey. We managed to see them again on our ride to Lake Malawi yesterday and they had just come from Senga Bay and recommended we definitely stay at Cool Runnings Campsite which is where we are now based for the next 3 days.

Derrick and Cam’s parents will be joining us in Senga Bay and staying at the Livingstonia Sunbird Hotel which is about 1km away from Cool Runnings. Lake Malawi is a really beautiful place and we are all looking forward to spending time here.