It is amazing how quickly time flies by and it has already been a month since we cycled into Moshi at the base of Kilimanjaro which marked the end of our cycle leg of the #Joburg2Kili Expedition.
We wanted to share our final itinerary of our journey cycling from Johannesburg to Moshi in Tanzania as we had quite a few changes to our original planned itinerary along the way. We have included some hyperlinks to the campsites websites and/or tripadvisor pages that we stayed at along the way as well.
If you know of any friends or colleagues looking to cycle or drive up from South Africa to Tanzania via Botswana, Zambia and/or Malawi, please do not hesitate to contact us for any advice, tips and lessons that we learnt during our expedition that we can share with them. We would also love to hear about other adventures people are taking on:-)
We decided to change up our schedule slightly so we could use some of our planned rest days on the lake to go through to Nyika National Park instead. It was recommended to us as a place to visit whilst in Malawi especially as it is known for its leopards. So from the town of Mzuzu we cycled a flat and easy 72km through to a town called Rhumpi where we stayed at a campsite called Adios.
The next morning, we got up at first light to pack up camp so we could get on the road as soon as possible to head over to the National Park. We managed to arrange with the kind staff at Adios to look after our Buffalo bicycles and a few boxes as we needed to make some space for us six to fit into the Jeep and Ford with all our bags. We were under the impression that the 105km to Nyika National Park would take us around an hour and half but no-one had mentioned to us that the road through to the Park is a long dirt road with a lot of rocky ascents and descents. You definitely need a 4×4 and having a trailer meant we had to drive really slow.
After three hours we finally got to the Nyika National Park Gate, which was about 55km from Rhumpi but still had a further 60km to get to Chelinda Campsite. As we were paying the entrance fees, Warrick noticed that the Jeep’s back left tyre had a small puncture. As the puncture was quite small we thought we would be able to use one of those tyre fillers to seal it. We drove the recommended 12km and it seemed as though the puncture had sealed so we got out the compressor and pumped it up to the recommended pressure. About an hour later we started to notice that the puncture had not sealed properly and so we had to stop again to pump the tyre up.
As we were now in the Park we were all very keen to hopefully see some wildlife on our way to the campsite. Unfortunately, we didn’t see very much wildlife except a few klipspringers, mountain reedbuck and some zebras but we were all in awe of the incredible views as we climbed up to close to 2400m in altitude. We finally got to Chelinda Lodge after over six hours and all felt a bit exhausted as to how long the drive had taken us. After booking in we drove up to the campsite which is situated next to a pine forest and has the most beautiful view of the rolling grassland hills where roan antelope and mountain reedbuck grazed. We had all expected Nyika National Park to be a typical game reserve with lots of general wildlife but instead it was more like Dullstroom in South Africa with three huge dams available for trout fishing as well as pine forests and open grassland hills that just go on forever.
The next day Warrick went down to reception where the mechanic met him to help plug the puncture in the Jeep’s tyre. We then got some advice from the Chelinda lodge game ranger as to where we could go on a game drive. He suggested a route for us to take which was a loop to Chelinda Bridge. On the drive we saw a lot of different antelope including a massive herd of eland and roan antelope as well as a rare sighting of a pair of Denham’s Bustards. The views were really incredible and we literally felt like we were in the middle of nowhere as we did not see a single car or person along the way. The loop took us back to Chelinda Lodge where we decided to do some trout fishing for a few hours. Sadly, we did not catch anything although we had high hopes of having a wonderful trout dinner. We then decided to go through to Chosi Viewpoint for sun-downers and hoped to maybe see the resident leopard that lives in the area but unfortunately it did not show its spots. Being so high up in the mountains it was no surprise that by sunset the temperature plummeted and we all enjoyed an evening huddled around the fire.
The next morning, Warrick, Bryan and Cam decided to go for an early morning run to the nearby airstrip. It was really fresh that morning with a bit of mist around which was really beautiful. We then packed up camp and headed back on the long dirt road back to Adios campsite in Rhumpi for the night. That night we had gale force winds going through the valley and all us did not sleep very well. We all expected our tents to just break and blow away in the wind it was so strong but we were all very grateful to wake up to find nothing was damaged. As everyone barely slept we all got up at sunrise and were on our bicycles by 7am on our way to a place called Chitimba Camp on Lake Malawi.
With the wind pumping the first few kilometres were really tough going and we all felt like we were almost cycling backwards. At 5km into our ride Gareth got a puncture in his front tyre which he managed to patch up fairly quickly. Then at 11km Warrick managed to break a spoke on his back tyre and so we ended up having to replace his back tyre. Thankfully we did not have any more mechanical issues for the rest of the 85km ride back to the Lake. The cycle was pretty spectacular as you ride along a river for most of the journey and then after a really steep tough climb you descend down this windy mountain pass with the most amazing views of the Lake. We are now staying at Chitimba Camp and will be here for one rest day before heading further up the lake to one last stop and then we will be making our way to our next country, Tanzania.
After three relaxing rest days in Senga Bay, it was time to get back on our Qhubeka Buffalo bikes and start heading north up the lake to Nkhotakota.
We packed up camp at first light, said our goodbye’s to Sam from the wonderful Cool Runnings Campsite and started our 128km cycle we had ahead of us. The Armstrong’s met up with Bryan to help with some of the shopping that was needed to be done and to follow him until they caught up with us on the road. Cam’s mom, Charlotte, wanted to ride along with Bobby in the Jeep to get the full experience of what it is like to drive behind us cyclists at around 18km/h. Cam’s father, Bill Armstrong and Bryan then drove ahead to sort out the accommodation for the night. The Armstrong’s had already booked into a place called Kwathu Lodge for the night but they did not offer camping so Warrick had found a place on his mapping software called Fish Eagle Lodge down the road from Kwathu Lodge, which he asked Bryan to go and check out whether we could stay there.
The 128km ride was fairly flat the whole way but it was really hot with a bit of wind. Bryan was successful with arranging camping at Fish Eagle Lodge so we followed the signs there. Once we arrived we were looking for where the campsite had been setup but we were pleasantly surprised to find Bryan, Bill and a group of locals by the Ford and trailer which was very much stuck in the beach sand. Bryan hadn’t deflated the tyres enough before driving through the sand to where we were going to be camping and got stuck. The boys got off their bikes and all started to deflate the tyres to try give the car some traction to get it out the sand with the trailer. After a few attempts they were eventually successful and got the car and trailer out the thick sand to this amazing campsite that looks over the lake and we have our own personal lapa to ourselves.
The Armstrong’s accommodation unfortunately was a bit of a disaster. Kwathu Lodge is nothing like it is advertised online and doesn’t have a bar or restaurant. As a result, they decided to rather forfeit their deposit at the run-down Kwathu Lodge and book into the chalets at Fish Eagle Lodge.
We spent our rest day at Fish Eagle Lodge just relaxing and catching up with the Armstrong’s. Gareth and Bryan went out onto the Lake on a catamaran they organised with the lodge. Warrick asked one of the staff at the lodge to teach him how to play a local game which involves marbles and a wooden carved board called Bawo. He then taught us all to play which is a lot of fun and we are hoping to buy our own set of the game when we get to a local market. That evening the Armstrong’s kindly treated us all to a dinner at the restaurant at the lodge.
The next day we all got up at sunrise to pack up camp to head further north up the lake to Ngala Beach Lodge. We also had to say goodbye to the Armstrong’s who were going to go back to the Sunbird Livingstonia Hotel in Senga Bay for a night as they have a late morning flight to catch back to Johannesburg from Lilongwe today.
The cycle to Ngala Beach Lodge was around 92km. The route profile was fairly flat with a few rolling hills but we had a headwind to deal with that thankfully wasn’t as difficult to ride in as we expected as it was blowing a gale when we left Fish Eagle Lodge. Ngala Beach Lodge is a really beautiful campsite with great views looking over Lake Malawi.
From Ngala Beach Lodge we had a short ride of 75km to our next campsite along the lake called Chintheche Inn, which was recommended to us by the very helpful lady Sandy from Ngala Beach Lodge. We are here for one night and will be heading through to Mzuzu tomorrow for what we believe to be a very hilly cycle leg.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.