There must have been something in the water at Lusaka as three of the Joburg2Kili team decided to have makeovers on our rest day; Cam got her hair braided, Warrick shaved his hair and Bryan decided spontaneously to cut off his beard. A big thanks to Lawrence and Michelle for having us all to stay in Lusaka for a much needed rest day.
It was time for us to head east towards what is probably one of the hardest weeks of cycling for this entire trip. Lawrence kindly lead us out of Lusaka via back roads in the morning as the traffic in Lusaka is apparently really bad so we avoided it completely which was great. We were then in for a long ride of 125km to get to a bush camping spot that is marked as Dam View Chalets on Tracks for Africa. We started to get a taste of what is like to ride up mountains on our single speed Qhubeka Buffalo bicycles on this leg and definitely felt the burn in our legs. Dam View Chalets is nothing like the title suggests but rather a pond situated by an orphanage where you can get permission to camp from the local boss.
Our next leg of our journey was a 110km ride to Bridge Camp which is situated on the Luangwa River and is a recommended stopover along the way to Chipata. Unfortunately, Derrick has been struggling with a cough and flu-like symptoms and in the first 40km of the ride he was feeling very flat and decided to rather call it a day and travel in the Jeep with Bobby. It definitely effects the whole team when someone is not well but Gareth, Warrick and Cam had to soldier onwards.
On this leg we hit the hardest and longest mountain climb to date. We were literally travelling around 7.5km/h at the steepest part of the climb which went upwards for 10km. For the rest of the ride the team had big rolling hills to contend with until reaching Bridge Camp which has a beautiful location looking over the Luangwa River where we had one rest day planned.
We had an issue with the plug point that controls the lights on the trailer and so Bryan decided to go back to Lusaka to get a part to fix it. We arranged with the local boss at Dam View Chalet to leave our trailer as it would not be safe to drive without the lights working. Bryan being the handyman he is managed to sort it all out with no problem and met us at Bridge Camp in the evening.
We decided as it was such a hard day riding, Derrick not feeling very well and Bryan only arriving in the evening that it was worth having dinner at the restaurant. We were the only guests staying at the camp that night so we just chatted with the owner, William and had a chilled evening. William had also recently bought the Getaway magazine and we were very excited to see an article placed about us in it.
The next day we had a rest day which was definitely needed to get our team back to health as Derrick was still not feeling 100% and sadly, Bobby woke up feeling man-down so he just spent the day sleeping and resting up. The rest of the team spent the morning doing a few errands like sorting out our food crates and cleaning up around camp and then in the afternoon we enjoyed relaxing up by the pool area. For sun-downers we thought we would drive to find a spot where we could walk down to the river. On our way down to the river we were followed by a whole group of local children who just wanted to sit and watch us and dance a bit to our chilled music. Whilst chilling by the river we noticed a hippo pop up in the distance. The Luangwa River is actually the divide between Mozambique and Zambia in this area and we were very fascinated to watch a local row his Makora across the river to go fetch two people on the other side of the river in Mozambique with two bicycles.
That evening at Bridge Camp we met Johan, who is a South African that is riding from Cape Agulhus to Cairo which has been his 40-year dream that has finally come true. He is doing the cycle unsupported with pannier bags and we wish him all the best with his journey. To follow him, check out his blog.
The next day we decided to try out a shuttle service plan as we were warned against bush camping along the next stretch of road. This also meant that Bobby could stay behind at Bridge Camp for the day as he was still not feeling very well and would only have to come fetch us late in the afternoon. Derrick was feeling much better which was great to have him back on his Qhubeka bicycle; although he is still struggling a bit with a bad cough.
We had a very tough 120km mountainous ride ahead of us with a lot of headwind. The only good thing about the riding conditions was that the road just over the Luangwa Bridge has been re-tarred all the way to Chipata and is a beautiful smooth road. After riding close to 7 hours we reached the 120km mark and called it a day where Bobby met up with us so we had the two cars to load the bicycles on and drive back to Bridge Camp. Although the shuttle service plan in theory sounded great it meant we only got back to camp early evening and we all felt really exhausted.
The next leg was a 114km ride to a bush camping spot. We got up really early to get the cars packed and bicycles loaded so we could drive ahead 120km to the spot where we stopped the day before which was our start point. As soon as we got out the cars we were like celebrities as all the local children and adults from the village came out to greet us.
One thing we have all found really interesting over the past few days is that whilst riding past villages here in Zambia all the children come sprinting out of their homes shouting “How are you?” and waving to us. It is really special to see them and how just a simple wave back or saying “I am fine” brings big smiles to their faces. Sometimes there are up to 20 children shouting “How are you” and it almost sounds like a school war cry which is pretty amazing.
We had a really hectic headwind the whole day along this leg. The ride was up and down really big rolling hills for over 100km which was hard work after the previous day of mountain climbing without gears. There was also a 16km detour road that we managed to avoid and rode along the old tar road thankfully as the detour dirt road was very rutted. The team definitely took strain on the ride which was evident as no one was talking and our 20km stops were taking a lot longer than usual. Bryan went ahead to find a suitable bush camping spot and managed to arrange with a local school to let us set up camp for the night.
Today we had a 115km ride to Chipata where we are staying at Mama Rula’s Campsite. In the first 12km of the ride, Cam got two punctures in her back tyre which wasn’t ideal. The rest of the ride was better than expected but we still had a headwind to deal with. We are all very relieved to have a rest day tomorrow to give the legs a break from some tough riding over the past few days. We are now official over the halfway mark around 2400km into our journey and will be entering our next African country, Malawi on this adventure on Friday.