Malawi: The warm heart of africa

The border from mozambique to malawi is the strangest one i crossed so far. I exit moz up in Zobue. 2 minute procedure. I have lunch to get rid of my last mozambican meticals, after that it is a almost 10 km ride steep downhill to the border entry of Malawi. It is beautiful no mans land and I'm confused what my status in between actually is. Arriving at the border i get confronted by the laziest border officer i ever met. First he's going back and forth about where i heard that i can get a visa at the border. I tell him that it is on the malawian's government official page and that i rather trust that than his lazy attitude of resisting to give me a simple stamp on my passport. When he tells me it's not possible until next day and that i have to stay in no mans land i tell him: well ok, see you tomorrow. Then, suddenly it is possible. He disappears for 10 minutes. When i get called in he tells me it is 150 dollars and i have to tell him that it is 75. Giving him 80 dollars without receiving change i get away from him as soon as possible. Great start.

I have to ride another 10 km in pitch black into mwanza. People don't give me a place, telling me it's to dangerous, the same at the police station. But they show me a hostel for 1€. Well, i don't have a choice. And it's not such a bad place. At least more hostel than disco or brothel. When i want to go for food a random guy from the hostel joins me and shows me the place, a couple of 100s metres away. And as if it is natural i am paying for his food too.

And then I am descending down from the border and the mountains into Malawi. Why does it always seem so different in every country? Instantly there is something i really like about the vibe and the people. So the decision that i have to make, rush through on the shortest route or take a huge detour to malawi's east, Blantyre, mount mulanje, mangochi and monkey bay is quite easy to make. I really want to see mount mulanje and more places in malawi, not only speed through every country the fastest way possible. So i turn to the right towards Blantyre.

And right into the wind. Though I want to make it to Blantyre that day it's just not possible. It's too much uphill and the wind is too strong so as soon as it turns dark i stop at the first random village and ask around. And a crowd starts to build, a crowd that is discussing where i could stay. It is so overwhelming how hospitable people are and how nicely I get treated. I just have to turn up and ask and the people figure something out. Sooner or later someone will show up that has some space and a safe place. In this case it is Mike, a young teacher that is renting a house close to his school. But first we have to go to the chief to introduce myself. This works out fine and we head back to mike's place and cook together. The room I'm sleeping in has just enough space to pitch my tent inside which I usually do to keep the annoying mosquitoes away. I'm not really scared of malaria but I want to sleep and Malaria would for sure delay me for 3 days minimum. Already in the evening mike's landlords turn up to check. Next morning they turn up again and are discussing with mike. I have no idea what's going on since they are only talking chichewa. Mike decides to join me on the bike for the last 30 km uphill into Blantyre. It's just nice to have someone local with me to talk to, especially if the person is that good in speaking english. During the trip he tells me that his landlords are now asking for money because he took me in and he doesn't know what to do because they seem to be ready for anything. We agree that he shouldn't give them any money, problem is only that the police also demands money to do something about it. And I'm feeling bad that because of me he's in such a situation now. Of course this is not a hippie- everyone will always be happy trip but things like this are just so pointless. Because of bad regulations and little control over people's rights in some things, very nice people that help me out end up in a mess.

We go around blantyre a bit but i have a lot of things to do and to organize, so unfortunately I am too busy to see places with mike. In the evening i drive him to the busstation and it is time to say goodbye... Again. I'm a bit lost in this town and don't know where to go, so i try at the backpacker which doesn't have camping, but directs me to a hostel next door. And I am more than happy to end up there, it is clean, cheap and a place where- except for me there's only african people. I love it immediately, the self- catering makes it feel like sharing a flat with malawians. I decide to stay a bit longer in Blantyre after falling in love with this nice town up in the hills and meeting up with people from the mountain club of malawi. After that i go over to the tiny climbing wall at the international school for three days straight and destroy my fingers because the skin can't deal with it anymore. In the evening i get another text from mike telling me the guys threaten to beat him up if he doesn't pay. Things get real. I offer to come back to help him out with the money but I tell him to rather go to the policestation, which he does and then moves to another place. I'm feeling pretty helpless in this situation.

The day I finally decide to leave I have the day of my life. From Blantyre to the east, where mount mulanje is situated, was the most scenic day of the trip this far. Spectacular views of mountains and african plains, so many africans with bicycles on the road in a rather rural area. Most of these 60 km i get company from a malawian teacher and we have a lot to talk about. The school system in Malawi, politics, how his life in malawi is, etc... I really enjoyed that day. Towards the mountain that rises so high that I can see it from 40 km away, I take a shortcut on a dirtroad and end up in a village where I am pitching my tent at the chief's place. Of course 150 people are watching me setting the tent and cook. I got so used to this, I just get out the guitar and hand it over to the teenagers and kids. Distraction 1o1. Weeks later one of them still sends me messages, asking me to leave the guitar in malawi. Imagine growing up without toys, painting, sports, music or television. There's just nothing to do. But the feeling for rhythm and music is amazing. It beats in the kid's hearts I guess. There are just no instruments in the village for the youths to fulfil this need for creativity or expressing themselves. Children grab the guitar and start jamming in nice rhythms rightaway. They don't know any chords so they just mute some strings on and off, but it's such a nice athmosphere, the 50 people that came to watch me end up in a one instrument party. People are clapping and dancing around me while I'm cooking. As the day here ends at 8 and starts at 6 which is the same the whole year, at one point the people leave me alone and i can crawl into my tent for my daily 10 hour beauty sleep.

But at 6 o clock in the morning the people are back to watch me wake up. It is kinda funny for how long people can just stare at me doing the most boring things. Helloooooo?!?!? I'm just eating bread. That doesn't justify a crowd of 50 people. Not even Metallica played on the smallest guitar in the world can scare them off. People here are pretty resistant to bad sounds. I think you just can't annoy an african person. In a way they are the zenmasters that i want to be, cycling those villages while everyone is shouting and staring at me like I'm a pink elephant.

Anyways I have to make a move to store the bike and climb the plateau of mount mulanje. I'm cycling through this beautiful landscape while the mountain gets bigger and bigger. And there's so many other cyclists here. Everything is transported by bike, wood, crops, rice, other people, chicken, i think I've even seen a pig on the back of a bike. And those bikes are all the same model: indian made fixed gear bikes. Just imagine having a 80 kg person on the back of your bike, uphill on a really bad dirtroad in malawi. I can tell you, the guys working this job are ripped. I have no clue how you can get arms like this, just by cycling. They are pushing crazy loads uphill at 20 rpm. On bikes that have two extra metal reinforcements for the fork because it likes to break. You wont get me on one of those bikes.

In likubula, which is the main starting point for people hiking up the mountain, the competition between guides is big: about 10 of them are just hanging around close to the main street, waiting for tourists. Oh yeah, thats exactly what I don't want when I take a couple of days break from the bike and the attention I usually get. Someone to walk me around in the mountains asking me more things all the time. I just want to be alone at this point. But of course you don't get it that easy. Still a crowd is following me around offering good prices (about 10€ a day), guiding, porters, too much talking, not enough hiking. I store the bike for 3 days at a hikers backpacker and proceed to the forestry office for the entrance fees. And it is round two in convincing people that i absolutely dont want anyone with me that shows me how to walk up this mountain. The real fun is in exploring it on my own. I have to sign a letter freeing them from liability and convince them that I'm absolutely and most definitely not taking anyone with me. Goddamit let me walk up this mountain. All of this strictly keeping to strange rules without questioning the use of it at all, whether it's securities or guides or any other person that is guarding or restricting the entrance to a place is so annoying in africa. Especially to me at this point, because i got quite used to move around without restrictions. Even policemen, sometimes i just ride past them if they try to wave me off the road. Just because person xy is wearing a uniform shouldn't mean i have to talk to him for 20 minutes. No matter how interesting my bike is.

Finally I am allowed to start the hike. Me and my 25kg backpack with all the things inside to survive the next 4 days. Water, food, tent, matress, stove, petrol, sleeping bag, clothes, electronics. I'm not sure how i thought i would get all of this up to almost 3000m. And how this should be a relaxing break from the cycling. One of the guides still doesn't give up. He's determined to show me the first waterfall and I'm tired of being annoyed by people. He may walk wherever he wants, i can't stop him. We chat a bit and he's a nice guy, i learn a lot about his job as a guide, how they are trained and how they make a living with this big competition. But i tell him clearly that i will hike on my own.

Hiking up this steep, stair- like lower part of the mountain, you're hiking in a jungle. And you're watching your feet, because it is so steep. I will have to climb 1000hm on 5km. Mainly because i totally didn't expect that, as i look up and finally realize the presence of a massive, but beautiful green pofadder 1.5 metres ahead of me, i freeze. I don't have any idea what to do, there is no automatic emergency plan in my head for this case. While it is slowly turning and moving towards me, the guy that i didn't want to have with me just grabs me from behind and helps me to do the thing I should have done myself. Get out of there. Quickly. Luckily pofadders are rather slow. But they're very poisonous and lazy, if someone's approaching, they just stay where they are. Most other snakes flee if you approach them. Except for...

The black mamba that encountered us 10 minutes after the pofadder. Lying in the bush next to the path (which was just 50cm wide) suddenly we hear a voice as if something is moving very fast in dry leaves. And it is very fast, straight towards us and in 2 m distance. This time my guide was in front and man, he comes running towards me and sort of tackles me backwards into the bush. Freaking aggressive black mambas. I think I should give this guy some money now, for saving my ass. Twice.

We continue towards the waterfall and chat about snakes. People here are just used to them. In the end I was very lucky he was with me. I jump from a rock into the pond of the waterfall (damn cold water) and we decide if I'm going to continue on my own, considering snakes the skyline path would be safer because it's much wider. I don't want to get bitten on this mountain all on my own. The descent which then I would have to do as fast as possible wouldn't be fun. He's showing me the start of the path and I feel like for saving my life he really deserves some payment. (How much is that actually worth?)

Finally I'm on the mountain on my own. Still down in the forest but on the very steep flank up to the plateau. Crawling up there I begin to doubt if this will be a relaxing 4 days break from cycling. 25 kg on the back don't help. But the views are nothing more than spectacular and the vegetation changes a lot. Up at the plateau it feels like an island for endemic plant species that only exist up there. It feels like another world. There's no more people, just mountains, rivers, plants and me. The sun is setting to the west, sending the last rays over the chambe ridge and everything is flooded in golden light. I stand in awe and almost forget I should make it to Chambe hut before it turns dark. But I make it, after getting lost a bit due to a wrong gps location on and the fire breachings that cover the plateau to prevent the whole mountain to burn down at once. But they look like paths. The hut is beautiful, I love this place instantly. Calm, wooden, small fire and a guard that is staying up there for a week or two until he leaves the mountain for some time. Overwhelmed by nature. We share our food and prepare a very nice meal together before I go to sleep in my tent and discover it can get quite cold in some parts of africa.

Next morning I wake up to the sun and somehow lose the whole day on the 6 km to chisepo hut, the hut which is the starting point if you want to go to the highest peak: Sapitwa. Feared by most locals, and place to many stories and myths, Sapitwa simply means "Don't go there" in Chichewa. Ndili bwino, I will go there.

This evening at chisepo hut I meet a nice couple, half US- half Guatemalan (if i remember correctly) and I decide it would be nice to climb the mountain together with them. Especially because finding the path with bad signing on the mountain can be difficult and repeated stories of someone getting lost and freezing to death, I decide not to take chances. All the markings on the mountain are the same colours. West Peak- red, East Peak- red, Main Peak- red. That's why he got lost descending and ended up on west peak at night instead of the main descend. But the officials come around with scary stories how dangerous it is. I can tell you why: There's some thinking behind signs. If they're all the same, leading you astray, you might as well just remove them. There's more colours than red, you know?

Anyways, the climb in early morning is beautiful, sun is rising in the east behind Mozambique and the plants around make me feel I'm hiking in a fantasy world. So much rock. I want to climb �.

The others and their guide are nice company and we have a lot of fun hiking up between freaky plants. At one point we have to start crawlig through caves between the endemic mulanje cedars. Truly a special experience. It is here that Fred, my Rastasheep mascot decides to quit being Rasta and loses all his dreads. Finally on top it's time I get my peak surprises out of the backpack: Stove, tea and food.

On the descent I decide I want to experience this otherworldly place on my own and see if I can find the way down on my own, so I let the group walk ahead. And it is very challenging to find the way back down, everything looks the same, it's a bit like memory. Have i seen this rock formation before or am I lost again?

When I arrive at the hut again the others have already eaten a meal and are about to leave for the 10 km to lichenya hut. And it is getting late to reach that last hut on the plateau in time before it falls dark. Problem is that I should eat at one point. 1000hm up, 1000 down on 12 km and another 10 hilly km with 20 kg backpack is a bit much without food. Four great restdays from the bike. On that last stretch my feet and legs are slowly giving up on me. My knees hurt pretty bad and my feet don't do much better. Simply because I don't have hiking boots with me. And the only proper shoes i have with me have been from europe to africa. Twice. It feels like walking barefoot and it hurts a lot.

Lichenya hut is situated on a huge plateau of the southwestern part of mount mulanje in a calm and unique forest. There's grassland and forest as far as you can see until the plateau drops down to Malawian average again. It's a special athmosphere, there's just some guides, the caretaker of the hut and a group of Guys that are responsible for the reserve as a whole. They have been on the mountain to check on the progress of fire breachings that protect the unique vegetation of the plateau. Actually some plants here need the fires for their seeds to start growing but to lose the vegetation of the whole plateau at once could be crucial.

We combine our last leftovers for a nice dinner and sleep next to the fire. My legs hurt too bad to walk and massaging at night doesn't help. Next morning it is impossible for me to join the others on the way down, i have to rest. But staying is no option. I have absolutely no food left. I decide to wait and maybe join the park rangers on their way down. We have breakfast together and they offer me some of their food. The time they leave my legs are still really bad but i try following them. Once I'm warmed up it feels a bit better. It's very interesting to be able to chat with them about their work and the problems in taking care for such a huge ecosystem with such little money. Poaching of mulanje cedar is a big problem here, people can just sell it for enough money to make the risks worthwile. We check on a couple of fire breachings that around 20 men are cutting and digging all over the mountain. 3 metres wide and kilometres after kilometres. 2 weeks on the mountain, 1 week down with the family. What a hard job, living in provisional huts that look like refugge camp or military tents in the cold.

The steep descent from the plateau is a problem now. The muscles around my knees are cramping and it's only about pain resistance for me to get down to the valley floor. Unfortunately we are descending to mulanje which is 10 km from where the bike is. And I barely make it there, only after eating the rangers last food (a pot of plain rice which they kindly offer me) and getting a lift in the ranger's landrover down to the hostel for the last 2km. I'm done with walking this mountain, charging electronics and sleeping. Next day i can't walk at all, I barely manage to get my laundry done and to eat. It's extremely painful now, stairs are not possible at all and I just hope it's nothing serious. So I'm staying another day until I am able to move again. Not exactly a good feeling being stuck in a place on your own, unable to move and not knowing what's wrong.

But the next morning is better so I manage to get a boda (motorbiketaxi) to the place where i stored the bike. On the way to where I stored the bike a dog is crossing the road diagonally, 50 metres ahead of us. Nothing special, all kinds of animals and humans are crossing the road all the time without looking, which makes it really nerve wrecking to ride at night. But my driver just keeps going. As if to teach the dog a lesson he just hits the dog. I'm so surprised I don't even know what to say. It was so far ahead he could have easily been going around it. Luckily nothing serious happened to the dog, still it shows how bad some people here treat animals. While cattle and chicken have a relatively good life considering the space and not being crammed indoors usually, 10 chicken on the back of your motorbike or 2 goats are no problem. Hell, I've seen a goat with half way chopped off leg because it walked into someone's yard. People here can be very careless and very cruel despite being so friendly (to me). I pay for the bike, repack everything, fix another flat tire and leave towards Phalombe and Zomba, the former capital of Malawi. It is a beautiful ride, the mountains all around, rural area, not a lot of traffic and village life. I meet someone nice on the road and he offers me to stay in his village. I love it rightaway, again a maze of paths and so many people around. Traditional food, a very nice family and i get invited to sleep inside their house. I love doing that, at least occasionally. Just a mat on the floor inside a clay hut, that's what they are doing their whole life and I guess it helps appreciating things. But man it's hard. Very uncomfortable, sand and dirt everywhere and I never found out how to stay asleep once the mosquitoes are attacking me. I hate the uzuzus as they call them here. Their sound itself is horrible enough there's no nead to say that the prefer aiming for the face. To make sure you hear them coming. Just bite me but let me sleep.

I want to proceed early next morning so I have to say goodbye, leaving towards Mangochi and Monkey Bay. I pass through Zomba and cycle around the very green Zomba Plateau. I have to resist not to go and hike there too, from down here it looks beautiful. But I have been in Malawi over a week now and everything touristic costs park entrance, fees, guides etc.

10 km past Zomba I meet a man on the road who's also cycling in my direction. He introduces himself as Macdonald and he is fit. He looks like 35 to 40 but actually is 58 years old. He's returning from the market to which he cycled for more than 20km (one way) just to buy tomato seeds. His wife is a teacher and he's a pretty advanced carpenter. But he is lacking money to start his business, so he decided to farm 20000 tomato plants. At 58. You definitely have to be positive and very creative to survive or start something like this in rural malawi. And he is. He's fit like a professional sportsman and he just starts something new as long as his main plan is not working. I spend a relaxed evening at their home close to the school, get to know the teachers and enjoy some more local food. Next day Macdonald just decides to join me. He's got the time, he's got a good bicycle and he wants to visit his daughter in Mangochi. That's the way i like it. Spontaineous and with such a positive attitude that i can't feel any doubts. I just hope i can keep up with him, he's a machine. He tells me he's running up the hill to the village every day, just for fun. It's 90km to Mangochi and we have a headwind coming from lake malawi all the time. Tar is either bad or for 15km just not existent. But we're just riding slowly and slowly we make it. Mangochi is an interesting town, situated at shire river, which is connecting lake malawi and lake malombe. We store the bikes at Macdonald's daughter's family and enjoy a nice sunset at the Shire. My hosts tell me there are a lot of crocodiles in there, i think they come out at night. So we move back to the house. It is a pretry african area: no planning, no roads, everything happens on the street, everything is sand and red dirt. Hundreds of wooden huts along the road where people sell anything you could ever need (and thousands of things you definitely don't need). And it is very loud. In towns it always strikes me how much noise pollution people are living with. Everyone is shouting, the cars and trucks are terribly loud, everywhere there's loud music and boda- bodas are going everywhere. If you like it calm and peaceful africa's cities are not for you. In the evening a boy and a girl argue outside the house. Of course they can't do it close distance, they battle it out over 20 metres. Loud. When I ask what it is all about I get told how sexualised society is here and especially the youth which gets flooded by all the wonderful things that the internet brings. Apparently she was just shouting "Your penis is to small, you can't satisfy me, you're not a real man" while he repeats the same to her. Imagine that in Germany. Wow. I also get told how aggressive the women are in a sexual way towards men around. A lot of men here left their families to find work in South Africa. So let's just say it can get a bit crazy.

Next day Macdonalds son in law wants to do a trip to the village where he was a teacher before. I decide to join, just to see some more places. And it is a hell of a trip. 30 minutes up into the mountains by bus, then try to find 3 motorbikes and jump around on the backseat, working my ass muscles, wondering how this guy manages to keep this bike on the road, for another hour. And zupp you're at the border to mozambique. In absolute no mans land. To buy rice and beans. Wow. It makes such little sense i love it. 3 hours on vehicles to get 30kg of food from Mordor. On the way back we end up on a truck that is speeding down the mountains so bad that the women are sinking to the ground and pray. They are overwhelmed by fear, I think no one in the back of that truck feels exactly comfortable. Other trucks and busses are smuggling people down to south africa for work. Luckily the brakes on the truck did their job and we survived. That was probably the scariest thing i did on the trip so far. Never knowing if that guy that is used to speed to South Africa is just loosing control of the really rubbish truck, ramming us all into the valley floor.

Next day Macdonald wants to join me to visit another familymember in Monkey Bay. He leaves his bike and joins me on my bike. 60km that we do in 2 hours. His son Macdonald is living at a school close to Monkey bay. The next days i spend with the family, going to a church party where everyone gets hammered with local selfmade beer, visiting the harbour where people wait in a hall for 4 days for the ship to arrive, and to Cape Maclear, one of malawi's main tourist attractions due to it's nice beach, islands and crystal clear water. A really poor village with top modern palaces and hotels along the beach. What a contrast. Like South Africa. I also get the feeling that after such a long time travelling alone it would be cool having someone with me, so I pay a visit to the backpacker but everyone is travelling south...funny.

So I am leaving monkey bay on my own, riding to the east, into the sunset in the evening. It's a calm ride through beautiful landscape and then I end up on a 15 km shortcut towards the main road that follows lake Malawi all the way to the north. It is a narrow dirtroad that i share with a bunch of other cyclists, through forests, swamp and vast dry areas while the sun is setting behind the mountains straight ahead. The "road" gets smaller and smaller until there's only a foodpath left. Suddenly a group of people is approaching towards me, some of them in weird costumes, like pagan animals. There's an elephant, a rhino and others. They are shouting and chanting, it is very confusing. I try to find out what's going on but it's just too loud. Apparently they are asking me for money but i just pretend i don't understand what for. It is a really interesting sight, that's for sure. And there's more groups following them and finally i manage to find out that they celebrate the anniversary of a famous chief that died a year ago. Now they are moving back home. Pretty big party but the dresses are really special. A bit like german carnival. And finally something more traditional, native african. Not a westernized version of african village life, where people spend their life in the evening watching TV with horrible reception, more like a diashow sometimes.

This night I end up in a really widespread village and try to tell people I am looking for the chief to find a place to sleep. So i get company of 20 people walking me to the chiefs place for ages in pitch black. This day gets better and better and even the chief is really nice. She prepares some local food for me, i get a warm shower and then we just chill and stare at the stars. I'm so happy that I don't get all the usual questions, telling the same story over and over again. Just chilling, i play some guitar, no noise but millions of stars.

The chief thing works really well, as well as just drinking the water from the numerous boreholes along the road. Never change a running system, I am doing the same things the next days. Eating tons of chips and egg during the day, or chips, or chips and tomato. You've got to go with what you get. Sima also is a nice dish to satisfy the cyclist. Cheap, huge portions and pure energy. I go for calories no matter how they look like. But my stomach is not always happy with that.

And then I arrive in a town called Nkothakotha. Two artists chat to me on the road and offer me a place, so of course I am taking the genorous offer. Once again I get to know a local family and a new town. We do some trips through the maze of nkothakothas living areas to the beach, then next day they tell me i should stay for longer to see the hot springs (which then are way too hot to go in, great rift valley, so nice to put all those hot springs at a place without electricity but then make it 60 degrees hot), the livingstone tree where dr.livingstone signed a treaty with local chiefs to end slavery (i reenact the scene with a nun from the church - apparently mr. Livingstone was wearing sunglasses, not sure if that's true) and the place where all the fish arrives. I get a huge one and we cook a very nice dinner for the whole family. I knew it when I arrived in Malawi- it's going to be exactly my thing.

After buying some of their very nice paintings and supporting them in what they're doing, the trip continues. Lake Malawi always on my right, a massive landmark that influences everything. The climate, the winds, the way people live, how they earn money and what they eat. There are so many fishermen around, in some villages when I go down to the lake, the whole coastline is just boats, people building boats, bringing in fish, kids playing on the beach, people bathing or washing things in the lake. Anywhere you go you will hear how clean it is and that there's no bilharzia. Don't trust on that.

Continuing to travel north in these remote areas it feels really adventorous. True africa, nothing except some small villages, friendly people along the road and very green. At one of these villages, when i go to get some chips, a young man of 22 years asks me a lot of questions about my trip. He is preparing the chips there. So i tell him I am taking people on the front seat and he goes "Really, so if i would like to join you for a day i can just do that and you send me back by bus?" And i'm telling him: "yeah that's exactly what I'm doing, let's go". So just like that, we are travelling together for the rest of the day. I figure people here have so little money, if i want to take locals with me, I will at least have to pay for their transport back home, otherwise no one will join. And it works nicely. We're travelling an area where bridges are one lane wooden constructions and there's all kinds of interesting things going on in the villages.

And then I arrive at a place which combines a forest, a mountain and an ocean- like lake. Giuviri. And there some things happened that i already put in another article.

So the day I leave my other family in giuviri I get company by Chikumbutso until Nkatha Bay. And there I already have contacts to another family I'm staying with. Hearing the story of the theft in Giuviri, many people in my family back home collected money, my wonderful mum even asked for donations instead of birthday presents, so I am very happy to help out this family in Malawi so they are able to complete their house. In europe it is not a lot of money, here it makes such a big difference. By now they have a roof over their heads, which they bitterly needed, because rainy season was approaching and the clay house would have been washed away. So thank you so much again to all the helpers in need back home. It was very impressive to see how little things here can make such a big difference in people's lives. A solar lamp, a cheap mobilephone and money for which people back home go shopping for, once a week. Here you can finish half a building.

Nkatha Bay is a very special place in malawi. Situated around a couple of coves of lake malawi it is a relatively touristic place. But still it is very rural, as well as hilly. And the lake is unbelievable. Between snorkeling, relaxing, chatting to people and canoeing on the lake I use these 4! days to upload my pictures and write. There's some rastadudes hanging around so i decide to get a hairdo. My dreads have suffered a bit of lack of attention. And I regret it immediately. It is 4 hours of extreme pain. Looks good afterwards and i even get some props from the rastaman for not openly crying. Inside i was. It lasts for two weeks.

In the backpacker I also meet 4 long time friends from the UK that are cycling together while shooting a movie called cycling for rangers. They will cross my path repeatedly after this. And we join forces for the day out of Nkathabay towards Mzuzu, which shall prove itself as one of the hardest. 1000hm on 20 km. It feels like my legs are breaking, the bike is just too heavy for these inclinations. I struggle keeping up with them but they also have repairs to do so we arrive together. In another new environment. And i can see why cycling with too many people can be hard, despite it being awesome to do it with such good friends. But you're never alone, all experiences are filtered by how others are seeing it and one bike breaks, 3 people are waiting. One gets sick, 3 are waiting. Maybe for days, while one is solving problems or fights malaria. And how tough this can be when it's combined with a tight time schedule. The most beautiful thing for me is that time doesn't matter and it can't because planning with time is impossible on a bike. You're good on time? Boom, there's malaria for you. You're ahead in distance to make it through Malawi? What about this smart guy steals your belongings? You're having an easy ride with 100km a day? What about some strong headwind that makes you want to throw your bike in the lake? That's how it is on the road. Throw your plans out of the window and be spontaneous, don't worry, take what's coming. Do it like the africans: Inshallah we will arrive.

In Mzuzu I can stay at a lodge of someone i met in Nkatha Bay and await the arrival of my future travel buddy: Roman, that i already met in South Africa. As soon as he arrives we pack everything and again i stand in front of the bike and can't believe my eyes: it is huge. And heavy. But we have quite a pleasant ride ahead, relatively flat in a big round through the hills and back towards the lake. On this leg we meet another cyclist, a woman from Germany, maybe 40 years old, on her way all around africa on her own. Now that's impressive. Especially hot, humid, tropical eastern africa with a new country every couple of 100 km and difficult visa policies. At one point I'm learning something new about bike repairs as the cable of the gear shifter snaps and I have to replace it without knowing how. Once that is done there's a crazy steep downhill for 10 km back to the lake, more fatty chips and a search for Henry's kingfisher camp in the dark. And no one knows where it is. So it is 4 km forward and 2 km back. But as soon we get there, Henry's crew shows us a place to pitch our tents in sight of lake Malawi. The next day, Henrys brother, another fellow rastaman called Vin Diesel (i know, only people in africa can make this up) arrives and we decide to go to the nearby market on our restday and visit the local shebeen where all the men get drunk while the women are on the other side of the road, earning the money so their men can stay drunk. Next day we are hiking up to Livingstonia, a quite famous place for its landscape among tourists. With a nice view of lower malawi we took some of the best coffee i ever had and then hurried back to the downclimb. Wonderful landscape, cool, almost like Spain from the fauna and nice people. Then a woman is awaiting us to join us on the way down, even her husband comes to pick her up on the mountain, carrying a huge scythe- like tool. Vin tells us that just a couple of days ago a group of men attacked a women, trying to kill her and to steal her organs to sell them. Oh africa, beauty and things like this are often close here. The rest of the hike was very exciting in pitch black but also a bit scary, knowing these men were not caught yet.

After these days of rest Roman and me had to continue towards Tanzania, which with one rest in Kasumulu, a town lost and forgotten in northern Malawi. And through even more rural villages close to the border. And the typical mess and masses of people at the border. As usual there's always hundreds of trucks, luggage on the road, policemen going through this luggage, people that are trying to change money for horrendous rates (but there are so many of them that you can get down almost to the actual rate), just normal african chaos. Crossing was quite straightforward except for a not so nice guy checking Romans yellow fever vaccine, that stopped us for one hour just because it was from equador, telling us over and over again to get a new one here. Officials here are really most annoying when they get stubborn and try to prove their point. I had it all, from people trying to rip you off to people blatantly lying or telling you bullshit, to people telling me that in germany you can't just go to university to attend classes just like that. When i ask them how they can possible know they just repeat their point over and over until you will want to punch them in the face over the hundredth time of "this is in spanish so it can't be official. If this is in spanish how can I know this says official. I dont speak spanish. This is how it should look like. And you showing me the google translation doesn't mean shit. I will do this until i get some money. Welcome to tansania". But being persistant for 30 minutes paid off, now to the next chapter. Karibu Tanzania!