When I cycled through Mzuzu early in the morning, there were hundreds of people on the streets already, but I still got remarkably less attention. Not a single person shouted at me as I rode out of the city!
Back in the countryside, I rode through sparsely populated forest. The road climbed inconsistently to about 1800m then settled into rolling hills.
I saw a car parked by the road, and a foreigner standing next to it. I stopped.to chat and Chris, from South Africa, invited me to join him for coffee. I did so and we chatted for a while. He’d driven here from South Africa and was now turning around and heading home.
The sky darkened and rain threatened so I continued on. There was much thunder but the rain was light, so I simply kept on riding.
Like elsewhere in East Africa, there are a lot of rumble strips. Here the pattern seems to be 7 sets of 11 strips, but thankfully they aren’t that high, and are often worn down.
At one point I stopped for a break and, as I often do, moved away slightly from the road to sit in the shade of some trees. I was surprised to find a couple graves there.
I reached the village of Jenda and stopped at a lodge marked on iOverlander. It was a pretty basic place but it’d do for the night.
It was drizzling a bit in the morning, but it got no worse than that. As usual for Malawi, there were lots of police roadblocks. Less usually; I was twice stopped. On the first occasion they checked my passport; on the second they just asked where I was going.
This was a much flatter day than the one before, and I made quick progress. In the afternoon I reached the town of Mponela. There were supermarkets there, and I stopped at a couple before searching for accomodation.
I followed signs to a lodge, which turned out to be almost a kilometre back from the main road. It was quite a fancy looking place – I almost left without asking the price. It turned out to be quite affordable though at £8 a night. It had the best shower I’ve seen in ages!
I didn’t have far to go to Lilongwe, so I lazed about and didn’t set off quite at the crack of dawn. A bit after 6 I was off riding. It was a Sunday so the road was quiet even though I was riding into the capital. I stopped at a mall on the way in and had some KFC!
The supermarket at that mall wasn’t great so I stopped at ShopRite as well. Then I set off to a lodge. As part of my e-visa for Malawi I’d needed an invitation letter, so I booked a night at a lodge. They’d done their part with the letter so it seemed only right I do my part and pay for the night’s accomodation, even if they were several kilometres out of town!
The online price was about £23, and although the lodge wasn’t unpleasant it wasn’t worth that much. It was therefore a pleasant surprise when the receptionist told me the owner had said to charge me the normal rate of £13, instead of the online rate.
The next morning, a Monday, I rode back into Lilongwe and checked into a cheaper, more central hotel. I then rode over to the Mozambique High Commission. They were closed, but a man in the guardhouse told me they’d be opening back up at 8 the next day, following a Christmas break. He told me the documents I’d need, and pointed out the dress code – no shorts.
With documents and passport photos, I returned shortly before 9 on Tuesday morning. They were still closed, and the guard had no explanation. Soon a few people turned up – seemingly they open at 9, not 8.
However, only a few of the staff were back. They told me that the people from the visa section would not be back until Friday, or maybe Monday.
I had a few options now. I could skip Mozambique – I’ll only be riding there a few hundred kilometres. I’m quite keen however on “countrybagging” as many countries as possible, so I’d rather not do that.
I could try going to an embassy in another city – but after I’d spent a couple days riding there, I’d probably have to wait over the weekend anyway. I could try going straight to the border – but from what I’d read, VoAs are rarely given so the most likely result would be that I’d be out $100 for one of Malawi’s expensive PCR tests.
And so I decided to wait it out. I’d been considering taking a short break anyway so this provided a good opportunity to do so.
While there I wanted to find a bike shop. The guy who ran the shop oriented to expats had closed the shop due to Covid, but he still did repair work at his house. I contacted him, got some directions and headed over.
The mechanic, Juba, was a friendly guy. Luckily for me, about four years ago someone had asked him to order a freehub for them, and then never showed up to collect it. I bought that, some inner tubes, some patches and some rim tape. While I was there Juba’s girlfriend was making some doughnuts and they gave me a bag to take with me.
I spent a week in Lilongwe, not doing much. The next Monday I returned to the High Commission and filled in an application form. I was then told that, contrary to the information on their noticeboard, it would take a week to process. Well, I was quite enjoying having a break, so I decided another week would be fine.
The next Monday was a public holiday, so I made my way back on Tuesday morning. My visa had been approved, so I was sent to a nearby bank to pay. That took the better part of an hour – there was a long queue! I took my receipt back to the High Commission and was told I could collect my passport in the afternoon. And so after yet another trip there, I finally had a Mozambique visa in my passport. I returned to the guesthouse and packed up my things, ready to resume cycling the next morning.
Dec 31: 147 km
Jan 1: 155 km
Jan 2: 67 km