Severe poverty in Malawi

In the past 8 days, we cycled through Malawi. Upon crossing the border from Tanzania into Malawi, we immediately became aware of how impoverished this country is... Significantly less traffic, far more pedestrians, and cyclists!

Stage 39: Mbeya (Tanzania) to Karonga (Malawi), 162 km, 1504 hm

This morning, we set off from Mbeya amidst terrible traffic chaos for many kilometers. Additionally, we were riding against the sun, further complicating visibility. There were two accidents this morning, one resulting in a broken rib, requiring hospitalization for one of our cyclists. Sadly, she will have to abandon the tour.

After leaving the city, the route became beautiful! We had to tackle an ascent, but the weather was overcast and not particularly hot. After a lovely descent, we reached the border.

The crossing with around 60 Wazungu (foreigners) was always time-consuming, yet surprisingly quick this time. The vehicle procedures, however, took much longer, but after about 2 hours, we were through and back on the road. We had around 50 flat kilometers left to the camp, where once again, the children greeted us cheerfully along the roadside!!! The camp was beautifully situated by Lake Malawi, but the rooms and facilities had seen better days. I was glad to sleep in my tent!

Stage 40: Karonga to Chitimba Beach, 91 km, 453 hm

Last night, it rained heavily. I stayed dry, but unfortunately, some tents didn't withstand the storm. Luckily, it wasn't raining when we packed up, but just as we were about to set off, another heavy downpour began. Thankfully, it improved throughout the morning, and the route was relatively flat and easy to ride.

However, today we encountered countless flat tires... Shards, wires, metal parts... all sorts of debris on the roadside. We're staying at Chitimba Beach, a facility by Lake Malawi, operated by Ed and Carmen from Holland for the past 17 years.

The next day, we have a rest day. Along with a few of my fellow cyclists, I visit a nearby village. We tour a school, a maize mill, a church, and a few houses (including the mayor's house). Some young people accompany us and answer our questions. The poverty of the population is hard to put into words.

Stage 41: Chitimba Beach to Mzuzu, 138 km, 2086 hm

Last night, it rained heavily once again, and to add to that, my air mattress gave up on me. It needs to be inflated 3-4 times throughout the night... GREAT! Yesterday, I tried to find the leak, but without success. Let's see how long I can endure this way :-)

Today, we face another ascent, and the view of Lake Malawi is stunning. However, the roads were so bad during the descent that we could hardly pick up speed.

My fellow rider had another flat tire, which caused us to arrive relatively late at our camp. It's always great to arrive at the camp while the sun is still shining strongly, so that the tents can be dried out.

Today wasn't particularly warm anymore, and it looked like rain was on the horizon again. I couldn't fully dry out my tent, but the camp, run by Italians, served an amazing cheesecake for dessert!!!

Stage 42: Mzuzu to Luviri, 127 km, 2363 hm

Once again, it rained all night! Malawi is indeed very green, with extensive agriculture (maize, tobacco, soybeans, etc.), and it's still the rainy season. Today is particularly foggy, in some places, visibility is barely 10 meters, but it improves around noon, revealing the area's beautiful scenery.

Tonight, we're camping on a school campus, surrounded by at least 100 students watching us set up our tents. Today, my gears gave me a bit of trouble, so I'll be taking care of my bike first, as we all tend to do almost every evening.

Stage 43: Luviri to Kasungu, 108 km, 646 hm

Last night, we had another thunderstorm with very heavy rain. This time it was particularly unpleasant because the ground was sandy and could only absorb little water, meaning many tents were essentially standing in water by morning. Additionally, we found out that three bicycles were missing. A shock for us, of course! Interestingly, the bikes were found again within a short time... GREAT!

Today, we had a short and flat ride. It was great because we wanted to celebrate our 'km halfway' point and two birthdays. The fact that we've only ridden half of the kilometers is a bit daunting, meaning the days will probably get a bit longer... but the party was a huge success!

Stage 44: Kasungu to Lilongwe, 149 km, 714 hm

This morning, we woke up dry!!!
The route seemed easy, but we faced so much crosswind and headwind that it became really exhausting. The road conditions were good, allowing us to cycle as a group, and I could use my aerobars. There were plenty of maize and tobacco fields; we felt like we were in Iowa :-) ... But in Iowa, we wouldn't have been greeted and applauded by so many children along the roadside! The people in Malawi are truly VERY friendly and helpful.

We have a rest day in Lilongwe. Margot's mother arrives from Belgium, bringing various bicycle parts, including new tires for my bike. I'm incredibly excited and grateful to her!!!

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