Osadabwa's Retro-Africa Ride Report: 2004 - 2005

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Osadabwa, Feb 13, 2015.

  1. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
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    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Up at a lazy hour, I read at the Ranger Station awhile then rode to Mulanje town for provisions. The plan was to climb Mulanje, stay a few nights at CCAP hut, and enjoy the cool air, hopefully avoiding election nonsense (there’d been rumors it might be violent) and waiting for my digital camera to be delivered to Blantyre.

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    Above: A curious look atop Malawi’s highest mountain

    The hike was steeper than I remembered, and hot until we emerged onto the frosty plateau. I remembered the giant tree-ferns from a previous trip, and I like the dense forest sections scented with Mulanje cedar, slick green moss on the stones and crystal clear water in the washes. The last trip was a laugh with friends. This time the dynamic was different. I was preparing to interact primarily with the mountain and my thoughts.

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    Above: Fern-trees of some species or other in the mist

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    Above: Mulanje’s brooding ascent

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    Above: Mulanje Massif

    Laying on my back in the tall grass surrounding the CCAP hut on the mountain’s flat plateu top, I watched on one hand the sun dip below a saddle in the ridge above and on the other hand a mist begin to rise from the shaded, rocky side. By the time the sun had gone, the mist had advanced across the meadow, bringing with it a distinctly mountainous chill.
    #61
  2. WHYNOWTHEN

    WHYNOWTHEN where are the pedals?

    Joined:
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    Thank you for putting this rr together!
    I spent my college years in the late 80s and early 90s traveling through a lot of these same places. You have brought back some wonderful memories of Beira and Shire and Mulanje. The porter that we were too cheap to hire warned us that " Mulange has many steeps!"
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures too.
    #62
  3. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
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    Nairobi, Kenya
    [Hey WHY - glad you're enjoying! Karibu!]

    At the viewpoint, overlooking Mulanje town a kilometer below through the mist and cloud. The sun briefly dissolved the greyness to give me a chance to see. It’s lingering now, perhaps because I appreciate it so much. An African Pied Crow stayed with me briefly to admire the view, then became jealous of his mate gliding easily and serenely on thermals above the tea plantations and lifted off, gliding almost straight down off the stony face before being lifted far away, crowing seriously as he went. Some beautiful, dead-gray flowers nearby. Once again wishing for a better camera.

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    Above: Mulanje viewpoint

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    Above: My friend the Pied Crow

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    Above: Tea plantations far below

    I came to have a swim, but cloudy and crisp as it was I had to force myself in the water with a swift, stark-naked dive. The water was joltingly cold and I scrambled out of the 6 foot deep pool almost as soon as I entered, my skin suddenly feeling scalded. A lovely warmth followed, and after fortifying myself for another go, I dove in again. Again, I had to climb out, but I forced myself back in. Once, twice, I splashed in the water. The third time was different. Not only didn’t I have to force myself, I also let loose a bit. I whooped and hollered, jumped out and laughed to myself. The sensation was so great, I dove back in again and again, lingering longer each time as body and soul became okay with the cold. I felt like solid crystal when I finally emerged.

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    Above: The Mulanje splash pool, a few feet away from the edge of the massif

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    Above: Feeling pretty good, post-swim
    #63
  4. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
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    I slept wonderfully last night. It was yesterday’s cold spring water and the walking that did it. Fresh air. As the sun was dipping, I walked slowly through the grass and ferns, watching the play of the light on the trees in the distance and the rushing, low-lying clouds, bundled in my clothes and hat and thinking about everything at once. Slowly, the ball of the sun was dipping behind a sloping hillside; one of the flanks of the peak nearest the CCAP Hut. I kept following its light deeper into the meadow, keeping it always in view, letting it color my clothes and the dry grass around me. Eventually , the sun turned menacing pink-red and bent and contorted itself into ovals until the last low cloud raced toward it and snuffed it out.

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    Above: The meadow and me

    Morning found me leaning against a stump, sipping tea and reading in the meadow resplendent with light and shiny wet grass. At 10:00, we packed up our gear and set off for basecamp. The morning light inspired 620 to dig out his camera and document some of the micro-beauties of the place. Such a lovely break from Africa this has been.

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    Above: The morning wash

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    Above: CCAP hut scenes

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    Above: Colorful Essentials

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    Above: CCAP hut, Mulanje, Malawi

    We hiked back down the trail in a no-nonsense fashion. Back through the cool forests out into the open spaces and finally back into camp. We reunited with the bikes and took a slow ride to town for a hot meal at the Curry Pot. The food was delicious, the experience very chill. The owner was soft spoken and clear, she played her music at a reasonable volume and enjoyed nuzzling her black and white cat. She laughed with us and her workmates easily and wore her hair in a pulled-back Afro. Coool.

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    Above: 620 on the descent

    We’ll go back if we’re stuck again tomorrow (don’t want to go to Blantyre unless my camera has definitely arrived… still rumours of violence in the cities). Not a bad place to be stuck!
    #64
  5. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
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    This is a great place to do a summary of some days not worth mentioning in detail. We killed a day at the base of Mt. Mulanje, then rode to Blantyre to pick up my newly imported digital camera (where I got to pay $300 in duty on a $400 camera). We wanted to cross back into Mozambique as soon as possible – before the Malawi elections – so we went to the border to see if we could get in without visas. The Malawians let me ride through Noman’s Land, but the Moz authorities pronounced it “muito imposible” so we were stuck backtracking. We also learned that if we planned to enter Tanzania from Mozambique, we’d need to get those visas in advance… in Lilongwe. Pout, pout, pout, grumble, grumble, grumble etc.

    [Oh, and another thing: I was really putting that new digital camera to use in Malawi. Great shots of Baobab fruits on the roadside, big vistas, the Lake etc… but you won’t see any of them unless you go to the lakeshore on the Mozambique side and find the bloody SD card I lost there. #@$%! So, a few more days of mostly text-only posts.]
    #65
  6. just jeff

    just jeff Long timer

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    [Oh, and another thing: I was really putting that new digital camera to use in Malawi. Great shots of Baobab fruits on the roadside, big vistas, the Lake etc… but you won’t see any of them unless you go to the lakeshore on the Mozambique side and find the bloody SD card I lost there. #@$%! So, a few more days of mostly text-only posts.][/QUOTE]

    I know this feeling well! 4000km trip last summer I lost my camera with every photo on the second last day.:cry
    JJ
    #66
  7. Caymen8

    Caymen8 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2009
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    Rocky Mountain High
    I'm really enjoying your report! This is a great perspective on Africa that not many get to see. :clap

    A buddy of mine just joined the Peace Corp and leaves for two years in Uganda at the end of May.
    #67
  8. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    638
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    [Hey guys, glad you're enjoying the ride. Losing my camera pains me to this day. Back then, storage space was precious, so I carefully picked which images to keep. Nowadays everyone just fires away, and it dilutes the impact of photos some. Caymen8, keep following and you'll end up with me in Uganda in a few months time. Had to go have a look at the gorillas! Cheers]

    Back to it.

    “When you’re in Malawi and you don’t visit Mangochi, you’re not in Malawi… When you’re in Mangochi and you don’t visit the Ice Cream Den, then you’re not in Mangochi!” Or so the sign reads. We’d stopped for a quick ice-cream then headed back to the highly uninspiring Palm Beach Hotel. 620 was going to do bike maintenance again, so I was off to Cape McClear, my favourite place in Malawi.

    The afternoon air and the dusty, smoky, gunmetal gray skies made me nostalgic for Chipungu Village. I must have spent more hours outside during this time of year than any other, making up for the claustrophobic wet-season and shaking off my cabin fever. This was the beginning of the football season, and soon the maize fields would be burned black and we’d be hunting field mice. Nights are dry and cool and sleeping is like a holiday. All this to say, I was nostalgic for Peace Corps and my holidays to Malawi too.

    I remembered all of the trips in mini busses my PCV friends and I had taken to Cape McClear over the years: arriving at night with one headlight burned out, me and Sam in the back drinking a stash of Carlsbergs bought at noon, the time an overlander picked us up (and charged us $5 each) before dropping us off only half way to our destination… Now I was doing it on a motorcycle alone. Although that had long been my dream, it emphasized why friends and shared experiences are so valuable.

    Alone this time, I tore up the road past Monkey Bay toward Chembe Village and bee-lined it for Fat Monkeys. I wanted a Meat Feast Pizza and a cold Carlsberg Green. I was surprised by all the construction I saw. Many changes. I learned that most of the investors were South African and cringed at my immediate negative feeling toward that fact… “Now who is lumping everyone from one group together”, I thought? But my mind conjured speedboats on the lake, full-moon parties, quads burning up the village, tall ugly buildings constructed on the sand, etc… Change, my boy. Just try to stop it!

    I enjoyed my afternoon. Had a few laughs with the guys at Fat Monkeys, went for a swim in the lake, had my Carlsberg and Pizza, chastised a pair of American Aid workers for not swimming (Them, “is it safe to risk a swim?”. Me “Oh, live a little!”) and marvelled at the water level – only a meter of beach left – before heading back down the road to Mangochi.

    Ten minutes later, I nearly crashed into a traveller on a Tenere. Obviously we stopped to chat and he took me back to a road leading to a cell tower with a view of the whole bay. It was awesome (and I’m sure I took a photo of it…#$%). He was on his way to Spain from Cape Town, so we took each other’s emails and hoped to meet up along the way somewhere, hopeful, but thinking at the same time how unlikely that was.

    I belted the last 50 kms back to the lodge in the dark. I have a lovely headlight and a kickass life!
    #68
  9. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    638
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Sometimes you hit a rocky patch.

    We got up, left Mangochi, and all the way to Liwonde we rode like bloody zombies. Nothing good about that morning at all because we knew the election mess would be kicking off and we’d be stuck in Doogles, praying for the kind Mozambicans to be friendly and reissue us with visas. Of course, we arrived on a Sunday, so forget it.

    At Doogles, we put up our gear and started swilling Carlsberg. The other guy at the bar (at 3:00 in the afternoon) was the Chief Engineer at the Blantyre Carlsberg brewery, which didn’t help a bit. He had us tasting all the varieties, telling us how Kuche Kuche is now what Green used to be, and Green is now what Green is worldwide… And before we knew it, we were blitzed. I slept with a nail through my head and Mr. 620 reported a brief vomiting spell in the night.

    Feeling puny today, but can’t go anywhere. 6 reported killed in violence yesterday, so we’ll hole up here until things calm down. Good news though: the Mozambique visas are done. Just got to go to Lilongwe to pick up the TZ visas.
    #69
  10. Watercat

    Watercat . . . gravity sucks

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2006
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    1,896
    Location:
    Beervanastan, Duwamps Pacific NorWet
    Interesting . . . . .

    The first time I visited Africa did a camera safari (camping out of a converted mlitary surplus truck)organized locally to Turkana District in 1988; The poverty and lack of infrastructure of the tribal folks then was shocking and pathetic.:cry

    Good to see there have been some upgrades . . . . . .:clap:clap:clap
    #70
  11. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    638
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    [Hey Watercat, if you have a few of those '88 Turkana pics digitized, I'd love to see them. Feel free to whack a few in this thread. I'm living in Kenya now, and I'm sorry to say I don't think the Turkana's lot has much changed since you were there. Still fighting the Pokot to the south (who President Moi favored, disarming the Turkana but not their tribal enemies), with a recent flare-up only a week ago leaving several dead. A friend tells me about 4% of kids in 6th grade can read at a 4th grade level (I get my grades wrong, but not the %). There is a big tar road up past Lodwar now to Kakuma, but that's to deal with the swelling refugee camp that just keeps growing (Kakuma now boasts around 180,000 people in that desert). Oil has been found there, but that's virtually never a boon for the locals, as well as a water aquifer that is said to have enough fresh water to cater for Nairobi for years... ironically. Anyway, still not a prosperous part of the world...]

    Back to 2004...

    Up early and out the door, we hit the slab for Lilongwe after a brief breakfast and a fuel-stop. For tarmac riding, this was pretty sweet. It’s the Dedza run, a route I’ve done many times in minibuses with a woman on my lap or children staring me down all the way, but this time I had the freedom to stop, look around a bit, take a snap or two. The hills are wonderful and the views are long. I took landscape pics for my dad… he’d like the ride.

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    Above: Somewhere in Malawi

    620 ran out of gas just as we arrived. We went for a Schwarma at Ali Babas. We put our stuff down at the mosquito infested Hippo Campsite. We delivered our passports to the TZ embassy. We ate a really nice meal at Harry’s Bistro. We slept badly.
    #71
  12. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    638
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Yesterday was not a memorable day, but pivotal.

    Our visas were ready at 14:00 and we were all the way to Salima by 16:00. We stopped at Chipoka, 30 Km farther south where we settled for the night. We wanted to get as far down the lake as possible to have a head start on re-entering Mozambique tomorrow. I tried to swim in the lake, but was turned off by the green hue and the quantity of rubbish in the water and on the shore. Guess all beaches are not created equal.

    Up at 6:30, the crisp sunshine is backlighting the sadly crumbling sunshade drowning in the high water and knocked around by the waves. Let me put away this pen. We’re ready to go. Ready as Hell.

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    Above: My crumbling sunshade sketch, and a friendly reminder from the Malawi Health People

    [Jumping forward 11 years, here's a Day Trip report I wrote yesterday on a ride in Kenya with mates. Still riding!]
    #72
  13. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
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    Nairobi, Kenya
    We blew along the tarmac from Chipoka in early light, swung left after Mua down a soon-to-be-completed all-weather gravel road, back South again to Mangochi (where Rosie turned 30,000) and back up to Chiponde border.

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    Above: Border market

    The minute we reached Mozambican soil, things felt right again. The border guys were all smiles – now that I wasn’t there with an impossible request – and found time to try to buy my rear tyre off of me. We went 500 meters and found a restaurant serving prego no pao and fruit juice and it was fantastic. The old guy working the place was characteristic Mozambicool and we left satisfied on the fast dirt to Lichinga.

    We overnighted at a permaculture camp run by a German woman whose motto is “cabritos contra cabritismo” or Goats against Corruption. She had a push-start-only pickup and lots of canned food at her place. That night we chatted with the Lichinga expat community about Lichinga and motorcycles. Apparently, foreigners with patience for bureaucratic inefficiency and a decent business plan can have land in Mozambique. Tempting…

    Following morning, after picking up a jerry can for 620 and a nice Grande Café com Leite at a sidewalk café, we set out for Cobue. For 100km, the tarred road cut through the hills like a lazy serpent in the long grass. We passed through huge villages, roof after roof made of the same old gray straw. In between, it was like a computer racing game. No peripheral vision, no way to guess what’s around the next bend. The grass grew right to the margins and we sent it dancing as we passed.

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    Above: Road along Lago Niassa

    After the police post, the road reverted to good, fast dirt that raced right down to the lake shore where it turned into a rough, rocky, washed out track (and I lost my SD card with all the Malawi photos on it). We followed the falling and curving of the contours, baobabs and villages, bikes and pedestrians everywhere, scattering off the road as we passed. The lake showed her vastness and her emotion. Neither could be hidden. The far shore was invisible and the hard waves hammered the stony coast.

    Then the road turned inland, curving behind some impassable hills and cutting through villages and occasional open expanses of treeless bush. We began to encounter the bridges we were warned about: metal or wooden horizontal slats with a few missing just for laughs. At one point I had to tip-toe across, resting tires on the steel I-beam between a large gap in the planks. All in good fun, we rode on and were rewarded by dense, unpopulated bush, grass growing so thick and high it was like riding through a verdant canyon.

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    Above: Bridges

    The track had two sides and grass in between. I hugged the left track, taking the merciless beating of the long grass across the fingers and chest, but fearing oncoming traffic far more. We finally met a pickup, and both of us were surprised we didn’t eat his grill. We were maintaining 80 kph despite the lack of visibility, a fact that still surprises me, but was unavoidable given the excellent mood of the day.

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    Above: Forest to Lake view

    With the late light, we re-emerged from the bush into villages. Descending, the final 20km of the road was a jumble of loose dirt and stones churned up by a construction crew expanding the road. It was only navigable because we’d seen the lake ahead and could not wait to get there.

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    Above: Arrival

    We hit Cobue just as the sun extinguished itself in the lake, the ruins of the cathedral beautifully silhouetted against the bright red sky. We found rooms at the Nyati Yoyela (white buffalo) guest house, met a lonely German Volunteer, drank beer and stuffed ourselves with chicken before venturing to a local pub which we cajoled into opening up again and talked the night away.

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    Above: Cobue Church Silhouette
    #73
  14. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    638
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    The West-facing shore has afforded me something I haven’t had anywhere else: the white-hot shimmer of the late afternoon sun off the water. It backlights absolutely everything and throws enough of itself under trees and roofs that even the shadows here are bright. Wonderful, frankly. What a nice day!

    This morning, we woke late. I slept like a baby with the subtle sound of waves. We watched the boats come and go, had breakfast and shot the breeze. Around 10:00 we walked with the German girl through the village, up the coastline to a house on a point that an eccentric Aussie who had lived there for 10 years had built.. On the way, I chatted happily with a man turning his night’s catch of fingerlings in the sun to dry while his mates slept, enquired about a woman’s method of soaking cassava, and greeted absolutely everyone along the way in ChiNyanja, not English, not Portuguese, not Chichewa, but ChiNyanja, the Lake Language. And I loved it.

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    Above: Drying the night’s catch

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    Above: Fingerlings and world’s crookedest canoe

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    Above: UNHCR jerry can reminding how recently there has been conflict here

    When we got to the place, saw the water and tasted the hot sun, it was too much. I was diving in the dark, deep lake within seconds while the others sat on the sand. Then one by one, everyone else gave in. We were swimming laps, diving deep into the blue, doing handstands in the shallows. It was lovely.

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    Above: Lake Malawi shore

    Later, after a nap at the lodge, I watched the mayhem at the Ilala Ferry, moored just off shore near Likoma Island (visible from Cobue). Then I wandered the village and explored the old cathedral and watched the kids playing football in the courtyard. By late evening, more kids were doing gymnastics by the water’s edge, silhouetted by the setting sun. Perfect.

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    Above: Waiting for the Ilala

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    Above: Faces at the shore

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    Above: Moving goods and bodies to the Ilala Ferry

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    Above: Loading up

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    Above: Shadow kid

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    Above: The cathedral grounds

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    Above: Action

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    Above: Inaction

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    Above: Cathedral details

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    Above: Cathedral details

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    Above: Dancing silhouettes

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    Above: Last night in Cobue

    Tomorrow, back to Lichinga and beyond.
    #74
  15. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    638
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    We struggled like mad getting back to Lichinga yesterday. I toppled over on the chewed up stretch left by the construction crews, twisting my knee and trapping my leg beneath the pannier box. It took a half hour to fix the boxes after that, and then farther up the track I find 620 and his bike down in a ditch. He’d come around a bend and just didn’t make it. Neither of us could put our finger on it, but the road had become tricky somehow. After that, we went more conservatively and puttered along to Quinta for the night.

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    Above: Small portions – guy selling tubes of cooking oil at his kiosk

    From Quinta, we backtracked a bit to Mandimba for more prego no pratos at the same restaurant as before and I struggled to overcome my laziness. The road to Cuamba was pretty good, with lots of hills and turns, but there were so many people on the road most of the time that opening it up beyond 80kph was uncomfortable. In Cuamba at last, damp from a crisp rain, I entertained myself at the Pensao chatting with the resident 4th graders in Portugu-english while 620 again cleaned his filter and fixed (again) his broken side stand and found (again) that his pannier rack had broken.
    #75
  16. Dirtnadvil

    Dirtnadvil Long timer

    Joined:
    Dec 22, 2005
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    1,101
    Location:
    Inside the Orange Curtain
    Your ride reports raise the bar:clap
    #76
  17. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    638
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Hey Dirtnadvil, thanks for the comment! Still several months of it to go...

    Right from the get-go, the riding was great, with giant stone inselbergs all around jutting out of tall grass and fields. The road became progressively worse and therefore more fun the closer we got to the turnoff. There was no dust, some water in the deeper potholes, and the green grass and trees smelled sweet as we passed. The road slid between two huge stone faces and ended up in a village with the same Portuguese influence as many others we’ve seen: a double-wide boulevard running the length of its only street.

    We were climbing. As we approached Gurue town, there was a constant gray mist hugging the mountains, sprinkling the fragrant, rolling tea estates and twisting through the tall gum trees. The road looked slick and was full of bikes and pedestrians, so I took it easy and enjoyed what view I could make out through the water-specked visor, feeling invigorated by the mysterious and murky world I was riding through.

    After finding a Pensao in Gurue town, we took off on a postprandial walkabout through the residential streets, remarking about the classic modern concrete architecture with walls and tiles that seemingly serve no purpose apart from aesthetics with wavy awnings and clever drive-under garages. The asphalt on the streets was virtually gone and the roads swam with muck, but the green of bananas and trees combined with the grandeur of the misty peaks behind to bring in a flavour of the glory days here.

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    Above: Gurue oranges

    We hit up the second hand clothing market where we both scored T-shirts. While there, I took the time to photograph some of the quirkier market anomalies… the Marlboro children's underwear, the Saddam Hussein printed shirts and – most disturbingly – the burning Twin-Towers chitenge fabric complete with a distorted, Osama bin Laden looking on. It all has no meaning to people, of course. Just headlines, names from the radio... the cult of “big men”.

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    Above: Gurue market curiosities

    That night we were patrons of the Domino Café where an Indian guy has brought the place back to life after years of emptiness. Outside a Children’s Day celebration had teens and other kids crowding around and it felt like a scene outside a movie theatre or roller rink from my youth. Weird. Honestly, Mozambiqe… it has a little of everything.
    #77
  18. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    638
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    Gurue was wet in the morning and we were up early and on the road. As usual, we dispensed with eating but made sure the bikes weren’t thirsty. Leaving the parkinglot of the pensao, 620 spun 90 degrees on the slick clay soil leading out the gate. That should have been the sign we needed to wait a day. Instead, we pressed on.

    Tentatively, we covered the 10 km of tarmac to our turnoff and immediately began to notice how tricky it is to stabilize a 2 wheeled vehicle when there’s no traction. I was frozen on the handlebars right away as the slick, muddy road made the bike feel increasingly unstable. We discussed it over bananas, but pushed on. 100 meters later, I find 620, both legs outrigging, sliding down a steep hill in the twisting rut of a truck tyre at a walking pace. He clearly had no control, and neither did I as I followed suit. Although it was grueling, keeping the bike vertical, it was actually a thrill to overcome another challenge. We passed the lorry that had made the tracks and was now stuck in the low spot, unable to ascend, and spun our way up the other side without trouble.

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    Above: Gloomy departure from Gurue

    Crawling along, focused completely on the track ahead gave little time to contemplate the view, but it had a feeling that struck some ancient and mysterious chord. The low-ceiling and murky stone mountains peeking through the fog all added to the aura. For 30 km or so it was better riding, sandier soil and less clay meant speeds approaching 50kph were possible in spots. Then we met our first mountain pass and the lane scratched into it was of the purest red clay. In no time, I was on my hip. No warning or provocation that I could see led old Rosie to spin 180 degrees and I was left flat on my ass in the mud. An old man pushing a bicycle approached and empathised with my plight, telling me in Portuguese and sign language that the same thing had happened to him just moments before. Brothers in muck.

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    Above: Huts and inslebergs

    620 waited for me, and we proceeded together cautiously up the road. The place was green except where it was greener and had only the single red gash of the road cutting cruelly into it for contrast. I watched closely as 620 negotiated a hair-pin turn on a surface slippery as grease on a marble floor and was thrilled when I too made the corner without dabbing. Then on the perfectly flat spot following the turn, under ginger acceleration, Rosie started to come around me again. Naturally, I fought it, but once the front wheel goes, it’s all over with.

    I dug my foot into the ground and leaned with all my might to try to right her, but she was determined to fall and gravity had her substantial weight in his cruel hands. As I fought, it occurred to me that we were nearing the edge of the road, and then it became clear that in fact we were going off. Seeing no two ways about it, I kissed Rosie goodbye, pushed off and rolled to a stop, legs over the edge of the slope, bum in the mud, and watched as my baby hit dirt. First, her left side made contact, skidding on handlebar and pannier box, then the tires caught the mud and grass of the roadside’s edge and her momentum pitched her over, not at all softly onto her right, off the steep roadside embankment. She rolled onto her top, smashing audibly the windscreen/fairing, and came back over again, coming to rest wheels down on her left hand side. Quietly I watched all this and vaguely wondered at my ill fate. I’d have stayed there forever if two local guys hadn’t come on the run to see the carnage.

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    Above: The skid mark, going toward the edge

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    Above: Where Rosie rolled

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    Above: Rosie’s repose

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    Above: It’s just a flesh wound

    In a daze, I photographed the scene for posterity and had the guys give me a push out of the grass and mud and back onto the road. It was fortunate she didn’t do another roll, as she’d have dropped 2 meters straight down a cut. On her wheels again, I did a quick once-over. The fairing was bent such that the handlebars wouldn’t turn and the mirrors were both squashed flat, giving her the aspect of an ill cow. Apart from that, she was muddy is all, and after I bent the bits back where they belonged, she was ready to go, like a line-backer getting up after a rough tackle. That’s my girl!

    Drama behind us, the rest of the trip could be enjoyed in peace. It was beautiful. Crazy scenery just kept coming with huge roadside inselbergs and silver, toothlike stones jutting out of the bush and fields. And the road, a disaster of potholes, lumbered through it all mostly free of the horrible red clay that had taken me down. Once back onto the main Cuamba-Nampula road, we were able to give it a bit of stick. I was fast in spots, dodgy in others, open in spots, crowded in others… it was a pinball game of a road and really enjoyable. The day waned then darkened and we were still on the road, pulling into Nampula in the dark to find the last pensao in town with a room, grateful for a hot shower, food, and bed.

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    Above: Beautiful scenery from Gurue

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    Above: Just me, the grass, road and sky

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    Above: Sharp insleberg tooth

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    Above: Rosie in a colonial-era tree tunnel

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    Above: Blue sky, fluffy clouds, Mozambican inselbergs

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    Above: Garlic

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    Above: I could ride this all day

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    Above: Three wise men

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    Above: Pannier problems

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    Above: Fuel stop

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    Above: Stone faced detail

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    Above: Making use of the day’s last rays
    #78
  19. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    638
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    After a day of rest and recovery, we left Nampula early and aimed our wheels at the coast. It was largely uninteresting tarmac, but we could feel ourselves losing altitude by degrees until we were down again among the palms. We crossed over the single-lane bridge that links Ilha with the mainland and put our gear down in the first guesthouse we found. In this case, it was a good choice. An Italian architect (only 30 years old) had rehabilitated one of the old stone buildings and it was beautiful and calm. The rooftop has a view of the grass-green and white mosque and the water, he has a dugout canoe-cum-sofa hanging from ropes in the sitting room, and all the rooms are unique.

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    Above: Crossing to Ilha de Mozambique

    We walked the island from top to bottom. The North end is dominated by the old Portuguese fortress standing proudly, if decrepitly where she has for centuries. Although designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO, many of Ilha’s buildings are crumbling, grown over with trees or just succumbing to generations of coastal decay. Squatters shelter in 100+ year old buildings and people come and go like spectres in the dark streets. The place is curious and contagious and easy going.

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    Above: Ilha stuff

    We strolled without a mission, poking our heads in cafes and doorways. We found an old supermercado sign dominating one room in which only one old man and his sewing machine were to be found, funky old tiles on the floors and potential written everywhere. Could we start something here? A lot of dreaming. And plenty of interaction with people. I had a great exchange with a cantankerous pair of women half lounging in their shop windows. Photographing people is harder, but always most rewarding.

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    Above: Old Supermarket

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    Above: Blue

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    Above: Ilha views

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    Above: 620 enjoying lunch?

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    Above: Window women

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    Above: Flowers and forts

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    Above: Minarets at dusk
    #79
  20. Osadabwa

    Osadabwa Don't be Surprised

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2009
    Oddometer:
    638
    Location:
    Nairobi, Kenya
    With a raging head-cold in full effect, we took leave of Ilha and the crumbling charm of Mozambique’s funkiest island. The tarmac was forgiving. With enough turns to keep me interested and inslebergs everywhere to keep up the mysterious “what planet is this” vibe, we coasted along at about 80kph despite the 50 kph signs everywhere. The police were out in force and somewhat annoying, asking us for our papers and writing details down in a book. Not speaking Portuguese well makes life easy though and they just let you ride on.

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    Above: Road to Pemba

    We found a backpackers and I spent some time cleaning Rosie, top to bottom. I found the source of what had become an increasingly annoying rattle: the front sprocket was loose for Pete’s sake! Then later I took my panniers around to a welder to make them stronger… until the next fall.

    Soon, 620 and I part ways, and only today did it become clear that he might not tell me for how long. In two days’ time, I’ll consider our mutual trip over until further notice. Maybe I’ll try to chase down that guy James I met in Malawi on his Tenere if he’s still in Mbeya, otherwise I’ll just ride and see things. Alone or otherwise I go.
    #80