Squaring the Circle ~ 'Lake of Stars'~ East Africa

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by wildside, Mar 17, 2019.

  1. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    284
    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    Just when we think ‘woo-hoo.... the roads are improving’ we curve our way around a corner and there’s more delayed construction and we’re slap bang in the middle of a quagmire with a heavily loaded truck axle deep across our path. It looked as if it had been there a while as rocks had been placed underneath it in an attempt for it to get some traction but as of yet no luck. Kingsley and Roxy managed to get past but I slipped down over a rock but with assistance managed to continue. We were now almost knee deep in mud but still with humour intact.

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    Roxy up front in a deep hole.

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    Firmly planted on a rock.


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    Nice n easy on a pikki pikki [​IMG]

    We set off once again onto a new stretch of tarred road...yippee!! We always try to avoid tar but at times it’s such a relief and you just want to get off your bike, onto your knees and embrace it. Picking up a bit of speed was a treat but also short lived as it only took us down the mountain, into a village and then back to mud as we rode out of town. As the morning passed we began to tire and Roxy slipped in the mud, so we took this opportunity for a rest as we had been slip sliding around now for over 3 hours. This was when Kingsley noticed that, to our horror, the nut from Roxy’s back axle had disappeared and the axle had started to slip out. Our ‘limp wristed’ mechanic, who had obviously forgotten to tighten the nut after adjusting the chain the previous day, made a wonderful temporary plan with the, must always have, cable ties. Blondie had no idea of the risk involved. We constantly had to keep an eye on this axle and it became quite stressful. In Njombe we spent a bit of time trying to find a take away coffee but they don’t cater for the coffee craving tourist and even with the help of one of the locals we came out empty handed so decided to continue on our way to Songea, 233km of wonderful tar and about another 4 hours of riding.

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    Negotiating the busy street of Njombe.


    We stopped at little villages along the way to look for a nut for the axle. The chaps repairing bikes were very willing to help but also came up with nothing suitable as the size was always wrong.
    So between Kingsley and I, we kept a sharp eye on the axle.

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    Reinforcing the cable ties.

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    Rain and road....just a different surface.

    It was actually a pleasant ride, despite the intermittent rain and regular stops to check axle and a relief to arrive in Songea which was a busy town with lots more to offer than Njombe. Our first thought was to get to our accommodation as it was still raining and we were keen to find the Ruhuwiko Hunt Club which was a few kilometers out of town on the A19 road heading west towards the lake.

    We soon settled into our room with a mattress on the floor for Roxy. It was a pleasant spot but very quiet. While relaxing at the bar and restaurant I phoned my son in Indonesia as we hadn’t made contact for a few days now. He was in such a state and had already put out a missing persons report after contacting the embassies and various lodges that I had on our itinerary which changed after the second day of our trip. The Matema Lakeside Lodge reassured him that we had been there but left no forwarding address and that was the last he had heard about us. Panic stations. He firmly believed that we were very irresponsible doing this trip. If he had his own way he would have had us on a plane, out of there and back home.

    I prepared him for our next 3 days of no contact as once again we would probably have no network. He politely informed us that our next holiday was caravaning at Shelly Beach, south of Durban. We enjoyed a little chuckle over this.

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    #21
  2. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    284
    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    DAY 8 : 23 DECEMBER 2018
    SONGEA to MBAMBA BAY
    DISTANCE: 165 km
    10 am to 4 pm




    “On soft sand, the sunlight’s colour shows it’s late.
    All travellers sorrow fades away,
    What better place to rest
    Than this.” Du Fu




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    Can you believe it...it was raining again. Regardless, we got ourselves ready and at breakfast Roxy suggested we wait until the rain subsided...now this could take all morning. Kingsley’s creative side came out as he reinforced Roxy’s back axle with a make shift plastic handle from a dustpan. It was actually sitting nice and secure....this axle was going nowhere. I also decorated our handlebars with my travelling Santa buddies.....they’ve done a few Christmas trips now. We had to get a bit of Xmas spirit going as out here in this type of environment where there are no reminders of the festive season, spending most of our time on the bikes and only focusing on the trip one is inclined to forget ‘tis the season to be jolly.

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    After whiling away more time in our room and after some coercing I convinced Roxy we had to move on. Despite it being a shorter ride today, 65 km of it would be a mud road up over the mountains and down to the shore and who knows what curved ball Africa would toss us today!
    We put on our boots and got ready to get rained on.

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    This 100km of nice tarred road to Mbinga has been referred to as ‘the adventurous gateway’ out of Songea. There are buses that can take backpackers up to this town but from here on to Mbamba Bay you need to use the 4x4 dala-dalas (taxis)...which generally means ‘bad roads up ahead.’ The ride to Mbinga was good....and wet.

    Despite the continuous rain, low lying grey clouds and occasional misty areas heading away from Mbinga we were once again spoilt with picturesque landscape. The lush vegetation interspersed with little huts and agriculture could only lift ones spirits. The rougher muddy roads required some attention from us but nothing too hectic that could spoil the day. Tight zigzagging corners merely slowed us down a bit.

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    But the best part of today’s ride was heading down the Rift Valley escarpment towards the eastern shore of Lake Nyasa. We stopped at the top to admire the view which sadly was being restricted by cloud cover. This was the start of a hard compacted beach sand pass.

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    We took a slow ride down to allow us time to absorb the beauty around us. In places the road had been slightly washed away at the edges but it remained a good road. We were treated to the occasional waterfall tumbling down in the distance and thanks to the wet season the vegetation was bursting with new colourful growth. As we rounded one corner we encountered a stationary bus. Initially we thought it had broken down but on passing through the narrow gap we realised that all the passengers were disembarking and taking the safe option to walk down a certain section of the pass. As we continued down we realised that this was a very good idea as the road was steep and extremely slippery with some serious drop offs. Perhaps this is the reason why the buses don’t go beyond Mbinga!

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    The river at the bottom of the pass was swollen and pumping. Fortunately the bridge was strong and intact and we stopped here to check out the flow. I started to feel the excitement and was looking forward to seeing the lake.

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    Ol' Santa hanging in there. [​IMG]


    I couldn’t believe it when I saw that road construction was happening down here as well. We still had a few kilometers to go before we reached the village and this soon to be completed road led us into the Lake Nyasa port of Mbamba Bay which was lined with tall coconut trees giving it such an exotic and tropical appearance. Little clay-brick houses with scruffy thatch rooves lined the new wide sandy road. Wow...this was really a pretty spot and worth every bit of discomfort experienced along the way.

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    We were heading for the Bio Camp Lodge which was another 5 km further north out of the village giving us some lovely but brief views of the lake. I was bowled over by this place.
    Now if we had kept to our initial plan this would have been the last part of the road that we would have traveled south on from Manda. It was a good road up to the lodge turn off but apparently from there up to Manda it was not recommended in the wet season.


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    On arrival at the Bio Camp we were initially disappointed and wanted to find alternative accommodation. On glancing around it looked unkempt and poorly maintained and when Roxy discovered the monkeys in a cage she was furious. Peter was the guy to talk to and he showed us around the place.
    The rondavels were out of our budget as there were no card facilities and we were keen to pitch our tents on the beach next to the lapha but this was not allowed as the local fisherman and friends walked through this area as we discovered later in the day. So after a bit of discussion amongst ourselves we decided to hang around here and pitched our tents under the insect infested thatch roof structure further back from the shore that passed as the campsite. It was a tight squeeze but we weren’t letting Roxy pitch her tent under another shelter which was a bit further away from us...she was to stay close to us.

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    The joys of your own room [​IMG]

    Kingsley chatted with Peter, who kindly offered to find out for us, about options of catching a ferry to Likoma Island from here. As we didn’t want to return to Songea, or take our short cut from Mbinga that we had so confidently plotted, in order to reach the Matchedje border post that was 130 km south of Songea. From the border post is was another approximate 130 km to Cobue (Mozambique) over a range of mountains and down to the shoreline about 40 km north of Cobue via an insignificant little road that spelt trouble in this wet weather.

    Being the only visitors here we could enjoy the shelter on the beach for ourselves as we spread our wet washing around. The setting was so pretty and magical making the lake look inviting and within minutes Roxy and I were in that water enjoying a good soapy, and much needed, wash down in the warm crystal clear water. Peter had arranged for his wife to make us a lovely big pot of fresh filter coffee. We made some popcorn to nibble on and decided that perhaps two nights here would be an awesome treat. The fishermen in their dugouts had started returning and were selling off their fresh supplies.


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    Popcorn flying ...and beers flowing!!

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    The setting sun cast a stunning light across the beach and as it started sinking over the western horizon a beach fire was being made and chairs dragged out for us to lounge on and chill. What a perfect setting. We settled back, relaxed and started to appreciate this little patch of paradise.

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    Dinner was provided and was a delicious spread of rice, cream spinage, roast potatoes, a spicy tomato salsa and desert was chopped pineapple. We devoured this meal with great speed and enthusiasm.

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    By 9 pm we crawled carefully into our tents so as not to upset any creepy crawlies in the thatch and slept soundly.
    #22
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  3. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    284
    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    DAY 9: MONDAY 24 DECEMBER 2018
    MBAMBA BAY to SOMEWHERE ON THE MOZAMBIQUE SHORE
    FERRY TRIP!



    “It’s a magical world, ol’ buddy....
    ...Let’s go exploring!” Calvin & Hobbes



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    This map indicates the route we had planned to do...either going to Songea and then down south...or the short cut, avoiding Songea...and very crudely showing our actual route on the ferry. This map is for the next 2 days.

    It was a comfortable night’s sleep and for once the rains didn’t taunt us. The skies were clear and our spirits lifted. We were looking forward to another day of lazing around and exploring our surroundings. Kingsley and Peter ended up going back to the port to find out about ferries as no one was around yesterday to assist, while Roxy and I lazed around on the beach and spent time entertaining the monkeys. We had grown fond of this place. Peter was the manager here but his uncle, who was married to a German lady, owned it. On the visitors register one could see that it was the Germans and Australians who favored this camp and strangely enough no South Africans. There is other accommodation available in Mbamba Bay but we didn’t have time to check it out.

    Kingsley returned with the news that there was a ferry departing from the port within the next hour ,and it would reach Likoma Island in about 9 hours (despite its close proximity to Mozambique, it falls under Malawi). Awesome... we weren’t allowing ourselves to see this ferry trip as a cop out to our original plans as we had got further than expected and weren’t turning back as we were still ‘squaring the circle’ as best we can. Admittedly, this ferry trip would be an easy way out but at the same time something different, exciting and unexpected. This 90 km ferry trip would save us the long wet, muddy 420 km inland trip through the border post, over the mountains and back to the shoreline at Cobue.

    With great enthusiasm we packed, loaded our bikes, said our farewells and admired the passing scenery again as we headed into town. We stocked up with some water and biscuits at the local shop before heading to the immigration and customs office next to the port to get stamped out of Tanzania.

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    All excited we rushed off again to where the ferry was departing from as we didn’t want to be late...and to my horror there was this same type of little s*#t boat we saw at Nkata Bay. The only thing in its favour though was the little blue plastic shelter. Okay...I had to be mature about this and remind myself why we were doing this.... at least we would be close to the shore...the locals were using this mode of transport all the time ...it was too late to change our minds...I finally came to terms with our situation and convinced myself that all would be fine as it would only take 9 hours....we were now committed.

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    While we waited for the ‘Ferry man’ to arrive we watched in awe as loads and loads and loads of supplies were being carried from a building to the ferry. Huge sacks of maize, sacks of wash powder, cases of cold drinks, pockets of cement, plastic containers, bags of luggage, more and more and more boxes of stuff just kept coming. Now we started worry if we would even get a space to sit let alone get three heavy motorbikes onto the boat. The longer we sat there and watched the more convinced we were that getting on that ferry was not going to be possible. There were so many people around also waiting to clamber aboard.

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    Eventually the Boss Man arrived and told us we had to pay him more money than was previously discussed as our bikes were bigger than he expected. The price was already 300 000 Tsh (+/- R1800). Kingsley stood his ground and refused to pay more as we had no more Tsh. Eventually they agreed to accept that price and they called some strong guys over to load the bikes. Now they demanded some money...fair enough I suppose...so we parted with another USD15. I couldn’t actually believe that they were still able to find space for us. However, they did have to off load several bags of cement to allow for the weight of our bikes.

    It was fascinating to see how quickly and efficiently these guys loaded our bikes. Within about 20 minutes our bikes were neatly packed and stable on the ferry. But to my dismay I also noticed how buckets of water were being scooped up from within the ferry and tossed overboard. Should I be freaked out!?


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    My bike being loaded.


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    Roxy's bike being loaded. They appeared rather amused by the fact that her bike was so small.[​IMG]

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    Kingsley's bike getting heaved on. We had to remove our luggage as it was rather heavy.
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    The three bikes all looking comfy and ready to sail.


    Just ensuring that a few safety measures are put in place !! [​IMG] [​IMG]
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    #23
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  4. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    284
    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    The boat was already sitting low in the water as the people began to wade knee deep, with their personal belongings, and climb aboard and heaven only knows where they were all going to sit. The only way to access this boat was to walk carefully along the strip of wood around the edge of it, hunched forward so as to avoid bashing your head on the shelter. Negotiating this with a backpack, a helmet, heavy wet boots and one hand was rather tricky but by some miracle we all found a space on top of, in between, next to, squashed up and firmly ensconced in any available gap. Oh yes...a box of chickens also made their way on to the pile of passengers. One lady made herself comfy on top of Kingsley’s bike, Roxy was initially perched on top of several cases of cold drink, Kingsley wedged himself between a wooden support and a bag of wash powder while I perched on the edge of a narrow strip of wood. We tried as best we could to make ourselves comfortable while looking forward to this little snap decision adventure.

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    All aboard!
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    Finally, shortly after midday we were putting slowly out of the bay. A few minutes into our great adventure the motor spluttered to a halt and all engine life was lost. Well now, that was a reassuring start! Fortunately the tiller man knew what to do and we spluttered back to life cruising at a mean 10 km/hour. This occurred a few more times

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    As we left the bay and rounded the head land we saw a huge hotel perched on the edge with an awesome view of the lake. This took us by surprise as it appeared out of place and we were totally unaware of it. To be quite honest we all preferred our basic accommodation at the Bio Camp.

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    The local passengers appeared to be wary of us and I felt as if we might have been trespassing as there were no exchanges of smiles or any attempts at pleasantries. One chap spoke a bit of English but also said very little, however, two chaps just behind us, handling the boat were rather pleasant.

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    As the time passed the three of us shifted around and changed butt positions regularly looking for a better spot. Everything seemed too hard, too bumpy, too narrow and just simply uncomfortable. Yet the other passengers hardly moved and all appeared to be comfortable and satisfied with their spot.

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    As we putted forward at a snails pace, rocking side-to-side with the bashing of the small waves we became quite sleepy but had nowhere to lean back on and rest the wary head. At one stage I had my legs dangling over the edge into the water and tried to lean against the sacks. We were still in our riding gear but had removed our boots and shoved them under the bikes. There was a narrow space between the bikes and other supplies that had no pallet on top and the water sloshed back and forth through the length of the boat. This was a place to avoid placing bare feet.

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    Every so often the guy at the front of the boat would start bailing buckets of water from the boat into the lake. I tried hard not to dwell on this. After what seemed like hours we could look into the distance and still see where we had come from – we were going somewhere slowly! At one stage we stopped near the shore and a small boat paddle out to us with more passengers and luggage.....yes....more passengers and luggage and boxes and boxes of supplies. These were tossed unceremoniously on top of the other stuff and the new passengers somehow found a place to settle

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    This collecting of passengers happened a few more times that afternoon. At one beach stop we were allowed to get off and run to the end of the beach to find a bush.

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    At the final stop there was a lot of shouting going on between our boat and the other little boats. It appeared people were being turned away. I kept thinking that we had encroached on their space and perhaps they were annoyed with us.

    Later in the afternoon it started to rain and the make shift roof turned into an amazing reservoir that decided to leak onto any limb or body that was in its way. To add to this torment the occasional careless wave crashed over the edge and added to the collection at the bottom of the boat. No one appeared to be concerned so we sat there and tried our best to ignore the discomfort and enjoy our ‘magical adventure’!

    After what seemed like ages it started to get dark. This made it very difficult for the skipper to see the fishing nets stretched out in the water which resulted in nets being dragged and caught up in the propeller and this would take up a bit of time to cut away. I was just hoping that they had taken into account all these little delays when they told us it would take 9 hours as I was now really looking forward to reaching Likoma Island.

    As the blackened sky and the darkening water merged into each other so the many lit hurricane lamps from the distant fishing boats and dugouts began to twinkle in the darkness, now creating ‘the lake of stars’. It was actually David Livingston, over 150 years ago, who famously named Lake Malawi, ‘The lake of Stars’. It looked so peaceful out there in the darkness and accompanied with the lulling noise of the engine and the gentle rocking of the boat it gave one a false sense of pleasure and relaxation.

    We tried to scan the horizon for any signs of the Island protruding out into the darkness but there was nothing yet. Surely it wouldn’t be much longer. But our skipper had other plans!! At about 10 pm we turned in towards the shore and headed for the few nearby lights. In broken English we were told that the weather was bad and we would stop here for 2 hours. Well, it wasn’t raining, the wind wasn’t blowing, the water was calm and a few stars were visible, so all looked hunky-dory to us. But, who were we to argue...we were in their hands now. Once anchor was thrown we all scrambled off the boat, some with blankets, into warm knee-deep water and waded to shore to wait out the ‘bad weather’. Everyone just filtered into the darkness and disappeared but one lady, whom I hadn’t even been aware of on the boat, came up to us and indicated a sleeping position with her hands against her face. We assumed that she was going home to sleep and we waved her goodbye with lovely cheerful smiles, chuffed that she had taken the time to be polite and acknowledge us. We sat on the beach, in our wet riding gear and waited... and waited... and waited. Then the penny dropped....we had been abandoned. That friendly lady was indicating to us to get some sleep! There was no intention of getting us to Likoma Island as this was Christmas Eve and clearly everyone had their own plans! We were left to sleep on the shore while everybody else had deserted us to find a place to sleep and probably find something to eat as well. For today, this was clearly the end of the line!

    Once we had accepted our demise we tried to make ourselves as comfortable as possible on the lumpy damp sand.

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    Eventually I decided the boat would be more comfortable. Leaving Kingsley and Roxy sleeping in the sand, I waded back, climbed aboard and with the help of the feint glow from the bare globe swinging from the beam I stretched out uncomfortably on the 6 inch plank along the side of the boat, found a tattered life jacket for my pillow and willed sleep to overcome me. A slight drizzle, later in the night, (aaahh...our bad weather) forced Kingsley and Roxy back on board as well.

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    #24
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  5. sages

    sages Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2008
    Oddometer:
    276
    Location:
    Perth, West Australia
    That sounds like fun (to read about from a comfortable lounge chair :jack)
    #25
    StrongUrge and wildside like this.
  6. flei

    flei cycletherapist

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2013
    Oddometer:
    8,893
    Location:
    Western Mass.
    :clap:clap Wow, what an adventure! Really enjoying this ride and travel report. You all are strong travelers. Seeing that boat, I also hope you are all strong swimmers!
    #26
  7. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    284
    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    I must admit that I was nervous at times. Fortunately we were always close to the shore.
    #27
  8. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    284
    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    DAY 10 : TUESDAY - 25 DECEMBER 2018 [​IMG] *CHRISTMAS DAY* [​IMG]
    FROM SOMEWHERE to COBUE -- MOZAMBIQUE


    “ I will find my way if I can be strong
    I know every mile will be worth my while.
    When I go the distance
    I will be right where I belong.” Alan Mencken (Walt Disney Hercules)



    The rest of the passengers started to arrive back on the boat as the sun started to rise. The skipper called out towards the shore to alert them all of our departure. These passengers seemed to know the drill and were expecting this stopover. We had only brought with us a few snacks and water to get us through yesterday. We now had no food or water...oh...and very little sense of humour left as well. Along with the discomfort factor this wasn’t a good combination. There was no Christmas cheer...in fact I think we even forgot it was Christmas Day! However, as we putted off once again into the calm waters of now LAGO NIASSA (Mozambique spelling) we tried to keep up with the smiles and crack the occasional sarcastic banter to elicit a few laughs. On one such occasion was the faraway look in the locals face as she relieved her bladder into the sloshing water within the boat. She was completely unphased. Kingsley, who had been foolishly standing bare foot in this water promptly abandoned his upright position and placed himself safely on a crate of uncomfortable bottles. At least we got a good laugh from this.

    Eventually, in the distance, we could see Likoma Island pushing up through the southern horizon but it would still take several hours to reach it. During the night while I had a few sleepless hours to ponder things I realised that heading to the island was not such a clever move. As mentioned earlier it was still part of Malawi which meant that we would have to pay 3 x TIP’s of $20 per bike as well as 10 000 kwacha each. This doesn’t seem too bad but in a few days time we would be back in Mozambique and once again entering Malawi down south which meant another pay out. This was going to add up to too many bucks. We actually hadn’t budgeted for this multi entry cost into Malawi. So we changed plans and decided that off loading in Mozambique was probably a better idea.

    We chatted to the chap who could speak a bit of English and he told us that they would be stopping in about another hour’s time in a small village called Ntobe, which was 30 odd km north of Cobue, to off load some supplies and passengers. Roxy turned on her Google Maps so we could check out our location. We were just a small blue dot moving south on the map and sure enough there was this little village right at the point where our original route coming over the mountain reached the shoreline. We couldn’t have asked for a better spot to end our ferry trip.

    Decision made...we would depart the ferry at the next stop. It was a lovely calm lake as we slowly chugged our way closer to Ntobe. It was eventually time to gather up our wet boots, backpacks, helmets and other luggage and once again clambered off the boat and off load into the knee deep warm water and bundle our belongings on the beach which by now had accumulated a few curious onlookers. Our translator friend placed his parcel with ours and instructed me to say there and look after everything. He helped arrange for our bikes to be off loaded. We were pulling on wet smelly socks over wet sandy feet and forcing them back into sopping wet boats while the bikes were being off loaded. These were lifted and dumped unceremoniously from the ferry into a smaller boat, rear wheels stuck up in the air, looking undignified, and pushed to the shore to be off loaded.

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    This feathered friend was one of the passengers ...one can only imagine what his destination is on this Christmas day.


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    Finally all off loaded

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    Preparing to depart.

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    A last look back.

    Once our bikes were safely on shore the men came for their payment. Fortunately we had made arrangements at Mbamba Bay that the payment covered the offload as well. The skipper calmed them down and made arrangements with them. Our new friend kindly made arrangements for a pikki pikki driver, who was transporting one of the other passengers to Cobue, to show us the route out of the village to Cobue. They were in a hurry so we quickly got ourselves organised. Oh my word...these bikes were amazing... with one push of the button they all came back to life with enthusiasm.

    We carefully worked our way through the little narrow walkways within the village, avoiding kids running out the huts curious about the noise, goats, bicycles, and chickens. We were soon on this narrow muddy little road that we should have originally used had we traveled south from the Matchedje Border Post and down past Lupilichi and over the mountains. We were finally back on track!

    Whist mulling over things on the ferry we started doubting our decision about avoiding the roads but after riding a few kilometres we realised that the ferry was actually a perfect alternative. With all the rains there was a lot of runoff from the mountains and little stretches of road washed away. It was necessary to stop and walk across some fast flowing streams and only then would we take the bikes across. The two guys on the pikki pikki were amazing. They would zoot across easily, park their bike and then come back to help us maneuver our heavy bikes over the rocks and through the gushing water.

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    Whilst helping us to cross over one of the streams on Roxy’s bike he clipped a rock which slipped the chain throwing him off balance...fortunately damaging no more than his pride.

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    No good deed goes unpunished.

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    We found this extra work quite tiring but couldn’t just park off and rest as these guys were always rushing. We needed to keep up with them in case we came across more hassles and they certainly knew how to negotiate the messy roads on their humble little bike

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    Eventually we all managed to get across and by this time had attracted quite a crowd.

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    Despite all these delays, pushing, pulling, revving, falling and lifting it was actually good to be back on our bikes. We were all so comfortable and confident on our bikes by now and could deal with the curved balls Africa tossed us. At least we were in control of our day and time.

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    #28
    forgorin, Saso, squadraquota and 2 others like this.
  9. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    284
    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    If I recall correctly this short stretch of road to Cobue took us at least 2.5 hours. Now we were chuffed we didn’t attempt the other route...but I’m sure we would have had a lot more exciting stories to tell.
    It was a relief arriving in the tiny village of Cobue which was really off the beaten track. We said our thank you’s and good byes to our helpers as they were rushing off again for Metangula, another 100 km’s away. We were now at the main intersection of Cobue and I spotted the ruins of the old Catholic Church further up the road. Other than the lakeside setting, the ruins of an old school, used as a wartime base by the Frelimo, its close proximity to Likoma Island and it being the ‘gateway to Mozambique’ when travelling from Malawi via ferry thus the need for an immigration post, Cobue actually had very little to attract the adventure traveler.

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    Soon a smartly dressed and arrogant officer approached us and demanded we follow him to the immigrations office, which we did and got our passports stamped. We found something cold to drink and enquired about accommodation. We were aware of a hotel and backpackers and were directed to the scruffiest building on the corner. Roxy kept cavey with the bikes while we checked it out. We were taken to the back rooms. It actually wasn’t too bad as it appeared clean and okayish...we’ve stayed in worse accommodation on previous trips, so we went back to the bikes to discuss the possibility of staying there. A scruffy dressed chap with a big smile came up to us and introduced himself as ‘James’ and informed us that his father was known as ‘Bond’ .....hahahaha...this guy was so cool dressed in his fluffy blue tracky pants. He offered to walk with us to the impressive and highly recommended Nkwichi Lodge, 7km further south. This place was way out of our budget so had to decline the offer. About 5km further south of this is Mchenga Wede, which offers camping but from what we could gather it was also necessary to walk or take a local dhow.

    He then indicated for us to follow him down a little track towards the beach. Here stood the left overs of what could have once been an awesome little resort. The room he showed us contained a queen size bed with a dusty mosquito net and mould had worked its way up from the floor into the walls. Mosquito mesh plugged with dead and decaying insects was a poor excuse for a window. Off the bedroom was another small room which served as a bathroom. There was a hole in the floor for squatting purposes and a drain for showering over. Two big buckets of water and a small jug served as water for the loo, the shower and for consumption. Later in the day we were supplied with a bucket of hot water for showering purposes.


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    We pushed aside all negative thoughts and decided that this would be just great. We were only charged R100 for the night ...so no complaints! Soon we were all washed up and clean and Kingsley very kindly offered to do all our laundry.

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    Roxy and I went back up into the market with James and bought eggs, onions, garlic and bread rolls as well as some of the fabric that the ladies wrap around themselves. This was used along with our sarongs to cover the bed.
    Once we were relaxing with Kingsley cooking up a storm we thanked our lucky stars that we found this unique little spot on the beach.

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    We had soon spread ourselves out, hung up our laundry, started to chill and take in our surroundings. Mama hen and her chickies navigated their way through the grass in front of us trying desperately to avoid the hungry hawk that kept trying to steal her babies, goats bleated loudly from under a paw-paw tree, dogs playfully pounced on each other while the kids kept their distance and played games amongst themselves. It was actually a tranquil setting. We had been dirty, hungry and uncomfortable for a couple of days and for us this was a perfect spot to end off our Christmas day.

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    #29
    forgorin, eaglescan, Saso and 7 others like this.
  10. WHYNOWTHEN

    WHYNOWTHEN where are the pedals?

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    824
    Location:
    closer to Baja
    Badass!!!
    You guys are awesome to have mostly kept your sense of humor through all of that.
    Well done and thanks for taking the time to do the ride report.
    #30
    wildside likes this.
  11. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    464
    Location:
    Lowlands
    A Christmas you will never forget! Riding with you must have been a helluva lot more exciting for Santa than with boring ole Rudolph :lol3

    Thanks for writing the RR, and what a wonderful thing to have this adventure as a family. :thumb
    #31
    wildside likes this.
  12. Gbags

    Gbags Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Oddometer:
    137
    Great looking ride report!
    The download is really slow where I am so I’ll read it tomorrow.
    Thanks very much.
    Graham
    #32
  13. Gbags

    Gbags Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Oddometer:
    137
    The younger of the two blondes...has she walked the Camino de Santiago by any chance?

    It’s a bit of an odd question, but I reckon she has.
    #33
  14. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    284
    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa

    Hi there, Thanks for following the Report.
    Yes, Roxy did walk the Camino de Santiago. We walked in September 2017 from St.Jean Pied de Port (France) to Santiago and continued to Fisterra and finished off in Muxia.
    Did you notice the shell on her bag or did we perhaps meet along the way somewhere?


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    #34
    eaglescan likes this.
  15. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    284
    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    DAY 11: WEDNESDAY – 26 DECEMBER 2018
    COBUE to LICHINGA
    8.30am - 3.30 pm = 265 km




    “ Day after day I’m more confused,
    Yet I look for the light in the pouring rain,
    You know that’s a game that I hate to lose.
    I’m Feeling the strain, ain’t it a shame.” Doby Gray




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    Now that was the best night’s sleep I’ve had on this trip. Three of us on one bed, no aircon, no fan, just an insect infested mosquito screen on a windowless frame. We woke up ready to take on a new day.

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    Likoma Island can be seen in the distance on the right

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    We knew we were in for a long day as we were not going to Metangula as originally planned, which was only about 100 km further south. At this stage we were now getting over this trip and had enough of the rain and mud. Metangula had nothing special to offer us other than touching base with the eastern shores.

    In hindsight this was a foolish decision. We should have just stuck to our plan and persevered. When I look back now we actually enjoyed the basicness of what the eastern shores offered us. If you’re prepared to pay big bucks then you will find the upmarket accommodation with the swimming pools and cocktails. But as I mentioned earlier, we now smelt home and were keen to get back to Cape Maclear. We were now going to head for Lichinga.

    After packing up we went into the village to look for fuel. There was a friendly elderly lady who was fascinated with Roxy and wanted to hold her hand. She also passed on some wise words to Roxy which really touched all of us. “The road is very bad, you might not do it, but you will try your best and help each other” . Wow...such motherly words. What were we in for now?

    Someone mentioned no water but lots of mud. While we were discussing the road a truck drove in down the ‘main’ street and we were told it took him 4 days to get to Cobue. I’m not sure how true this was ... but oh well...we were in for a long day I think.
    So with nervous anticipation we started our journey after making a brief stop to check out the church ruins and all its little visitors.

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    Despite the heavy rains we had during the night the dirt roads were quite acceptable and riding was actually a breeze despite the rocks, ditches, sand and a few wet patches. So the going was good. And we made good time. Now what was this ‘aunty’ talking about and why was she trying to spook I like that.

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    The villages were always so clean and tidy.


    Well, it was about 40kms into the ride when we were presented with long stretches of slippery muddy patches challenging us. This continued for most of the way to the first Metangula turnoff. Somehow we managed to hang onto our sense of humour and we all coped well in the mud and took the opportunity to take lots of photos....as you will see. Roxy was such a sport and was actually enjoying herself....I know I was. I just felt at ease on my bike and knew I could rely on it to get through this mess. So the wise old lady knew what she was talking about. We passed through only a few villages along this remote stretch of road.

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    MORE MUD.....

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    ....JUST A LITTLE BIT MORE MUD !!

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    ......AND MORE MUD!!

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    FUN IN THE MUD!
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    #35
    squadraquota, mbanzi and flei like this.
  16. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    284
    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    Our day wouldn't be complete without one of these off moments.:muutt

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    Shortly before we reached Metangula there was a turn off to the left that led us onto a narrow road which cuts through the bush to the tar road that would take us to Lichinga. At this point I was keen to go via Metangula but the other two wanted to get a move on and get to Lichinga via this shorter route.

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    On taking this route we realised it was a road less traveled. But despite this we actually enjoyed it...there was nothing tricky about it and eventually found a nice shady spot for a break and a snack. We saw no vehicles, villages or people along this track and it was nice and quiet.

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    After about 4 hrs we popped out onto the much desired tar road. We couldn’t resist opening up the throttle and accelerating towards the distance. The freedom of speed felt good....It was like a horse smelling home. From here it was another 165 kms to Lichinga. This was going to be a breeze...all on tar and a quick ride despite the occasional potholes.

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    We made such good time during the first 100 km or so. Then the heavens opened, dumping buckets of rain over us. Water gushed down the roads and visibility was poor, slowing us down considerably.

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    The rest of the rainy ride to Lichinga took forever. As we had not originally planned on stopping in this town we had no idea of accommodation availability. We sort shelter at a fuel station and Roxy found the Lichinga Hotel on Google. We punched it into the GPS and carefully following Kingsley we negotiated the traffic, pouring rain and huge puddles. When the security guard saw us approach the front door he was rather hesitant in opening up for us. Two extremely cold and saturated girls squelched their way through the clean tiled foyer leaving huge puddles of water prints marking our pathway to reception. I don’t think they were too impressed with these messy, dirty, wet and unattractive travelers. Roxy kindly sponsored our nights accommodation. We had planned to do so much more camping but due to circumstances it wasn’t always possible. While Roxy finished up at reception we took the bikes around to the back of the hotel. Leaving our luggage strapped to the bikes and lugging only our sopping backpacks we found our way up to our very spacious and comfortable room.


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    We hung up clothes in the empty cupboard, draped some over the windows, spread them out over the furniture and hoped that by some miracle they would be dry in the morning. Our room or place of rest always looked like a bomb had hit it....there was always stuff all over.

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    It was hot showers, dry clothes with toasted sarmies and chips in bed.

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    #36
  17. Gbags

    Gbags Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Oddometer:
    137
    I saw the shell.
    I walked it last year, same route, the Frances. I went alone, met a guy on the plane, met a few more the first couple of nights and we mostly finished together 30 days later and are still mates. Two Yanks, an Oz, two Brits, a Latvian, an Irish, an Italian, two Germans etc. Great experience. Now I’m in the States, finishing up a long ride and I see people walking the Appalachian Trail which is another kettle of fish entirely!
    #37
    wildside likes this.
  18. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,332
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    I can't believe the mud. I don't know how you're doing it.
    #38
    wildside likes this.
  19. Gbags

    Gbags Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Oddometer:
    137
    This is a great report of a wonderful trip. I’m half way through and love it.
    #39
    wildside likes this.
  20. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    284
    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    DAY 12 : THURSDAY - 27 DECEMBER 2018
    LICHINGA to MANDIMA BORDER POST (Moz/Malawi) --> 155 km
    -- SKINNY HIPPO (MALAWI) --- 65 km [Total 220 km]
    TIME : 9.00am - 8.00 pm



    “Roll on thunder shine on lightnin’
    The days are long and the nights are frightnin’
    Nothing matters and that’s the hell of it.” Paul Williams



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    We woke up to a beautiful sunny day, dry clothes and in good spirits.

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    Soon after breakfast we set off once again on a beautiful newly tarred road. The map indicated a main road heading south to the border post and once again we gobbled up the miles. Now this was more like it...yup we were heading towards Malawi. Once again we were meant to be heading west to Meponda on the eastern shores of the lake, but Cape Maclear was calling...so we gave it a miss.

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    It was fun watching Roxy and Kingsley up front. The little 200 took a bit of strain up the hills and we often rode alongside each other encouraging the little bike to make more of an effort. From experience we knew that this easy riding on lovely roads would be short lived and sure enough after about 25 km the wonderful road came to an end and we were dealt a new set of cards. The road surface changed and once again under construction...which always spelt M.E.S.S!! We were now required to weave through the many detours crossing over the unusable road that was under construction. We often came across a trucker, tanker or taxi firmly embedded in mud unable to move any further for perhaps a day or two. It was necessary for us to find a little gap to squeeze through or another muddy, squelchy exit to negotiate our way out. Despite the mess we all managed to manouver our way through without any mishaps. [ Roxy’s comment for the day was... “Oh , it was f*^#~king horrible – such an awful day.” ] Hahahaha...we can laugh about it now.

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    We stopped on the edge of a little village to confirm with the GPS we were on the correct route and a bunch of little kiddies came to check us out. In Tanzania they kept their distance, but in Mozambique they were curious and friendly. We took some photos of them and to their amusement and amazement we showed them what they looked like on screen. This would always elicit much laughter.
    As we were getting ready to leave one youngster came up to me and handed me a mango with a huge smile on his face....well this small but kind gesture nearly brought me to tears as he moved over to Kingsley and Roxy offering them one as well. It’s moments like this that really touches the heart and makes up for all the discomforts we’ve been experiencing. These guys are living such simple lives yet have feelings of compassion towards strangers. This took me back to our previous East Africa trip when on returning through Malawi we stopped on the side of the road for a rest, when some locals, busy with ’agricultural activities’ alongside the road walked up to us with peeled mangoes and a bucket lid full of water for us to rinse our hands. Wow...this was truly generous and polite offerings!!

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    #40