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:
    280
    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    We were aware of a storm brewing over to the west. The grey clouds hung low and heavy and were split by the occasional flash of lightening while the thunder rumbled towards us. Keeping a beady eye on the distant we picked up our pace as best we could on these troubled roads. Over some time and distance the storm slowly worked its wet way in front of us and it looked like we were heading straight towards it.

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    Kingsley decided now would be an excellent time to stop, have some lunch and wait out the storm. Well...who were we to argue...what did we know about the weather? So out came the provitos, cheese and chocolates which we had unexpectedly found at a little shop at the fuel station on leaving Lichinga – a bit of civilization!

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    While munching away we could hear the sound of gushing water. Puzzled, we followed the sound up the road and noticed volumes of water running down the ditch to right of the road. We looked further up the hill and a deluge of rain water was heading our way. Without hesitation we packed our food away as quickly as possible, got on our bikes and within seconds we were caught up in one almighty storm with nowhere to seek shelter.

    Zeus, ‘God of the Sky’, ‘Ruler of the heavens’, had decided he was not finished with us yet and needed to show us what he was really made of. We had no option but to slowly continue on our way through the down pour with thunder rumbling over head. We were now riding through so many puddles, rain filled ditches, streams of water and poor visibility. Poor Kingsley and Rox didn’t have visors to keep the stinging rain off their faces which made riding even more difficult. But, as on all my adventure rides, I have always convinced myself that as long as the wheels are turning all was well.

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    All was well until we rode through deep water over a cause way and Roxy’s bike decided that enough was enough. Her bike lost power. We limped into the outskirts of a little deserted village where eventually her bike spluttered to a hault. The wheels had stopped turning!
    Good old Offside brought out his tool bag and took up his now familiar post once again alongside the bike. In the pouring rain he tried to find and fix the problem. Eventually off came the seat and the tank.

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    Kingsley at his familiar post

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    In the mean time the little river running through the village and alongside the road was getting higher and flowing stronger.


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    A sopping Santa.

    Kingsley tried for about 45 minutes to solve the problem and started talking about having to now tow the bike back to Malawi. Well for me this wasn’t even an option...it was simply too dangerous.
    As the rain started to subside so the locals started appearing from their homes and shops. It resembled ants crawling out from the woodwork. Of course we were now the center of attention and had attracted a huge inquisitive crowd. Fortunately, there’s always one saviour in the crowd!!

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    This particular guy could speak a smattering of English and he came forward to assist Kingsley and mentioned that there was a bike mechanic further on up the road.
    In the meantime, there was also a broken down truck in front of us and another truck tried to drag it and turn it around but only managed to get it firmly stuck across the road with its front in the torrent of water. Laughter erupted from within the spectators, losing interest in us and running across to witness more excitement at the new source of entertainment. There was also a loud crashing noise as the walls of a nearby building succumbed to the downpour. Once again much cheering and clapping of hands. This was like something from a bad movie.

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    #41
    forgorin, Saso and mbanzi like this.
  2. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    280
    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    We proceeded, along with the youngsters help, to push Roxy’s bike to the mechanic further on up the road. He knew exactly what to look for as he was familiar with this type of bike. Within half an hour he had cleared the jets in the carb. As he started the bike there was a loud cheer of relief from us and the gathering crowds. We promptly paid the guy (R200) and said our farewells and were eager to get on the road again as we were a bit concerned now about this unexpected delay as we needed to get to the border post before they closed at 6 pm.

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    Shelter from the pouring rain

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    We got life [​IMG]

    Once on our way again the weather improved but not the roads.

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    We came across another construction area where we were instructed to stop. One of the excavating machines was being used to rescue a taxi that had slipped off the road and become embedded in a muddy ditch. Once it was recovered we cautiously followed another huge, heavy vehicle which slowly led the way down this messy area and half way up the other side it also proceeded to get stuck. Often on our trips we were grateful for being on motorbikes, as mentioned before we could negotiate a way around these tricky spots and pop out the other side without a hassle. So once again we slipped and slid our way across to the other side of the road and hurried on our way once again.

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    There she goes again [​IMG]

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    It was with great relief when we finally arrived at the insignificant little border post late in the afternoon. It only took a few minutes, a look of disinterest, a stamp and we departed Mozambique.

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    We had already prepared ourselves for our entry into Malawi. We had allocated funds for our TIP’s and road tax. We now knew how to do it and were ready for a quick entry into Malawi as we were now running so late and still had another 65 km’s of riding to do to reach our overnight stop. But....it wasn’t to be!!

    We promptly filled in the forms and went to the cashier to pay. I had $20 for one TIP and the equivalent in Malawi kwacha (MWK) for the other two TIP’s as well as the 30 000 MWK for the 3x road tax. But now they wanted only dollars, no MWK for the TIP’s. Now we had to find someone to exchange the MWK’s for dollars. They wanted a lot more MWK in exchange but we didn’t have any and after a lot of haggling and begging we managed to find some Mozambique Metical (MT). When the one guy saw our 1000MT his eyes lit up and he tried to snatch it from us. With Roxy’s and Googles assistance we made up the balance of funds and eventually got our damn $40. This bartering and time restraints at border posts was getting too stressful for my liking and there and then decided East Africa on motorbikes was over for me. No longer could I handle all this hassle!!

    Eventually our paperwork was over and we entered the busy and dirty village of Chiponde. There was very little riding space making progress slow. We were now really pressed for time as the sun was dipping low creating the dreaded long shadows. Once again we were doing what we had promised ourselves NEVER to do again – riding in the dark!!

    To make things worse Roxy’s bike had no headlights..somewhere along the trip, unbeknown to us, they had failed. While we could we made good headway. We were heading to Skinny Hippo on the southern tip of Lake Malawi, shortly after Mangochi. As darkness descended Roxy put on her right indicator, stuck close to dads tail light with mum close up behind her and just to the right trying to shine some sort of light in front of her. We all needed to really concentrate and we worked well together. There was just enough light for us to get an idea of what would have been beautiful view of the southern part of the lake as we carefully worked our way down to the bottom of the pass by which time it was now pitch black. The traffic was now quite hectic as we neared the next town and the going slow.
    Eventually we arrived in Mangochi. Without the GPS we would never have navigated our way through it. Again we had to be careful not to get parted from each other. This part of the trip seemed never ending but as we moved away from the town the traffic was less but by now we were exhausted, neck and shoulders tense and eyes battling to focus in the dim headlight. But we had to look on the bright side...we finally had a day that ended with no rain.
    We eventually saw the Skinny Hippo sign and followed it for another few kilometers and to our surprise and relief they were still open and had accommodation for us. An added bonus was the open kitchen and much needed pub.


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    A ride ahead and a bath behind. [​IMG]

    It didn’t take long for us to shed our dirty clothes, admire the rarely seen star studded sky and order our well deserved G & T’s whilst overlooking the 'lake of stars'. It was a relief to be back in Malawi unharmed, safe, still friends and happy! [​IMG]
    #42
    forgorin, Saso, flei and 4 others like this.
  3. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2009
    Oddometer:
    20,128
    Location:
    Edmonton, Alberta
    It's as though your mission is to find the worst roads ever. Unbelievable. :D
    #43
  4. Gbags

    Gbags Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2016
    Oddometer:
    133
    I really fancy bike travel in East Africa but your blog has convinced me to do it the dry season! You must be tough and cheerful people.
    #44
    wildside likes this.
  5. yamalama

    yamalama wet coaster

    Joined:
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    2,671
    Location:
    vancouver bc
    yikes.
    well done!
    #45
  6. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    Dry season would certainly make it easier...but fortunately we're all quite chilled people and packed our sense of humour as well. We kind of expected to have a hard time due to all the rain as we had experienced it before when we 'Rode the Rift',
    #46
  7. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    Thanks for following :thumb
    #47
    yamalama likes this.
  8. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

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

    DAY 13 : FRIDAY - 28 DECEMBER 2018

    SKINNY HIPPO to FAT MONKEYS
    Distance : 65 km



    “Well it’s all right, riding around in the breeze
    Well it’s all right, if you live the life you please
    Well it’s all right, even if the sun don’t shine
    Well it’s all right, we’re going to the end of the line.” Traveling Wilbury’s


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    There was only a short ride ahead of us today, with all being on tar, so we decided not to rush our departure. I also wanted to slow things down as this was our last day and despite all the hard work and distance we had covered I was still quite saddened by the fact that it was our last days ride and that our adventure was almost over. Today we would be closing the circle.
    This resort didn’t accept cards so Kingsley needed to go the 20 km back to Mangochi to withdraw cash from the ATM. Roxy and I started to pack up for our departure and in doing so had a bit of fun photo time with our buffs. There was never a dull moment on this trip.

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    We then made ourselves comfortable around the pool and enjoyed relaxing until Kingsley returned ...without any cash.


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    Nicely swept beach

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    The Mozambique mountains in the distance.

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    Catching a relaxing moment.

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    Once again the mastercards wouldn’t work. Fortunately Roxy had an American Visa card which was readily accepted at most places. On returning to Mangochi, Kingsley was successful in getting some cash. By noon we were eventually on our way and enjoying the last leg of our adventure that would finally complete our loop around the lake.

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    Both a little tired of photo shoots [​IMG]

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    One more stop for photos [​IMG]

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    We stopped for some final photos and went to check out the curios under the massive baobab tree where we turned off the main road to ride the final stretch to Cape Maclear.


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    This was the last leg of the journey.
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    We all decided to swop bikes. [​IMG]

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    The final count down [​IMG]

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    It was a proud moment for me and one of relief for the other two as we approached the comfortable Fat Monkeys Lodge. We had completed what we had set out to do... achieved our goal...despite avoiding one section of road due to advice, bad weather and troubled roads.

    Roxy had displayed amazing strength of character and had taken the good with the bad, popped out at the end still smiling and, believe it or not, scheming about our next trip. It was a tremendous relief for Kingsley as he had returned us girls safely back home after maintaining and repairing the bikes, navigating us through rain, mist, mud and water, cooking for us, doing the occasional laundry and just always making sure we were happy and safe.

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    HIGH FIVE ALL !! [​IMG]

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    #48
    Little Bike, Lopburi, Saso and 3 others like this.
  9. wildside

    wildside Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2009
    Oddometer:
    280
    Location:
    Kwa Zulu Natal South Africa
    We had been so fortunate to still be able to participate in these adventures as a family and these memories will always treasured.

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    We chilled for two nights at Fat Monkeys before loading up our tired bikes and heading back home.

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    MORE TO FOLLOW SHORTLY [​IMG]
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    #49
    Little Bike, mbanzi, Saso and 5 others like this.
  10. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    Outstanding! Loving every minute.
    #50
    flei likes this.