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The Long Way to Lilongwe : Part 1

Hills, Heat and Headwind

sunny 29 °C

After leaving our rather sooty mark on Zambia we pedalled on to Lusaka and managed to arrive without causing too much more disruption. Lusaka is a big hectic capital city. As we approached it and the buildings grew bigger we were delighted by the artwork – the shops advertised their wares with beautiful images painted on the walls.

Dad – I took this one for you!

The highlight of Lusaka was meeting 2 spaniards – Aitor and Laura - who have cycled together from India via the Middle East.. they are currently heading to Capetown, where they will turn around and head back up the West Coast of Africa to Spain! It makes our trip look like a teddy bear's picnic, especially when we found out that Igor actually started his trip in SE Asia !

Hardcore spaniards

We had a good early start from Lusaka... however after a short distance we discovered that Rob wasn't going to get very far after his excellent effort the night before with an 'all you can eat' curry.

After a very slow 20km we arrived at a very nice campsite and Rob spent the rest of the day recovering..


Rob sleeping off the 'all you can eat' curry with his new friend.

The cycling was tough.... with hills, heat and a strong headwind for much of the way....

Hills we can deal with.. just put the bike in a low gear, keep pedalling and soon you have a nice view... heat isn't too bad.. just need to keep drinking... but headwind... there is nothing more de-moralising than a strong headwind..

It can literally stop you in your tracks... today I slogged up a long hill.. the only thing keeping me sane was the thought of the cruise down the other side... but as I started the downhill I had to keep pedalling almost as hard - then before I knew it I was struggling up the next hill.. of course you look forward to the flat parts.. but they are the worst as the wind really picks up the pace and there is no respite. The buses speed past at 120km/hr wondering why the umzungu cyclist is only going at 10km/h and the umzungu cyclist wonders why he's not on the bus!

Anyway apart from the misery of the headwind...

The scenery has been stunning and there have been stretches of miles at a time between the little villages.


A characteristic feature of rural Zambian life is the production and sale of charcoal. Heaps of smouldering wood are covered in soil so they resemble small burial mounds. After a week the mound is excavated and the charcoal skillfully packed into sacks with at least as much balanced on top as inside.


The sacks are for sale all along the road but the more enterprising businessmen load up their bicycles and head for the towns where they can get a bit more for their efforts.


This guy was making the 80km round trip into Lusaka to peddle his wares!

The day we headed on after Rob recovered was HOT. Hills began to grow out of the flat and we drank a lot.


Mid afternoon our water was getting low. We had a potential campsite lined up but it was still a long way off and we were considering camping in the bush. We stopped at a water pump to refill only to find it had broken the previous month so we headed on. Before long a water lorry with 2 guys in the back passed us on the road. We saw the liquid splashing in the 2 huge vats. It beeped its horn several times and stopped up ahead at the village. We pedalled hard and Rob got in line before all the villagers got there. I checked with the guys that they didn't mind us taking some explaining we had a few empty bottles to fill and we needed quite a lot. They were extremely jovial “Yes. It's fine. We have some, you have some, we all are happy.” Zambians really are so nice and obliging!! I grinned.
“Is it drinking water?” I asked “Is it good to drink?” I gestured with my hand as though drinking from an imaginary glass. “Yes, yes. Very good to drink. Very sweet!” Sweet – It's funny the way language use subtly shifts. Rob shuffled his way up the queue. At the same moment we caught sight of the liquid flowing out of the vats – it was grey - a grey, milky liquid.
“It's beer!!”
“Yes, beer, very good to drink, very sweet.”
It was Chibuku – a local beer made from maize. We put our bottles away and pedalled off laughing, much to the disappointment of the locals and the guys in the back. But we hadn't seen the last of them. Shortly later we found a functioning pump to quench our thirst and filled our bottles there.


We spent the rest of the afternoon and most of the evening leapfrogging the beer truck as it stopped to inebriate the villages in its path washing away our chances of finding a safe place to camp with the Chibuku as it went. We were just starting to re-assess our options when the wobbly writing “dam-view camping and charlets” came into view at the foot of a large hill and we headed a few hundred metres off the road to a beautiful dam escaping the hill until the next day.


The revenue from the camp site goes towards an orphanage in the village. We bathed in hot water from a huge kettle heated over a fire before cooking our supper on the coals.

The next day the hills only got bigger.
We enjoyed stopping at the little markets along the way.

We found delicious samosas filled with potato and rice here and also dough balls which were soon to form a major part of our diet!

and enjoyed reaching the campsite at the Luangwa River even more. We sat on the deck of the lodge slumped in the chairs too exhausted to move. We were so tired that after we'd showered (just in time to avoid an influx of “overlanders”) we didn't even mind spending about £8 on a beef burger each!


Posted by robandpol 02:55 Archived in Zambia Tagged bicycle

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wonderful photos and everything so familiar to us. the baobab trees and scenery so like here along the mombasa/nairobi rd. the lingo similar umzungu ..here mzungu =one wazungu =many.Both your mum's and dad's well we had an amazing hols with our family at Rose Farm.Gather you are 'in' Lake malawi so peaceful. safari njema (good travels) Liz and Ruli

by Liz and Ruli

Polly and Rob,

Great to be in touch with you. Was so infatuated with Ocean Rowers that I let you guys slip into the background. Fascinated by the outstanding photographs and your straight-up writing style.

When I catch up on reading backlogs, will probably start asking Qs. Always wanted to do a north-south trek from Cairo to Jo'berg, but got too old just to walk to the corner store.

Wonderful blogs. Stay healthy and safe. Back to you soon. -Achates


Achates -
Thanks so much for your comments. We are having the most wonderful time - it is such a great adventure and we feel very priviledged to be in a position to be doing it. We are also really enjoying doing the blog. Thanks for your support and for following our adventures - we will be more than happy to field any questions you come up with!!
Pol and Rob

by Ron in Vancouver BC

Hallo Rob and Polly. We are thinking a lot about you and enjoy to go on your website. That restcamp of the mission organisation FCE is called King's Highway, Kalungu, North Zambia. It is 60 km from Tanzanian border. There are 6 rondawels, bathrooms with hot showers and clean kitchenfacilities. There are also another King's Highway at Masaiti, Zambia. For more information Fce's website is www.fce.org.za. Love Louwrens and Jeanne (Greetings from all the children, especially Cari)

by Louwrens and Jeanne

Happy Birthday for yesterday Rob.Still fascinated by your blog - excellent photos and video bits. Hope you get a bit of downhill from now on.
Lots of love to you both. Rob and Ro

by Ro and Rob

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