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The Long Way to Lilongwe : Part 2

Zooming through Zambia

sunny 30 °C

The burgers did the trick. Fully revived we stormed up out from the river Luangwa and enjoyed incredible scenery. There were few villages and those we passed through were small, most without even a market

The corner shop!

However fish could be found in all of them if you looked hard enough.

We caused much excitement as we passed through these small villages – even the cockerels seemed to crow “Aba Zuuuungu, Aba Zuuuuuungu” (White people)

A beautiful spot by a stream in the middle of vast woodland that we passed through about 40km into the day would have been the perfect place to set up camp but since it was only about 10am we made do with replenishing our water and enjoying a peaceful break. We knew we would be in the bush that night as there would be nowhere for miles.

By the time we did start looking for a place to stop the villages were larger and more frequent. We carried on nearly until sunset and left the road unspotted heading for a small mango orchard. The trees provided good cover and we washed and set up camp. We had bought plenty of tomatoes and onions and were sat preparing a sauce for our spaghetti when out of the darkness we heard a cough. We saw 3 or 4 men approaching from the other side of the tent. They hadn't seen us but with the fire burning and our things scattered around it was inevitable that they would. We greeted them and they approached towering over us with their pangas (machetes) and the heavy smell of alcohol lingering in the air around them. We rose quickly to our feet feeling pretty nervous. There were more voices and looking to our left we saw a group of maybe a dozen more men coming from the direction of the road all of them brandishing clubs, hoes or more pangas.

It seemed as though all the men from the village had turned out. And they had! But not as we feared it might be to clear out the abazungu. They were in search of the cow thief! Apparently someone had been through the village during the day and taken a cow and must now be hiding out somewhere on the outskirts. The alarm was raised and the fighting aged men gathered. They were sweeping through the area when our torch was spotted from the road. The men were coming to retrieve the cow and deal out justice. But we were OK. They were very friendly and assured us we were safe, taking pains to put us at our ease. We chatted for a while and then off they went to complete their errand. As the quiet returned we sat down to eat our meal under the mangos. Our thoughts turned to the cow thief hiding out in the bush. We did not envy him in the slightest.

We slept well. Packed up early and headed on. We never heard any more about the cow, or the thief. The remnants of the steep hills we had defeated over the last couple of days stretched themselves out over the next 20km until they became very manageable undulating waves. We covered good distances and re-fuelled frequently at the markets and roadside stalls on plump tomatoes, sugar-coated dough balls, freshly baked bread, bananas and convenient sized packets of home grown peanuts roasted, salted, bagged and sold outside peoples huts. We compared techniques for carrying loads on bicycles amongst the cycling fraternity...



We were quite confused to hear a plaintive bleat from the back of this bike! It crescendoed into a panicked cry whenever we got too close behind.

The original “people mover” - We saw another guy with his wife on the pannier rack carrying a child on her back and their son sitting on the cross bar – 4 on 1 bike!

and we bought tomatoes from the cutest tomato vendor in Zambia.


Initially gathered around the table waving to us her friends scattered when we stopped and drew near. She was quite overwhelmed and there was a long silence when we asked her how she was but then the shock subsided and she answered with the most beautiful clarity in her voice “I'm very well thank you and how are you?” Perfect English. It was however her only English and we did have a little trouble negotiating our change – in the most innocent way possible.

We enjoyed more stunning scenery...


Looking South to Mozambique


... and we terrified a little girl who came across us as we were taking a break in a banana plantation. She was only about 4 and she didn't notice us until she was very close. When she did see us she just screamed hysterically and then turned and fled screaming all the way.


Before we knew it we were through the town of Chipata ascending towards the Zambia – Malawi border which runs along the watershed of the Zambezi and Shire Rivers – the Shire River flowing out of the South of Lake Malawi.

Malawi is instantly distinct from Zambia. The most obvious difference is the housing. Small brick houses replace the toadstoolesque grass huts and every village has at least one homestead where bricks are being made.


But there are more subtle differences too. There is a greater variety of freshly grown veg available along the sides of the road and people are busy cutting potatoes and cooking chips and goats meat at the markets. The people seem industrious. Metal buckets outside peoples houses overflowing with peanuts replace the small packets bought in Zambia. A cup sits in the bucket and the nuts are bought by the scoopfull. Rob heroically saved one of these buckets from a cheeky group of goats by charging them at full speed as the villagers shouted and clapped. They quickly scattered.

We snacked on goats meat and chips

As we pedalled along we were puzzled by mats spread out in the villages covered in something bright and white, dazzling us in the sunlight. It turned out to be maize meal. The women work hard getting flour from their maize. It's a lengthy process. They wash the corn broken off the cobs and then crush it. Some villages have an electric mill where the corn is crushed but those who live further away do it themselves in giant wooden pestle and mortars. Then the powder is washed again and spread out on reed mats to dry in the sun before being packed away in sacks until it's needed. It forms the staple diet, being made into a porridge called “paap” or “sheema” which looks a bit like mash potato.

We camped once in Malawi under the cover of some banana palms and a termite mound before reaching Lilongwe. Rob didn't sleep too well since his larium kicked in and he heard a psychopath screaming menacingly in the night!


An early start got us to Lilongwe by lunch time where we were given the most wonderful welcome by the Taylors. We spent several days relaxing, enjoying Janet and Dons company and hospitality feeling pleased at the completion of another leg of our journey and looking forward to our trip on the boat up Lake Malawi.


Posted by robandpol 05:00 Archived in Malawi Tagged bicycle

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Glad you are safe in Lilongwe. Enjoy the boat trip! Love van der Westhuizens

by Louwrens and Jeanne

looked as though you deserved that cuppa i/m amazed to see neither of you has lost weight in cambodia apig was the standard bike passenger must get training what day do you hit uganda kenya border

by dad

amazing...sounds like it's getting more and more wild. was it fun sharing a bed with turmites..? I can't imagine so. the little girl finding you under banana palms, made me laugh! x

by Beth

Remember me Rob? Of "Magic" AWS days - Gavin's Mum in West Wellow! Just to say I love your blog. I lived in South Africa for a few years and travelled a bit so you bring many memories flooding back. Good luck to you both and a safe journey. Judi

by Judi Marriott

Guys no matter the challenge u come across-u still look strong&true indeed havent lost weight at all.Fire outbreak story must have brought ur thoughts back 2 Mseleni. Hv a nice trip-hawu,how can i not remember the stolen cow story?that was....eish,2 b continued.

Malms - great to hear from you! How's things and where are you based now? Beth is in SA RIGHT NOW so I really hope you guys manage to meet up. We often think back to Mseleni and the guys there - bet you do too - are you missing it?
loads of love,
Rob and Pol

by Mamello

Just received your card from Likoma ( must be a distant memory now! ) thanks a lot. Many of our friends here are enjoying reading your exploits. You're famous!
Love R&R

by Rob and Ro

Great to read your recent entries. Praying for you up the coast of L Tanganika (spelling?) and hope the camping isn't too wild!

I'm having my 1st ever night away from david in Wellington with Rosa. v fun and relaxing.

Love and prayers
Big sis

by Big Sis

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