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13 Sep, 2016

Joburg2Killi for Qhubeka Steam On!

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A WEEK OF MEETING SOME INCREDIBLE PEOPLE

Since our last update we have had an incredibly busy and action-packed few weeks. Our last day in Botswana was spent in Kasane (Chobe) where we ended off on a three-hour boat cruise with Thebe River Safaris. The river cruise takes you into the Chobe National Park on the Zambezi river where we saw elephants, buffalo and lechwe feeding on Sedudu Island, crocodiles and hippos on the banks and some giraffes coming down to drink at the river edge as well as an incredible African sunset.

It was definitely the perfect way to end our stay in the beautiful country of Botswana. The next day we left Thebe River Safari Campsite fairly early as we knew we had a border crossing to contend with and we weren’t sure of how long it would take us to get through to Zambia. The Kazungula border crossing is quite unique as you have to cross over the Zambezi river on a ferry to get to the Zambian side of the border.

The four cyclists crossed over ahead of the cars. As there was a lot of paperwork to deal with to get the cars across we decided to get a local to help with all the admin which in hindsight cost us a lot more than we would have liked but they really helped Bryan and Bobby get through the process quicker which ended up being over 3 hours. A lot of lessons were learnt at this border crossing which we will take with us to all border crossings going forward such as making sure you have US Dollars or Kwacha ideally to pay with at the borders and do your research on all the costs you should be paying before crossing.

Due to the delay at the border to get the cars processed we only started cycling at around midday in the heat of day. To make the conditions more challenging we also had a headwind to contend with and a couple of hills which we haven’t seen in weeks since riding along the flat roads of Botswana. After probably one of our toughest but shorter rides we finally made it to the wonderful Jollyboys Campsite.

As Warrick works in the action sports industry he has good working relationships with a lot of the action-sport companies in Livingstone. One of Warrick’s colleagues is Tony Barnett who a few months back suggested that he would be able to arrange for the team to bungee jump with a Qhubeka bicycle whilst in Livingstone. Both Derrick and Gareth decided they wanted to take on the challenge and they made history by being the first ever to jump off the Victoria Falls Bridge with a single-speed, 20+kg bicycle!

Thanks toShearwater Bungee for helping make their bungee cycle successful. Bobby as well as Warrick and the team mascot, Barney, also bungee jumped but with no bicycles. Since leaving Livingstone we have ridden over 500km in 5 days to get to Lusaka where we are now staying for a rest day at one of Gareth’s friends, Lawrence and Michelle, who have kindly let us stay with them for two nights.

Our journey up north to Lusaka has been an incredible experience with some really tough riding conditions but the highlight of the week has definitely been the generosity of the local farmers and people in Zambia who have welcomed us to stay with them along our way. From Livingstone we had a windy, hot ride of about 100km to what was meant to be a night of bush camping but Bryan managed to go ahead and speak to a farmer in the area called Marius and his wife, Rochelle, who were very happy to have us to stay the night.

In fact, they had read about Gareth and Derrick bungee cycling on News24. They were very kind to us and also put us in touch with another farmer, Tim, who was situated just outside Choma where we had planned to bush camp the following night after riding a further 100km.

Tim took some of the team on a tour of his farm which was very interesting to learn more about farming in Zambia and how he spreads his risk by farming various things including tobacco, maize, cattle and sheep as well as black carrots which none of us had ever heard or seen before and sampled in one of our dinners. That night, Bryan ended up having to share his tent with Tim’s two big brown Labradors and a Jack Russel which was absolutely hilarious to see how determined the dogs were to sleep in his tent.

From Tim’s farm we had a long ride of 109km ahead of us to get to Moorings Campsite, which is just after a town called Monze. Riding through Monze we had sight of where riots had taken place by seeing the debris of burnt tyres left on the side of the roads. This we have learnt is as a result of the recent elections in Zambia which is believed to have been possibly rigged.

Whilst riding in Zambia we have all been so impressed to see how bicycles are a part of most people’s lives here to help them get around, carry things as well as to transport children. We have spoken to a few of the cyclists along the way who have all been so friendly. One local cyclist called Donald rode with us all the way to Monze and even took on Warrick in a short sprint off. He also believes Cam is his daughter as she is born in the same year as his actual daughter.

From Moorings Campsite we rode 96km to a location that was marked off for a bush camp just outside the town of Mazabuka. This was probably one of the toughest rides of our whole journey as we had a 30km/h headwind for most of the way along with rolling hills and the road surface was no longer smooth but rutted and had many potholes.

We were very lucky though as Bryan’s dad has been working with a guy called Johan Beukes who lives in the area who kindly welcomed us to come stay with him, his Italian wife Paola and their two adorable kids, Luke and Giovanni. Johan and Bryan met us along the road and drove behind us for the last 16km before we called it a day and packed the bicycles on the Jeep and Johan’s car to go through to his farm.

Johan and his family live in an amazing location surrounded by farmland and Baobabs in the area. It has a very colonial feel and they even have a polo field down the road. Johan and his family really spoilt us with a three course dinner which was the best meal of our trip so far especially the delicious strawberry risotto starter. We couldn’t be more grateful to them for being so welcoming and looking after us all.

Paola has her own business called Essential, which is a natural skincare brand of products that she started to make as a hobby but has now blossomed into a successful business. Cam is super happy to have some of her products to use for the rest of our trip. Find out more about her amazing skincare range by visiting www.essential-zambia.com.

After having some banana bread and apple tart for breakfast compliments of the Beukes family, we got transported back to the main road to start our cycle leg up to Lusaka. The weather had changed overnight and it was cloudy and extremely windy which meant we were in for a very tough day again on our bicycles. The first 20km of the ride included one of the steepest hills we have ridden so far on this adventure and adding a headwind made it even more challenging. The rest of the ride was a constant pull up towards Lusaka.

Whilst riding we came across a small group of children on the side of the road so we decided to stop to give out some toys that we had from Mattel to giveaway along our journey. At first the children seemed very apprehensive and almost ran away from us but as soon as Cam started showing them how the bubble wand worked they all started to smile and laugh. They couldn’t speak any English but kept speaking in their local language so we not sure what they were saying but it sounded like they were very happy and grateful.

We eventually got to Lusaka to Gareth’s friends place where we are staying for one rest day. Bryan’s parents and his sister also drove down from Chingola to meet us all here in Lusaka. They came through for a braai last night which was really great to finally meet them and to catch up on our incredible journey so far.

 

LUSAKA TO CHIPATA – CLIMBING MOUNTAINS WITH NO GEARS

There must have been something in the water at Lusaka as three of the Joburg2Kili team decided to have makeovers on our rest day; Cam got her hair braided, Warrick shaved his hair and Bryan decided spontaneously to cut off his beard. A big thanks to Lawrence and Michelle for having us all to stay in Lusaka for a much needed rest day.

It was time for us to head east towards what is probably one of the hardest weeks of cycling for this entire trip. Lawrence kindly lead us out of Lusaka via back roads in the morning as the traffic in Lusaka is apparently really bad so we avoided it completely which was great. We were then in for a long ride of 125km to get to a bush camping spot that is marked as Dam View Chalets on Tracks for Africa.

We started to get a taste of what is like to ride up mountains on our single speed Qhubeka Buffalo bicycles on this leg and definitely felt the burn in our legs. Dam View Chalets is nothing like the title suggests but rather a pond situated by an orphanage where you can get permission to camp from the local boss.

Our next leg of our journey was a 110km ride to Bridge Camp which is situated on the Luangwa River and is a recommended stopover along the way to Chipata. Unfortunately, Derrick has been struggling with a cough and flu-like symptoms and in the first 40km of the ride he was feeling very flat and decided to rather call it a day and travel in the Jeep with Bobby. It definitely effects the whole team when someone is not well but Gareth, Warrick and Cam had to soldier onwards.

On this leg we hit the hardest and longest mountain climb to date. We were literally travelling around 7.5km/h at the steepest part of the climb which went upwards for 10km. For the rest of the ride the team had big rolling hills to contend with until reaching Bridge Camp which has a beautiful location looking over the Luangwa River where we had one rest day planned.

We had an issue with the plug point that controls the lights on the trailer and so Bryan decided to go back to Lusaka to get a part to fix it. We arranged with the local boss at Dam View Chalet to leave our trailer as it would not be safe to drive without the lights working. Bryan being the handyman he is managed to sort it all out with no problem and met us at Bridge Camp in the evening.

We decided as it was such a hard day riding, Derrick not feeling very well and Bryan only arriving in the evening that it was worth having dinner at the restaurant. We were the only guests staying at the camp that night so we just chatted with the owner, William and had a chilled evening. William had also recently bought the Getaway magazine and we were very excited to see an article placed about us in it.

The next day we had a rest day which was definitely needed to get our team back to health as Derrick was still not feeling 100% and sadly, Bobby woke up feeling man-down so he just spent the day sleeping and resting up. The rest of the team spent the morning doing a few errands like sorting out our food crates and cleaning up around camp and then in the afternoon we enjoyed relaxing up by the pool area. For sun-downers we thought we would drive to find a spot where we could walk down to the river.

On our way down to the river we were followed by a whole group of local children who just wanted to sit and watch us and dance a bit to our chilled music. Whilst chilling by the river we noticed a hippo pop up in the distance. The Luangwa River is actually the divide between Mozambique and Zambia in this area and we were very fascinated to watch a local row his Makora across the river to go fetch two people on the other side of the river in Mozambique with two bicycles.

 

WHERE THE MALAWI ARE WE?

We spent our last day in Zambia on a rest day at Mama-Rula’s Campsite in Chipata which was much needed after some hard days of riding our Qhubeka Buffalo bicycles. Bobby was still not well and so he decided to go through to a local doctor, which was recommended by the owners at Mama-Rula’s. The doctor did some tests and gave him a dose of anti-biotics, which seem to be working well and Bobby is back to his normal entertaining self.

On Friday we all got up before sunrise to get packed up and ready to head off to Malawi. After our 3-hour experience at the Kazungula border crossing into Zambia we thought we better give ourselves plenty time to get through the Chipata border into Malawi especially as we still had just over 100km to ride that day to get to the Duck Inn.

We were much better prepared this time for the border crossing having gotten local Malawian Kwacha the day before and being better informed about the costs to expect to incur to get the cars through the border. However, it still took us about 2 hours to get through but it was a much easier process.

At the border we met up with Favio M Giorgio from Argentina who is cycling around the world. His bicycle weighs about 65kg with all his worldly belongings on him and we wish him all the best with his incredible journey. Once through the border the ride was fairly flat and downhill for most of the way to our planned campsite for the night called the Duck Inn.

Although the Duck Inn is not really a campsite, Warrick managed to speak to the manager, Scott, who was happy to have us come through to stay for the night. It really is such a beautiful spot looking over a big dam with lots of birdlife – a real gem.

From Duck Inn we had a short ride of just over 50km to Lilongwe. We were in for a real treat in Lilongwe as Shahid Samamad from Pulsit Electronics who is a contact of Derrick’s family very kindly put us up at the Sunbird Capital Hotel for the night. Big thanks to them as it was such luxury to be able to sleep in a bed for a night – it really is the small things you come to appreciate so much more when camping for nearly 5 weeks. Warrick was in contact with Scott again from Duck Inn who recommended a restaurant for us in Lilongwe called Kat-man-doo where we all went for dinner- the Nepali Momma’s are amazing!

Yesterday we got up at sunrise after a great nights’ rest at the hotel and enjoyed having a buffet breakfast before starting our 120km cycle through to Lake Malawi. We originally had planned to do this distance in two legs but decided to rather just get it done in one go and enjoy an extra rest day at the Lake. In the first 20km of the journey we were met by Peter from the Malawi Travel Guide who came to meet with us which was really great. He has an awesome website called Travel Malawi Guide with all the info you need to know on where to go in Malawi.

The first 60km of the ride was really hard going as we had about 900m of climbing and we also had a 30km/h headwind we were riding into. But thankfully as you head closer towards Salima the route flattens out although the road is very eroded and so you have to be very careful as you ride through to Senga Bay.

On our first day in Malawi riding on-route to the Duck Inn two British couples drove past us and stopped to find out about our journey. We managed to see them again on our ride to Lake Malawi yesterday and they had just come from Senga Bay and recommended we definitely stay at Cool Runnings Campsite which is where we are now based for the next 3 days.

Derrick and Cam’s parents will be joining us in Senga Bay and staying at the Livingstone Sunbird Hotel which is about 1km away from Cool Runnings. Lake Malawi is a really beautiful place and we are all looking forward to spending time here.

 

ENJOYING SOME FAMILY TIME AT SENGA BAY

The past few days have been spent relaxing, meeting up with some family, eating lots of delicious local fish and enjoying spending time at the beautiful Lake Malawi.On our first rest day at Senga Bay, Lake Malawi, we arranged an afternoon boat cruise to the nearby island called Lizard Island. Once at the island we snorkeled, Derrick went fishing, Cam and Bobby read their books and Warrick, Bryan and Gareth decided to swim to some nearby rocks where they wanted to rock jump into the lake.

Our boat guide, Michael and his colleague prepared a Butterfish braai for us all which included a very generous serving of rice, tomato/onion mix and spinach. We then left the island in the early evening allowing us to view the sunset as we headed back to the shore which was really spectacular. That evening, Derrick’s father and step-mom arrived at the Sunbird Livingstonia Hotel where we met up with them for a wonderful dinner spent catching up on the past week’s adventures.

The next day, Derick and his parents headed back to the island in the late morning for some family time. Bryan kindly volunteered to donate blood as Sam, the owner of Cool Runnings Campsite, volunteers at the local clinic and cancer centre and had a patient that desperately needed a blood transfusion and luckily he was a match. Cam decided to get her hair re-braided as a lot of the braids were coming out from them blowing around in the wind whilst riding.

One of the staff at Cool Runnings arranged for one of the ladies from Senga Bay to come through to the campsite to do her hair which was great – nothing beats getting your hair braided with a beautiful view of the lake. That afternoon, we all headed back to the Sunbird Livingstonia Hotel as Cam’s parents, the Armstrongs, were due to arrive. We all then had some afternoon drinks together with both Derrick and Cam’s parents before heading back to Cool Runnings where Warrick had arranged with them to prepare a dinner for us all on the beach.

Electricity certainly is a luxury here by the lake and it seems to be the norm to not have power for at least 6-8 hours a day. Unfortunately, Cool Runnings did not have any power that evening for our dinner; however, they made a plan and we had an absolutely delicious meal on the beach. The next day, Derrick’s parents had to return to Blantyre for business so Derrick, Gareth and Bobby went through to say goodbye to them after having some breakfast at the hotel.

We had heard that Monkey Bay and Cape Maclear are two tourist destinations worth visiting along the lake so we decided to make a day outing to visit these spots along with the Armstrong’s. It is meant to be about a two-hour trip but it took us nearly 3.5 hours to get there. Warrick’s mapping app suggested we take this dirt road as a short cut which ended up being very slow as it was filled with potholes; however, it was an eye-opening journey for us all as we really got to see how poor this country is and how most Malawian people live and spend their days.

It is also very evident how desperate they are for rain in the area as the land is just bone dry. The dirt road eventually took us back onto the main tar road we should have taken from the start and we made our way to Monkey Bay. We were pleasantly surprised to find that Monkey Bay is actually not touristy at all. We drove into the Monkey Bay Lodge and hoped to find a suitable restaurant for lunch but unfortunately they had no food or drinks to offer us.

The lodge has a great view of the Monkey Bay port but that was about it so we asked them where they recommended we go instead which was Cape Maclear. To get to Cape Maclear you drive through the Lake Malawi National Park, which is set in a beautiful mountainous, rocky terrain and ends at the Lake. At Cape Maclear we headed to Mgozo Lodge which was recommended to us by two Scottish girls who said it had the best food.

After a delicious lunch, we all decided to take a stroll down the beachfront. It is amazing to just see how the lake is so important to the locals and how full of life it is; there are tables of tiny fish being dried out like biltong, hundreds of Malawians cleaning fishing nets, washing clothes, pots and pans and children swimming and playing in the water. After the boys had a swim in the lake we decided to start making our way back to Senga bay.

We drove back along the tar road avoiding the dirt road “short cut” but we hit traffic hour on our way into the town of Salima; however, this is not your normal car traffic we are used to but rather bicycle traffic.It is incredible to see how many bicycles there are in Malawi and it really is the main form of transport in the country. You see people using their bicycles for transporting everything from wood, charcoal, goats, pigs, petrol and additional passengers.

We finally made it back to Cool Runnings after negotiating the bicycle traffic along the way. Cam & Warrick went for dinner with the Armstrong’s at the Livingstonia Hotel and the rest of the team went to the next door restaurant along the beach.

 

HEADING NORTH ALONG THE LAKE

After three relaxing rest days in Senga Bay, it was time to get back on our Qhubeka Buffalo bikes and start heading north up the lake to Nkhotakota. We packed up camp at first light, said our goodbye’s to Sam from the wonderful Cool Runnings Campsite and started our 128km cycle we had ahead of us.

The Armstrong’s met up with Bryan to help with some of the shopping that was needed to be done and to follow him until they caught up with us on the road. Cam’s mom, Charlotte, wanted to ride along with Bobby in the Jeep to get the full experience of what it is like to drive behind us cyclists at around 18km/h. Cam’s father, Bill Armstrong and Bryan then drove ahead to sort out the accommodation for the night.

The Armstrong’s had already booked into a place called Kwathu Lodge for the night but they did not offer camping so Warrick had found a place on his mapping software called Fish Eagle Lodge down the road from Kwathu Lodge, which he asked Bryan to go and check out whether we could stay there. The 128km ride was fairly flat the whole way but it was really hot with a bit of wind. Bryan was successful with arranging camping at Fish Eagle Lodge so we followed the signs there.

Once we arrived we were looking for where the campsite had been setup but we were pleasantly surprised to find Bryan, Bill and a group of locals by the Ford and trailer which was very much stuck in the beach sand. Bryan hadn’t deflated the tyres enough before driving through the sand to where we were going to be camping and got stuck. The boys got off their bikes and all started to deflate the tyres to try give the car some traction to get it out the sand with the trailer.

After a few attempts they were eventually successful and got the car and trailer out the thick sand to this amazing campsite that looks over the lake and we have our own personal lapa to ourselves. The Armstrong’s accommodation unfortunately was a bit of a disaster. Kwathu Lodge is nothing like it is advertised online and doesn’t have a bar or restaurant. As a result, they decided to rather forfeit their deposit at the run-down Kwathu Lodge and book into the chalets at Fish Eagle Lodge.

We spent our rest day at Fish Eagle Lodge just relaxing and catching up with the Armstrong’s. Gareth and Bryan went out onto the Lake on a catamaran they organised with the lodge. Warrick asked one of the staff at the lodge to teach him how to play a local game which involves marbles and a wooden carved board called Bawo. He then taught us all to play which is a lot of fun and we are hoping to buy our own set of the game when we get to a local market. That evening the Armstrong’s kindly treated us all to a dinner at the restaurant at the lodge.

The next day we all got up at sunrise to pack up camp to head further north up the lake to Ngala Beach Lodge. We also had to say goodbye to the Armstrong’s who were going to go back to the Sunbird Livingstonia Hotel in Senga Bay for a night as they have a late morning flight to catch back to Johannesburg from Lilongwe today. The cycle to Ngala Beach Lodge was around 92km.

The route profile was fairly flat with a few rolling hills but we had a headwind to deal with that thankfully wasn’t as difficult to ride in as we expected as it was blowing a gale when we left Fish Eagle Lodge. Ngala Beach Lodge is a really beautiful campsite with great views looking over Lake Malawi. From Ngala Beach Lodge we had a short ride of 75km to our next campsite along the lake called Chintheche Inn, which was recommended to us by the very helpful lady Sandy from Ngala Beach Lodge. We are here for one night and will be heading through to Mzuzu tomorrow for what we believe to be a very hilly cycle leg.