July 28, 2010 GMT
Into Malawi

Another simple border crossing, and here we are, in Rumphi, Malawi. And zero cost, no visa, no road tax etc. There was even an ATM next to the Malawian immigration window.

Before crossing into Malawi I spent a few days in Tukuyu, and changed the engine oil and air filter. The air filter that I removed looked like deep-pile carpet on the outside, cocoa-coloured of course.
Then we rode another roller-coaster of a road. (That's the "royal We." Lots of travellers seem to give their vehicles names, so I thought mine should be "His Majesty the Bike," as its needs must always come first, it seems.)

Tukuyu is in the middle of banana plantation country. And there, the harvest is carted around in the back of big wagons. Whatever happened to those banana bicycle boys further north? That was far more colourful. Didn't see any around Tukuyu. Not many bicycles at all actually, it's far too hilly.
The route from Tukuyu plunged down to 1500ft and the Songwe River, marking the border between Tanzania and Malawi. Then a further slight drop to Lake Nyasa and some pretty warm weather.
There are still lots of mountains around, and the scenery is much more tropical here than back in Tanzania. Masses of broad-leaved trees and bushes of unknown name, ditto with needle-leaves, and the more recognisable ordinary palms.
And the banana bicycles have returned, between the villages along the flat lakeside road.
Flat until Chimpamba, where another climb up mountain ranges starts, taking us up above the lake. This is the usual switchback road, narrow, with tarmac disintegrating along the edges, tight hairpin bends and plenty of pot holes.
It climbed up above 5000ft, with lots of huge signs about sharp bends, slow down, "Arrive Alive", but still the wreckage of a truck-trailer being cleared up at the roadside.
Then the reason for all the pot holes and disintegrating tarmac.
These are coal mining mountains. The road winds through the middle of one mining area, tight bends, big heavy trucks, a new type of dust, and "Stopping On The Road Is An Offence" signs. Pretty dangerous thing to do anyway, as this road is narrow with no watertight guarantee that the coal lorries, with trailers, could stop if suddenly confronted by a parked car on a bend. And the road is all bends, no straight bits.

Lake Nyasa (or Lake Malawi) from the climb up towards the coal mines.


We passed another mining area before opening out onto a plateau which led to the sandy and windy crossroads town of Rumphi, home to a charity running an orphanage with camping and nice rooms as usual.
But not cheap now. Malawi seems to be known for being expensive, and its accommodation and petrol certainly is. Petrol is around one pound twenty per litre, pretty expensive for Africa.
Beer, though, is still under a pound. Fifteen shillings for a half-litre.
Sorry - seventy five pence. (After three months in East Africa, you get used to shillings again after years of decimalisation!)

So now it's map-reading time again. There are two possibilities southwards from here, the lakeside road to Lilongwe, shown as being a minor dirt road in places, and not actually on the lakeside, or the main tarmac road that goes up and down over more mountains on its way to Lilongwe. There are many beach resorts a little way down the lakeside road which most travellers seem to visit before back-tracking to the main road which is described as much more interesting.
Then at Lilongwe there are again two possibilities for the onward route to Zimbabwe.
Through Mozambique or through Zambia. As I'm still considering heading all the way over to Namibia, quite a distance, I'll probably take the shorter Mozambique route.
All subject to change, of course.

Posted by Ken Thomas at July 28, 2010 04:02 PM GMT

HU DVD Summer Special!

Now that summer is here, get On the Road! Take 30% off the Achievable Dream - On the Road! 2-DVD set until August 31 only. Get On the Road! Learn the tips to staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure!

Our veteran travellers share their tips (and great stories) for staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure.

"A fantastic, informative and inspirational DVD."

"It's brilliant - thank you very much!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'ONTHEROAD' on your order when you checkout.

Renedian Adventures

Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!

What turns you on to motorcycle travel?

Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!

New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.

Books & DVDs


All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.

Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

Story and photos copyright ©

Sorry, you need a Javascript enabled browser to get the email address and dates. You can contact Horizons Unlimited at the link below. Please be sure to tell us WHICH blog writer you wish to contact.

All Rights Reserved.

Contact the author:

Editors note: We accept no responsibility for any of the above information in any way whatsoever. You are reminded to do your own research. Any commentary is strictly a personal opinion of the person supplying the information and is not to be construed as an endorsement of any kind.

Hosted by: Horizons Unlimited, the motorcycle travellers' website!
You can have your story here too - click for details!