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
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