Travel Through Malawi on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Malawi on a Harley (10/3/00 - 23/3/00)
Distance 1244 km (182631 km to 183875 km)

This is part of the Sixth section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  Tanzania

10/3/00 110 km to the border, easy out and into Malawi with payment of $US 1.50 carnet processing fee on the Malawi side. Almost instantly the roads deteriorated to potholes then dirt tracks. It must be depressing for aid agencies who build most of the asphalt roads here to see within a few years holes appear in the roads. Without repair and during the wet season they become larger and the road edges get destroyed by trucks avoiding the pot holes. Within a very short period of time the pothole spreads across the whole road and the road base becomes an exposed mud and rock pot holed mess. Over half the next 150 km was totally devoid of asphalt because of this process. All because the government didn't allocate funds for repairing a few potholes. The road will now have to be totally rebuilt, probably by and aid agency, and the process continues over and over all over Africa.

11/3/00 We had cabined (campground) last night lakeside. Lake Malawi being a magnificent sight, surrounded by mountains and sandy beaches. Thunderstorms rolled over the mountain tops and across the lake and fishermen in dugout logs dotted on the surface. Weaver birds busied themselves building their upside down nests and red tree frogs with throats ballooned called to each other. Under a grass topped wooden polled pergola we worked on the motorcycle in the rain. The steering head bearing had never been changed or adjusted and the front end was chattering a bit on the dirt so with maintenance by numbers, manual in hand, we dismembered the front end, changing dash light bulbs and greasing speedometer cables in the process. The bike had been surging under braking indicating a warped front disk. After isolating the offending warp and using a log of wood we slowly cajoled it back to where hopefully it is now flatter.Muddy road

12/3/00 Our peaceful lakeside solitude was shattered by the arrival of overland trucks. Fitted out to safari the worst of Africa but usually sticking to the main routes. Three week to six month trips. They are increasing in number the further south we head. Some nothing more than party trucks heading from one booze campground to the next booze campground. Others more serious about seeing Africa. A special type of person is necessary to drive one of these trucks. A misfit traveller with endless energy and patience and personality. What happens when they get tired of traversing the continent, some for ten years? They buy a campground for overland trucks and run it just like they know theLake Malawi cross lake ferry truckers want. Still admiring the scenery from our sandy beach lakeside hut.

13/3/00 Moved onto the lake shore village of Nkhata Bay. You can picture life not having changed here much since the first man looking animal arrived. The lake is the only source of water for most. People wade in dressed and wash themselves and their clothes together. They collect it for cooking and drinking. They use it for fishing and transport. The small areas of land grow meagre crops and tropical fruits. Yes the tourists are here, there is a road and some western products but the basic hand to mouth living and raising a family is the same. There is time, too much time to sit and watch fish drying, to visit and hope someone buys your mangoes before they rot, to ponder on why the tourists have so much money.

14/3/00 Lake Malawi is the Galapagos of fish. Darwin would have probably been as happy here discovering his theories. There are more species of fresh water fish here than anywhere else in the world. Over 70% of allFishing village with fish drying racks aquarium fish species come from this lake. The largest and most varied are the Cichlids. Commonly refereed to as mouth breeders, as they hold the eggs in the mouth until hatched then release the young to feed, returning to the mothers mouth in times of danger. We snorkelled amongst the predominantly blue and some yellow fish. They allowed us to get very close but to see the bright colours we needed to be submerged hanging onto rocks to remain near the bottom.

15/3/00 400 km to Lilongwe via the table land mountain route away from the lake coast. We are moving through the wet zone. Having travelled till now in the dry season from Iran and hoping to have a dry winter in South Africa. Its only thunderstorms but too hot to wear full rain gear and too cold to get wet through. So its just a jacket, the bottom end getting wet through and hopefully drying out before the next deluge. Again people sitting roadside all day to hopefully sell some agriculture surplus, tomatoes or potatoes, to the few passing vehicles. Their only source o money to buy refugee clothes or other necessities.

16/3/00 Our decision Cape Maclear, sunset and a storm on Mozambique was made for us when the embassy advised that the coast road we had intended taking was still closed from flooding and malaria and cholera were spreading. Our new route is through the Tete corridor to Zimbabwe and on to South Africa. H-D's use the rear mudguard as a structural support for the luggage carrying area at the back of the motorcycle and ours, overloaded, had bent the sides of the guard inwardly, slightly. We had hit a series of deep roller coaster potholes just after entering Malawi where the bike was coming up as the luggage and us were going down, probably where it happened. Opportunity shopping rather than hunting around all day for something that may not be available. We had two steel plates cut by a roadside metal worker. The owner of our hostel in Nkhata Bay had a drill to drill holes in the plate and guard. Bolts were collected at Mzuzu, along with rubber backed roofing washers (the only ones available) and the pieces bolted together in Lilongwe today, straightening out the guard and strengthening it.

17/3/00 Malawi has some magnificent wood carvings. One particularly popular one is the two piece chair. Carved from a log of wood and using the naturalLunch spot while ocean kayaking curve as the back. The seat and leg passing through the back making a very comfortable sitting position. Animal and village scenes are carved into the chair. Solving the what to buy for the children/offspring we purchased five chairs including packaging after the compulsory hard bargaining and haggling. More interesting though was the packaging and posting. The chairs had to be weighed and the parts mixed and matched to ensure with packaging they didn't go over the 20 kg maximum limit per parcel. With bits of chair lying all over the small post office floor and old cardboard boxes, strips of tyre with their nylon thread three packages were made weighing in at 19.5 kg each. The cost $US 23.00 each or 1125 kwacha. The largest stamp available was 7 kwacha meaning 160 stamps had to be stuck to each package plus customs declarations and forms. In the afternoon we travelled to a deserved rest at Senga Bay back on Lake Malawi.

18/3/00 One annoying feature of the African culture that we haven't experienced elsewhere when we have travelled is their need to express vocally their surprise at seeing something different. Passing each intersection where there are people gathered results in cheers, whistles, calling out, whichWaterfall in the Zomba Plateau generates more of the same flowing along the crowds of time wasting men gathered. The two handed wave or brief call is tolerable but this endless attention we receive vocalized extensively as if we had just scored the winning goal at the world cup becomes tiresome. Travelled to Cape Maclear along a detour road as the bridge had been washed away some time back on the main route.

19/3/00 The aquatic national park here was the first of its type in the world and we again snorkelled to see the tropical fresh water fish, even more varied and friendly than those north of here. If you sat quietly they would nibble on your skin and be intrigued with bubbles from our masks. We had hired a sea kayak to travel to the nearby island for snorkelling and the locals bring lunch of fresh barbecued fish. Paradise couldn't be more perfect except that sunburn would be banned.

20/3/00 A bad hair day is everyday if you have the velcro curls of all Africans that we have seen. But they have been dealing with it for a long time with the most prolific shops in above subsistence living villages being hairdressers. Men's hair is almost always short being cut by a bare razor blade or clippers. Women have more imagination (although most have hair cut as short as men's making particularly the children hard to determine what sex they are). They perm, curl and lacquer their hair straighter. But the amazing hairdo's come from the myriad configurations of braiding. Long incredibly fine braided plaits to short criss cross pattern designed scalps. The hours the men sit talking the women sit grooming each others hair. We moved slightly along the lake to another sandy beach near a once fishing village. The people content to take today by itself leaving tomorrow to the vagaries of malaria, bilharzia, AIDS, war or famine that they may not be here for. These negative prospects for the future don't make life cheap, just tomorrow of no consequence.

21/3/00 EarlyRoadside stop, every society has its smart kids start and the day spent in the cool of the Zomba plateau above the once capital city by the same name. Primarily a forest and recreation area we strolled with a guide to a couple of water falls and a trout farm glad to be away from the lakeside heat. Blantyre for the night in he noisiest, head shaking, base pounding disco of a camp ground we have had the displeasure to stay in. Yes it's got the "Kontiki" overland truck party tour of Africa staying here.

22/3/00 A day of oscillating between the tent and toilet for both of us. We had eaten what we thought might be dodgy meat and rice two days earlier in a small village and today it was confirmed. We did manage to update the internet and a short visit to town. Had to stay again at the camping discotheque.

23/3/00 To the Mozambique border this morning. Out of Malawi in ten minutes. A lovely country requiring more time than its size would suggest. Many people getting lost on its sandy lake shores for weeks.

Move with us to Mozambique




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