We’ve had quite a lot of climbing today—about 1,600 meters of altitude gain. Most of the climbing was said to be before lunch, where we also had our first time trial on this tour.
“16km —> start of time trial and climbing . . . 36km —> end of time trial”, the whiteboard read.
I didn’t plan to participate in the time trial, nor did any other female rider. “Alex, you have to put your name down”, Max informed me at breakfast, “it’s part of the race.”
OK, whatever. Same as I still time myself for the race (officially, without actually racing), participating in the time trial didn’t mean that I had to push it hard. Nevertheless, I wasn’t looking forward to 20km of climbing, and so I hoped to get that section done with as fast as possible.
Along the climb, there were some nice photo opportunities. Big baboons crossed the road and—different than most monkeys we’ve seen while riding—didn’t run away as I passed them. However, I focused on getting the climb done with, and didn’t get off my bike.
Then we had some nice views down to Lake Malawi, local villages and surrounding hills. Again, I didn’t get off my bike. “The views up there, once I finish that bloody climb, should be even better”, I comforted myself.
After 10km of climbing, the road sloped downhill and—unexpectedly—continued downhill all the way until Tallis was waiting for me to record my time. It had rained all morning, and would continue to be rainy and overcast all day with pleasant temperatures of around 20° C. All of that was good news for my lethargic body that didn’t particularly enjoy the climb and seems to perform a lot better in cooler temperatures, but bad news for you guys—I didn’t take a single photo during today’s ride!
While climbing, my audio book finished and—again—I didn’t want to get off my bike to start a new one. So I lost myself in thoughts until I reached the lunch truck. I came to the realization that our tour is almost finished—only six weeks until we reach Cape Town.
It might seem to you that we experience a lot every single day, which is true, and that by itself is more than enough. Is it? I’m starting to wonder whether I will have any regrets at the end of the tour. Did I experience enough? Am I doing the right thing? Should I change anything? If so, now is the time to do so.
I came to the conclusion that I should spend more time with the other riders and exploring the local villages where we’re camping upon reaching camp. No more blogging in the afternoon/evening. That has to happen within an hour in the morning, or not at all.
We—or at least I—always tend to think that there will be another day, another chance, another opportunity. But that’s simply not true. We only live once, time flies, and every day gone is a day lost if we didn’t use it well. Now is the time to act because that very same moment and opportunity will never return.
Stage 51: Chitimba Beach – Mzuzu (Malawi), 135km
Road & traffic condition:
Good tar. Mostly without a shoulder, but traffic was limited and sufficiently respectful that this didn’t cause any issues. Even cycling into Mzuzu (Malawi’s 3rd biggest city) where traffic picked up significantly, drivers (mostly) kept a safe distance.
Rainy/overcast. Only late afternoon, the sun came out.
Great coffee at a local coffee shop in Mzuzu.
Grilled sausages, mashed potatoes, and coleslaw for dinner.
After a few days with poor Internet and no amenities, Mzuzu felt like a major city—good Internet, coffee shops, supermarkets, ATMs, pharmacies etc.
However, the time of our riders’ meeting (always directly followed by dinner) was changed from 6pm to 5pm today, which didn’t leave a lot of time to chill and explore Mzuzu. On the positive side, having dinner earlier means that we don’t have to eat in the dark (as we did the past few days in Malawi where the time changed by an hour), which makes a lot of sense of course.
I afforded myself a hotel room where we’re camping. 50 USD was written on the room price board for the standard room. “You don’t have anything cheaper?” I asked the receptionist. He shook his head. “OK, no need then, 50 is too expensive for me”, for my mental budget anyway.
“How much can you afford?” he asked.
I offered 30, and we settled on 35. A little bit of luxury for a change made this seem worthwhile to me.
I made good use of my private bathroom—I didn’t only shower and wash my clothes, but even cleaned my bike in the shower/bathtub!
It would rain again the following morning while I’m writing this, which makes my bike washing effort seem like a waste of time. However, while I have finally gotten the hang of camping in rain and packing up my tent in a way that my other gear stays dry, it’s even nicer to wake up in a decent bed, sit propped up with a pillow against the bed headboard while typing, and pack my bag within the comfort of a dry room. Simple things I used to take for granted feel like luxury to me right now!