Coming into Mbeya, cornfields covered the agricultural landscape as we climbed our way up to higher altitudes. Today, cycling out of Mbeya, it was mostly banana plantations to start with. 50km into our ride, we entered a busy village. Banana was sold in big bushes everywhere, something like a banana wholesale trading point.
I got off my bike to turn on my GoPro, then slowly pedaled through the village. A group of dancers attracted my attention. I stopped to watch and record their performance. A lead singer was in front, and the dancers in the background performed what reminded of a Bollywood group dance. A professional looking cameraman recorded the performance—for local TV, or were they recording a new music clip?
Before I knew it, Ed was also there and got dragged into the action by one of the dancers. The cameraman zoomed in on him, then beamed at his friend for his unexpected life footage.
When Ed returned, the dancer grabbed my hand and dragged me into action. What a spontaneous act of fun and exuberance! Again, the cameraman came close up and recorded whatever unexpected life footage of the crazy mzungu (white foreigner) he could get.
Once again, as constantly throughout our tour so far, the local people have proven to be overwhelmingly welcoming and friendly. They usually call me over, inviting me to join them for a drink or bite, or simply to have a chat, but—exhausted by all the attention—I just wave and continue cycling. Not today, at least not in that village. I went slow, yet the progress of my local experience and immersion went fast.
Here a few more impressions from that village:
- Live chicken sold by the side of the street;
- Hip (crazy?) woman who wanted to high five me and take a photo together;
- Street vendors rushing to sell banana and other goodies to passengers of halting buses through the windows (a very common sight in all the countries we’ve visited so far);
- Local butcher.
Stage 49: Mbeya – Karonga (Tanzania – Malawi), 162.5km
Road & traffic condition:
Great scenic tar road through the hills in southern Tanzania. While coming into Mbeya we had to climb 2000m, today we were rewarded with a total descent of 2000m. Upon entering Malawi, the road turned flat and patchy, and traffic almost died down completely.
Pleasantly cool up in the highlights near Mbeya, 30°+ C and humid down in Malawi.
BBQ chicken, potatoes and salad—good stuff, but not enough leftover for second and third helpings 🙁
Crossing the border into Malawi—
The faster ones and those on the dinner truck had to wait for hours at the border. No one was allowed to proceed ahead of the dinner truck, and the customs officials took their time checking the truck. Luckily, I took my time along the way, so my waiting time was limited. I used it well . . .
More interesting than the border-crossing, today has been one of our most scenic rides—hilly landscape covered by banana palm trees, tea plantations and cornfields.
Upon reaching the lowlands and entering Malawi, it was mostly rice paddies to the side of the road. Unfortunately, the kids have instantly become more unnerving. While all the way from Kenya, via Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania, many of them simply greeted us with a “hello”, “how are YOU”, or “byebye”, now they seem to completely have dropped the need to be friendly. “Give me money” is all we hear, constantly, from almost all the kids along the way. Some of them run into the road, partially threateningly, and we’ve also had several instances of (harmless) stone-throwing again.
Finally, our camp was near Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa. After tomorrow, we’ll enjoy two rest days directly at the beach.
Dancing with the locals!
After reaching camp in Karonga (Malawi), I went to get a local SIM card from Airtel—not a highlight, but just to show you how the shops here look like: