Roadtrip to Malawi
Home | Back to Newsletter August 2011

A new tour:
This year we decided that it was time for a new tour. We have already led 3 annual tours to Victoria Falls and had always had the urge to ride: Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique.

Before any tour is scheduled we treat ourselves as guinea pigs and head off into the unknown on a Reconnaissance (Recci) tour to scout out great roads, places to stay and things to do. While we scout out nice hotels for our clients, we ourselves camp! We load up our bikes with camping gear, sleeping bags and large Jerry cans with spare fuel

So on a cold July morning we left our warm beds in Pretoria for the Zimbabwean border at Beit Bridge. We were very excited to ride through Zimbabwe as we heard that the petrol was scarce and the country might not be as easy going as we would like... A real ADVENTURE!!

 

The Great Zimbabwe
To our great surprise Zimbabwe was a pleasure to ride through. Compared to Botswana which was relatively flat- Zimbabwe was more exciting to ride- there were a couple of hilly sections with nice curving roads. The roads were in great condition- no potholes (Always a good thing)

We also had no problem finding petrol. We passed many gas pumps along the way

The landscape around us was typical African bush with lots of Mopani , Acacia and baobab trees lining the road.We passed little warthogs burrowing in the ground. It was kind of scary to have yellow billed hornbills, who were clearly suicidal making a bee-line for our bikes- so we slowed down to 100km per hour, to avoid killing these kamikaze birds. Back to top

  Victoria Falls- The smoke that thunders
On our 3rd day we headed from Bulawayo up the town of Victoria Falls. Riding up to the town we could see the “smoke that thunders “in the distance. This is the traditional name that the locals have given to Victoria Falls. The incredible noise the falls make as the water plummets down into the Gorge resembles thunder and the spray rising up to 50meters above the falls resembles smoke.

The first thing we did when we arrived in town was rush down to the falls viewpoint and WOW, were we impressed! Having only seen the falls from the Zambian side, the Zimbabwean side was completely new to us and we found it much more impressive. From the Zimbabwean vantage point you could see much more of the falls!

 

The most scenic border crossing in the world
The Village of Victoria Falls is also a very happening place. There are lots of tourists and many activities available. Helicopter flips over the falls, Sunset river cruises, walks with lions, bungee jumping and river rafting- just to name a few. In town there are also many hotels and curio shops.

We enjoyed a full rest day in Victoria Falls. The weather had gotten much warmer as we travelled north, so it was good for camping. The next morning we headed out bright and early and crossed the bridge into Zambia. That must be one of the prettiest border crossings in the world- the views of Victoria Falls were splendid. Back to top

 

Exploring Zambia
Making our way through the town of Livingston, we took the road to Lusaka (Zambia’s capital). I have never seen so many people on bicycles and on foot. They lined the street the whole 500km to the capital city.

In Livingston we checked into Eureka lodge and inspected the chalets, which seemed perfect for our clients. The evening was spent around a barbeque talking to some of the friendly local people who were also staying there. We decided this would be a great place to have a BBQ with our clients. The lodge sells delicious Braai (bbq) packets filled with delicious steaks.....

 

Lake Malawi- a tropical paradise…
It was time to head into Malawi, home of Lake Malawi, an African Great Lake. This lake, the third largest in Africa and the eighth largest lake in the world, is located between Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. It is the second deepest lake in Africa. The tropical waters are reportedly the habitat of more species of fish than those of any other body of freshwater on Earth.

The great explorer Davis Livingstone coined the name: “The Lake of Stars” This name came about due to lights from the lanterns of the fishermen in Malawi on their boats, that resemble, from a distance, stars in the sky. Today the fisherman still practice the age old tradition of fishing at night and you can see the lanterns glowing from the shore-side. Back to top

 

We went straight to Livingstonia lodge in Senga Bay. This is a great place to stay on the lake. Situated on a long beachfront there are many activities to partake in: from snorkeling and scuba diving to boat trips , windsurfing , cultural tours and horse riding . This lake is paradise and we could easily have spent a week there.  

  Gs’ing, Scuba diving hiking and rockclimbing
On our rest day we decided to do a little exploring. We woke up at 7am and decided to go ride some off-road sections around Lake Malawi. After consulting the GPS, we took a circular gravel/sandy road that took us off the beaten track through small villages. The local people were friendly and I think they don’t get to see many GS MOTORCYCLES passing through.

The people and all the children stared at us in awe. Probably thinking “What the hell are these Crazy Mzungus (white people) up to?” We waved at them as we rode past. They all smiled broadly and waved back madly. The children were especially excited, jumping up and down, giggling with delight. Back to top

 
 

We got back to our lodge at 10am, just in time to get picked up by the scuba diving operator. My son Jonathan went scuba diving and said it was really cheap, it only cost him 50US$, including all the diving gear and oxygen. Not being much of a diver, I decided to snorkel. The lake is like the ocean except the water is fresh and you have 15 meters visibility! After our snorkeling expedition we went hiking and rock-climbing on a little island.

Once we got back to the mainland we found out that they have an edible fish that is unique to lake Malawi called the Chambo . They say that if you haven’t eaten a Chambo fish, then you haven’t been to Malawi!!! You can call a local fisherman over and buy a Chambo fish off him and barbeque it . Yum,Yum!! We will definitely have to have a fish BBQ on our tour next year! Back to top

 

Malawian Kwachas and other matters:
When we got to the border between Malawi and Mozambique we didn’t have enough of the local currency to cross the border, so we had to return to Blantyre is search of some Malawian Kwachas. The queues for cash in Malawi are terrible- we had to join a long queue to draw money out of the towns "one and only" ATM.

There was also no petrol in Blantyre and the cars in convey lines leading to the fuel stations caused major traffic jams. However we were on motorcycles, so this wasn’t really a problem for us.

 

The border crossing itself ran quite smoothly with our newly acquired funds and we crossed intp Mozambique where we were happy to find a fuel station. By this time it was getting pretty late. The money and fuel issues had delayed us. We still had quite a distance to cover so we put the pedal to the meddle, using way too much petrol.

Riding on Fumes
We made it to the petrol station driving on the last bit of fumes left in our tanks and guess what? They had no petrol!! We used our jerry cans for the first time. This day was becoming quite disastrous, just when we thought it could not get any worse, I noticed that we would have to detour into the town of Chimoio for more petrol (40km detour). As we turned at the t-junction towards town I saw the dark clouds looming. It was getting dark and we were going to ride in the rain. We still had 100km to go.

At the third petrol station we visited me managed to find some petrol. We filled up our bikes and jerry cans. We only arrived at our lodgings way after 7pm in the dark. Cold and wet we decided not to camp, but stayed in the Rondavels instead.

The last two days had been rough, but we were very happy to wake up at Casa Msika lodge. We woke up to stunning views of the Bandula Dam. Back to top

 

Vilanculos- white sand, blue water, scuba diving and sailing trips…
After topping up with petrol in Chimoio, we made our way to Vilanculos, a magical fishing village on the Indian ocean. This town is the perfect base from which to explore the picturesque Bazaruto Archipelago and the Bazaruto National Park. The Archipelago offers some of the world's best snorkeling, diving and big game fishing. The islands are pristine in their natural beauty and diverse ecologies.

The coral reefs are profuse with a diversity of tropical fish and turtles. Dolphins are seen year round and whales are seasonal visitors to the Archipelago. The park is also home to the last viable population of dugong (Sea cows) on the east African coast.

After checking out a couple of hotels, we decided that Casa Rex Lodge would be an ideal place for another rest day. It has great sea views and a nice restaurant and there are so many different activities to do: you can enjoy more scuba diving and snorkeling, sail a dhow, waterski, or go on a sundowner cruise. Another option is to spend the day sailing around the archipelago, visiting all 5 tropical islands.

 

Heading South down the Mozambique Coastline:
We decided it was time to start heading home! We thought we would just pop in and check out some accommodation 300km down the road and then head for Maputo. Much to our dismay the road to the lodgings turned out to be 20km of thick beach sand. We decided that it was not a good idea to lead tourists down that track, and found a more suitable lodge outside Tofu.

From Tofu we headed to a lodge outside of the capital city called Casa Lisa. Getting there was quite a mission: 1km of thick sand!! I even managed to drop the bike, much to Jonathan’s amusement! This place was also not suitable for the actual tour. So it was back to the drawing board. It took me a few days to empty all the sand out of my biking gear!!

Mozambique is very different from the other African countries that we visited. Mozambique was colonized by Portugal in 1505 and only gained its independence in 1975. The result of this being that it has a distinct local style: a vibrant blend of Arican, Arab and Portuguese influences and provides a refreshing distinction to the other countries in the Southern Africa region. The passion for life can be seen throughout this diverse country, from Maputo's modern, bustling city streets and pulsating night life to the colorful markets and small fishing villages which line the 2500km coastline.

From Mozambique we travelled back into South Africa, where we ended our Recci Tour in Pretoria. Happy, sandy and free...

 
   

 

 

 

 

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