And so the journey continues forward, ever northward.

                                                           Imraan performing a castration in Lilongwe

From Lilongwe, an internal combustion engine took us East back to the lake shore town of Senga Bay and to our bicycles which were safely tucked away at 'Cool Runnings', a lovely backpackers run by Sam. Transportation at this point in time in Malawi is quite a contentious subject and highlights some of the problems facing the country. With little background and no experience in international relations or trade, I will try give an account of what I think is going on.

Malawi is currently experiencing a fuel shortage, not just in isolated pockets, but countrywide. It seems that the lack of international currency in the country is limiting purchases of petrol and diesel. Because the Malawian currency is so weak ($1 to 190 Kwacha), small fluctuations in international currencies results in large discrepancies in kwacha and kwacha cannot be used to buy fuel. This has caused major disruption in all sectors of the economy and the people are not happy. The president, Bingu wa Mutharika, also got hold of an internal correspondence that the UK High Commissioner (Ria found out that Commonwealth countries have High Commissioners and Non-commonwealth countries have Ambassadors) to Malawi wrote, commenting on the bad governance of the country. Bingu wa Mutharika then unlawfully expelled the UK High Commissioner from the country. The UK responded by expelling the Malawian High Commission, un-invited Malawi to the royal wedding and froze budgetary aid to the country (totaling $30 million last year). In a country heavily reliant on foreign aid this could spell disaster, to make matters worse other big donors have joined the band wagon of retracting aid if the President doesn’t apologize for the unlawful expulsion of the UK High Commissioner and re-instate him.

From Senga bay we did a long stretch of 140km to Nkotakota and overnighted in a place called Pick 'n Pay where single rooms go for 500 Kwacha (R20). Another long stint of 140km took us to Kande Beach where 2 days were spent as we were ahead of schedule (we planned on averaging 70km/day while in Malawi). We cycled a short 60km to Nkata Bay and spent another 3 days there.

                                Kande Beach                                             That's how you know the meat is fresh

The political problems culminated in an initially peaceful nationwide protest on the 20th July, which turned into a riot in Mzuzu leaving 9 people dead (of all the places were safety was an issue, Malawi was not one of them). Having sent 3 nights in Nkata Bay allowing for the tension in Mzuzu to abate, we ran out of time for our 30 day visa and had to get to the border as soon as possible. The quickest way there was to catch the Ilala, the weekly ferry that traverses the lake, and got a lift to Chilumna (saving 250km, 4-5 days cycling and going through Mzuzu). Arriving at the border just before closing and having done another 130km stretch, we were exhausted and slightly apprehensive as our visas had expired 2 days prior. Luckily the immigration officer saw us on the national news 3 weeks earlier and stamped us our without a problem. Now in Tanzania and the looming giant that is Kilimanjaro.

Above is a picture of Chanda. Chanda spends hour upon hour breaking those big stones in front, into the little pebbles you see in the background with nothing but a little hammer, all the while looking after her little baby. There were many such piles as we cycled up along the coast of Lake Malawi. So the next time you think you are having a bad day at work, think of Chanda.