It doesn’t get easier! After a quick breather in Lilongwe we headed to the Malawian border. Ahead was a week of long miles and a decent amount of climbing. Physically I felt good and prepared to tackle the next section but mentally, I sensed, was going to be a tough one. After almost three months of constant riding, permanently stressful situations on the road with buses and trucks passing closely (sometimes centimeters of near misses), an overload of new impressions and experiences each day, physical fatigue, and the growing longing to see my husband I struggled increasingly to get back on the bike and find the joy in riding. It is the greatest privilege to ride through Africa and I will be forever grateful for the incredible gift. However it does take a lot of courage and mental toughness to ride 12,000km in ever changing conditions, heat, rain, wind, sand and thunderstorm, day after day, hours on end. There is a point when your mind simply had enough. Nothing is possible without the support of friends around us that pick us up in exactly these situations. Words of encouragement and the reminder of the incredible adventure we embarking on were helpful to pull myself out of the dark hole. What really rekindled the fire in me were the numerous Buffalo bicycles on the roads used by farmers, small business owners and school children, reminding myself that something as small as a bicycles can contribute to better a life. The reason I do this tour!
The five days from Lilongwe to Lusaka took us along the most scenic mountain ranges, river valleys and thick forests we have seen on our tour. The border crossing into Malawi went smooth, thanks to Mike who lent me 50 dollars for my visa. I ran out of dollars a while back and it was not possible to pay in another currency. No dollar, no visa. So, big thanks to Mike! While waiting for the border procedure to end I realized that my passport had only two empty pages left. Just enough to get into Botswana and Namibia. Ups. The day ended with the usual mission to get a SIM card and data following a border crossing.
The next three days were climbing stages, of which two were over 170 km long. I like not to linger too much during long rides with anything over 100km, to get enough recovery time in the afternoon. Also I realised that slow riding (<70% avg. max HR) and several stops causes more stress because of the prolonged time in the saddle, i.e. Recovery pace for 6 hours is more tiring than a LSD ride at 4 hours. So I prefer riding a pace where I can still talk but move forward swiftly. 😉 I really enjoy climbing and partnered with Rupert Dixon for most of those stages. He’s got an excellent consistent riding style pedaling at a high cadence, always floating up the hills effortlessly. A perfect coach to learn from as a non-roady.
After all the insane speed/rattle bumps every few kilometers in Malawi, the change to newly upgraded super smooth tarmac was a delight with new speed records on some of the downs. Yahoo! The road upgrades are still in process throughout Zambia and so we hit some gravel section to my great enjoyment. Zambia is located on a plateau between 1000-1600m above sea level. Lower than 1000 the humidity picks up instantly whereas above 1000 the climate remains very pleasant. Zambia is, like South Africa, on the verge to winter with temperatures below 20 degrees at night i.e. sleeping at night without swimming! Perfect.
We arrived in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, yesterday and explored the numerous shopping malls around our hotel. Feels like being home with all the familiar brands around. I took the unreliable water and electricity supply in our hotel, which by the way has seen its heydays 40 years ago, as an excuse to treat myself to a massage and was hoping to find a warm shower too. Clean, well nourished, rested and relatively relaxed, I am looking forward to steer towards Vic Falls, which we will reach on Monday. Let the journey continue.