August 17, 2015 by loscobos12
Our final night in Malawi was a momentous one, after 57 nights without a bed, we stayed in the unparalleled luxury of the Chizga guest house, and lay on mattresses for the first time since June 1st. The rooms were so small and cell like that they wouldn’t have looked out of place in Strangeways or Belmarsh, except for the fact that if they had been in a UK prison, it would have been immediately closed down for human rights reasons.
Thousands of kilometers of headwinds had rendered maps unnecessary; we had long ago reached the point where we navigated by simply pointing our noses into the wind and pedalling. The following day started in confusion, as we knew we had a small hill to climb, but found ourselves with the wind at our backs. Suspiciously, and against our better judgement therefore, we set off uphill with the wind behind us. Several hours and many pints of sweat later, the “small hill” had turned out to be a brutal 87km, 2200+m climb out of East Africa’s Rift Valley taking us from tropical forest through tea plantations and up into a sort of alpine pasture where the temperatures were more reminiscent of Manchester than Mbeya.
The next day the headwind was back, and we dug deep, recalling the words of a friend back in England: “Pain is temporary, Pride is forever”. But we also had a new terror to contend with, and as 32 metric tonnes of truck hurtled towards us we had little time to consider the inapplicability of his advice. We headed for the ditch, and although our pride was temporarily wounded, permanent pain was at least avoided. For several hundred kilometers this became a regular occurrence, and as far as we could tell, the only way any of the truck drivers were willing to contribute to our longevity was by running over any of the apparently abundant local black mamba population that strayed onto the road. The mountain views were spectacular, and the murals on walls and buses kept us equally entertained with their eclectic mix of heroes. Some of the most popular were: Ronaldo, The Pope, Colonel Gaddafi, and Nelson Mandela; which is one dinner party invite I challenge you to decline.
Unfortunately the only dinner invites we received were to eat rice and beans or chipsi mayai in much less illustrious company, which on one occasion included the unwanted guest giardia. Disgusting, parasitic, and with extremely unwanted results, giardia is the Katie Hopkins of flagellated protozoa. By this point however, we had the scent of the Indian Ocean in our nostrils, and short of paralysis (fortunately not a side effect) we were not going to be stopped.
Finally, we sat looking out to sea reflecting on our achievement. It had taken 2 months, constant dedication, and self belief through all of the doubt. There had been good times and bad, but finally our unswerving focus had been rewarded when, on August 4th, we watched Skyfall and completed the epic Bond-athon which we had started in June. All 24 films in the franchise, at an average of 1 every 3 days is no mean feat.
As a side-product, we had also reached the end of our Atlantic to Indian Ocean ride. The last leg had been tougher than expected, but we should always have known that this continent wasn’t going to let us go without a fight. The rewards have been great, but there has been no easy riding. We cycled for hundreds of kilometers without food and water to see the night skies over the deserts of Namibia. We battled headwinds for weeks to earn the chance to watch the sun rise over the Okavango. We rode through scorching heat to feel the spray of the Victoria Falls on our faces, navigated some of the worst roads in the world to cycle alongside the elephants of Zimbabwe, climbed mountain passes to swim in the clear blue waters of Lake Malawi, and fought illness to finally sit and watch the dhows on the Indian Ocean.
Whilst Andrew flew home to yet again deliver a best man’s speech that had been crafted during months of cycle touring, I headed north from Dar, towards the Serengeti. As preparation for my new job with Steppes Travel – starting in September, I had been given the onerous task of visiting some of the most luxurious safari camps in Northern Tanzania.
After months of living on the road and in the bush, the shock of five-star opulence was almost more than I could take. But somehow I mustered all my courage and survived the fine wines, stunning locales, mouth-watering meals and incredible wildlife encounters. It was a tough seven days, but I found myself assimilating towards the end. I even began to let people carry my bag, stopped washing my hair with a bar of soap and started using more than 25% of the bed.
Castaway Syndrome aside, I relished my time in the parks of northern Tanzania. Visiting Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro and the Serengeti, I travelled through some of the greatest areas in the world for wildlife encounters. Highlights included driving through hundreds of marching elephants, seeing lions tear into a fresh kill, watching courting cheetahs frolick on a termite mound, awakening to a herd of buffaloes surrounding my tent, seeing dozens of terrified gazelles explode through a pride of 35 lions, discovering a pair of leopards snacking in the branches of a tree and being feet away as an adult warthog exploded out of an aardvark burrow. Below are a selection of my favourite photos: