Friday, April 30
Running repairs to bike now 10,000 Schilling. A couple of local ‘fundi’ fix my latest bike problems and we are on our way to Tukuyu. We are blessed with quality asphalt and a road almost bereft of traffic. We pass huge banana plantations at lower altitude and tea plantations as the road again climbs.
Puncture. Glad Bjorn has got the necessary repair kit because I, of course, have not.
It is now fairly apparent why they call this the ‘wet season’. We both get another complete soaking while the bike is repaired by the edge of the road. The water pours through my rucksack, tied precariously to the rear of my bike. I feel uneasy repairing the bike by the edge of the road in the middle of nowhere. Feel like a sitting duck, so as to speak. The odd local stops and offers his help; always requesting a bit of cash in return (whether they succeed in helping us or not). The inebriated coconut wine cycle repair man is one good example. He is so drunk and useless that he attempts to repair a puncture by banging Bjorn’s outstretched knee. He gets 20 pence for his efforts.
With the puncture fixed we battle on up some steep hills. This feels like torture. I am not fit enough. My bike is not good enough. There is a gaping hole in the front right toe of my Adidas Sambas, and my shoe is full of water. But I have to battle against the aching legs and the lungs that struggle to find enough air. Truthfully, the physical extremes are more easily endured with each passing day but the mental torture never stops. Why am I doing this? I want to go home now. What will I do for work when I get back to Europe? Will my girlfriend leave me for somebody else because I am away from her for three months? Will the next truck that passes suddenly stop and its passengers rob us?
Then the pedal falls off my bike. Pushing a crap bike with a full, wet rucksack up steep hills is more physically and mentally exerting than cycling. Near Tukuyu, with Bjorn well ahead of me, a gangly local bloke strides along next to me offering his help. But he has his eye on my wallet. I can see he is calculating whether he can pull off a crime and get away with it. At the crest of the hill, I climb back on my bike and cycle off once more - this time with just one pedal.
We reach Tukuyu, up at 5,000 feet, soaked. Completely soaked.
I don’t care how expensive ‘The Landmark Hotel’ is - it is the best hotel in the town and there I will take sanctuary.
Our room is huge, with two freshly made double beds. There is a good restaurant downstairs; gardens surround the hotel; tea plantations and Mount Ringwe occasionally appear out of the rain, clouds and fog.
Here I will hide. By tomorrow I will have my head back together and be ready to move on towards Malawi.
Landmark Hotel, Tukuyu 025 255 2254