Missioning into Malawi takes me through some of Lyndon Poskitt's tracks, some really cool mountain views and over the Nyika Plateau!
After (over) paying for my visa, having my carnet stamped and having paid for the road tax, I walk out and set about entering Malawi. I start the bike and commence to approach the gate. There, I'm greeted by an overzealous guard who asks for my TIP (Temporary Import Papers), which, as I'm traveling by a Carnet, I don't have. It's hot, humid, and the process for the visa has taken longer than I wanted. I feel annoyed. After explaining to the attendant that I don't have a TIP, but that he can see my Carnet if he likes, he keeps asking for my TIP. I know I have everything stamped and ready and I'm in the clear, but for some reason he is not having it. He tells me to wait, goes inside and comes back after 5 minutes. Again asking me for my TIP. I try to explain again, but he just doesn't get it, I show him my Carnet, but he keeps asking for a TIP. He wants to go back inside again, I tell him he has 5 minutes, otherwise I'll open the gates myself and drive through. This was a risky move as about three meters from me, there were two armed soldiers. In the 5 minutes I'm waiting I walk over to the ATM and draw some cash. When I come back, my guy is nowhere to be seen. So I commence opening the gate, got on my bike, started my engine. He then comes running back and closes the gate in front of me. I look at the armed guards who kind of look unfazed by all this so I start rolling forward, pushing the gate back open with my wheel whilst this gate attendant is shouting in my ear. The guards again, not moving. I keep moving, through the gate, and slowly ride off. I later learned there was a little scam going on where people would have to pay the fence guy some money. Fortunately, I dodged that one...
About 100 meters after the border, there is a right turn onto some tracks I got from Lyndon. I turn in and I'm greeted by meters and meters of puddles. Having learned nothing of my previous post rainy season rides, I decide to head in and see what it's like. What proceeds is 20 kilometers through mud, puddles, rivers, muddy riverbanks that deviate from the route to get to a point where the river was low enough to cross said river and eventually, a washed out road. In front of me was a 3 meter gap, about 3 meters deep. I couldn't get through. So I turn around and ask a local. He points me to the woods. I ride in, but after a couple of minutes of bushwacking I don't think this will go anywhere. I get off and look at where I'm supposed to go on foot. Another cliff drop. About 5 meters this time, into a riverbed. I decide it was too much for that day, having already done 150km's to get to the border, and decide to cave in. I turn around, ride back up and about 50 meters before the road my back wheel slides into a ditch. A half a meter, leave your bike there without a stand and it will stay upright kind of ditch. I try to gas my way through, feet up high as the footpegs were covered, but alas. I'm stuck. Luckily Malawi is the most overpopulated country I've ever seen and within minutes half a village came out to see what all the commotion was about. They help me out and I'm on my way again, back to the border. I stop halfway for a drink and sit down with some villagers playing a game. It looked a bit like backgammon, but wasn't. They tried explaining the rules to me several times, but the story was a bit too incoherent to follow along. We concluded our chat by them stating they saw another 'big motorcycle' come through some time ago. I show him a picture of me and Lyndon and they confirm it was him. Pretty cool. They then tell me he came before the rainy season and it's more difficult now as everything is washed out (a lesson I should have already learned). Ah well, you can't win them all. I head back to the road and find a campsite for the night.
In the North Eastern part of Malawi, there is a huge plateau. Quite a bit higher than the other places, it's cooler and there is a tundra on top. I got this as a tip from someone and was keen to check it out. In the middle of the park was a lodge that was my endgoal for the night. The ride to, and up the plateau was epic. With fast gravel roads that turned into slow moving twisties through rock gardens, over rocky plateaus and finally, back on to fast gravel roads up on the plateau. The landscape was unlike anything I've ever seen. Big vast fields of high grass, mixed up with rock formations, fields of trees, and the occasional zebra. It truly felt like the middle of nowhere. When I came to the lodge, I was invited in for a cup of tea. I was informed about pricing and while I was trying to haggle I noticed that I didn't really feel like I was done riding for that day. The price negotiations turned out to be futile too so I decide to keep going. Down to Rumphi, through a racetrack like section of road with endless twisties, to end at Nkhata Bay. It was a big day, but real nice.
The Nkhata Bay is a somewhat more touristy place, which I normally shy away from. But here, there was a special kind of vibe. Some 60's rock ballads playing, two guys completely shit faced at the bar, everything was built onto the rocks, right on the water and you had to move about the place using things that are best described as stairs.
The second day, while having my breakfast, shit faced person number one comes down. I'd say it's about 11 o'clock. He sits down at the bar and without a word, the bartender gets him a beer. They seemed to have a bit of a ritual going on. I remember the times I was that drunk and the mornings after and I couldn't for the life of my understand why he would be back the next morning and just continue his thing. Especially since he was so drunk that he had to be carried away the night before. After a bit I learned he was actually the co-owner. Something about don't get high on your own supply came to mind. The days spent there were very nice though. Extremely relaxing and made me ready for the days ahead.
Malawi is a relatively small country and as my plan was to cut into Zambia, it left me with the southern half of it to be unexplored. Whilst traveling in a manner to mine, it's not possible to see everything. Only with an unlimited supply of time, money and visas, this might be possible. I often get told 'hey, you really missed out by not going there!' or something similar, and while it's a shame I can't visit certain places, choices have to be made. For me, the last real stop would be the Cool Runnings campsite. Another spot right on Lake Malawi with a really cool vibe. It seemed to me Malawi had got its tourist business pretty well dialed in. Apart from the 75USD visa.
After a night of camping, I head for the border with Zambia.