For years I’m not complaining about climbing with loaded bicycle. Especially after Dubai the load on my bicycle increased significantly. But still I’ve tried to climb every slope or steep land I came upon, no matter what. But ascending 100 m and then descending 200 m, afterwards again ascending 300 m then descending 100 m, these up and downs kill me. I do not enjoy such hilly geography. The worst I encountered was in Tadzhikistan and since then I don’t like such terrain. Whenever I try to climb a steep slope Tadzhikistan comes in my mind and I speed myself up saying: “Hey! Which slope I have already climbed. You do not even count as a slope dude!”
North of Malawi is just the same. Awesome landscapes. Forest to the horizon. When I was on my own on the road, I never felt myself as if traveling in a underdeveloped country. The high quality of the road, its slopes everything was perfect. If there are some motorcyclists who plan to visit this region I advise to take mountain roads and the side roads among villages in the north of Malawi. Large “S” roads, ascends and descends, green landscape, all you would like a lot for sure. You might come across baboons all of a sudden. Generally they kept looking at me scratching their butt while I was asking “hey dude! What’s up?” I’ve never seen them behaving aggressive. Once I passed through the middle of a huge baboon family. They watched me with their siblings.
Climbing the hills pine tree forest became abundant. New trees were planted regularly. The trucks carrying the logs caught my attention. I saw many of the US huge log trucks here. They most probably were donated.
People have made suitable rear racks on their bikes for carrying the heavy logs. There are sawmills on both sides of the road. I guess there are many foreign companies in this business since labor is cheap in this country. If Turkish companies are interested they can receive information from our embassy in Zambia where our commerce attaché is.
Presently it is the rainy season. I have never seen before such a sudden strong rain which then stops all of a sudden. Within one minute the land turns into a lake and then the sun shines. Once, I ran to a shelter when the rain started. I talked with the women and kids there and took their photos. Afterwards, I went to the male villagers and asked for a place to overnight.
Thanks to Mabadus, he hosted me. After dinner we had a long conversation. He mentioned that he couldn’t earn much from the produce from his 5 acres land. He can’t sell his produce on free market everything is under governmental control and there are quotas. The prices are also very low. Therefore his son wants to go to South Africa the next month to work and settle down there. When I was talking with him: “I can find everything I need there. There is nothing here. I don’t want to spend my whole life here”. The same problem exists in my country, in Italy, in England. You learn this when you talk to the people in rural areas.
While traveling through Malawi I kept saying how big agricultural fields there were. Everything was dependent on human power. There were plains where I saw agricultural fields reaching to the horizon turning 360 degree around myself. At the end of one of my turns looking back to the road I saw: “UN aid trucks moving in a convoy”
Oguz sent me a message from Germany: “Gurkan I heard that there is drought this year where you are riding through” Well, but it was raining almost every day? I know the modus operandi but we are human beings. I just get astonished, nothing to do. A person out of touch would think: “I guess Malawi is feeding all its neighbors.”
At highlands the kids are not shouting as “Money money!” but instead keep shouting as “Azungu azungu!” Just wave your hands, they respond with laughs, smiles, screams. Always wave your hands while passing them. Once the whole group shouted and while I waved my hand I made a wrong movement. My arm still hurts starting from my neck. I try to fix it taking 2 or 3 days rests from time to time.
The dialogue with the family I was hosted on a rainy day was interesting. Everyone at home spoke English pretty good. Everyone in the house was farmer. They had a 4 acres field on which they were growing maize, tomato and tobacco. I asked them about their income. They criticized the politics of their government and complained about their low income which was just enough to survive. The youngsters of the family were going to South Africa for job at the end of this month. That is they are leaving their country. Although they had fertile land their income was low and there were no other jobs available.
The next day while I was looking around: “Wow, there is a white woman at the bus stop. What the hell is she doing here?” I stopped to become acquainted with her.
Gina is 24 years old. After she graduated from university she came to Africa joining a volunteer program in USA. Well, what is she doing here?
She has a two rooms’ house in the village 300 m ahead where I first met her. She has been living for the last two years here. She invited me and cooked for me.
– How old are you Gina?
– I’m still a child, 24.
– The woman I met in the middle of Africa, in the poorest country plagued with malaria and who is now sitting in front of me looks very smart.
– Thank you.
– You told me you have been here for 2 years, what are you doing here?
– I make researches about the flora and fauna in the forest surrounding the village. In the mean time I also help the villagers.
– As far as I see you go along with the villagers pretty well. You also speak their language.
– Yes, I like this place. Everyone in the village is like a sister or brother to me. We are all a family here. All in other nearby villages know me.
– Wasn’t it hard for you to leave everything behind, your life is USA to come here? What do your parents think about this issue?
– Actually my parents were an example to me. They had volunteered in Nepal in the 80s. They are happy about my decision. My sisters and brothers came to visit me. I like to be here.
– Well, do you have future plans with the work you are doing here?
– Of course I have. I have applied to the US embassy and attended oral interview. I wait for the results.
– I guess you report your work here to the institution which sent you here?
– Yes. At certain intervals I send my reports to Peace Corps.
– Does Peace Corps cover your expenses?
– My accommodation and meals are covered by the regional people and for this I work with them. Also the government sends us money.
There is no need for conspiracy theories. This girl isn’t a missioner or a spy. Also, her reports are not confidential. If I had stayed for 2 months here I could also present the same reports to you or to any other institution. Look! Some countries send their teachers, students to foreign countries like this and gather information about the region while in the same time helping the people. And some countries have nothing better than restoring mosques, building arenas and parks, donating garbage trucks or sacrificing animals to god and therefore are short of budget for such researches. People have become aware of the importance of information in 1961. Gosh! Don’t want to write more on this issue. : D
After this spot, I arrived to the border in 2 days. I found a guest house near the border for 4 USD per night and rested for 3 days there. Let’s see whether such up and downs will continue in Zambia?