Aurel: I dedicate this article to the newlyweds Laure and Enguerran. Congratulations!
We are happy to reach Malawi as this is apparently the end of a dangerous zone!!
Once more it's another border that we can cross without having to stop. Nobody requests our documents...
After10 km things get complicated. We meet the only scrupulous policeman in Africa! He asks for our bikes' local insurance certificates. All we have is our French insurance which only covers Europe. We lie saying that it's international insurance but he is not a fool! He finally lets us go and makes us promise that we will subscribe to local insurance in the next town. Which of course... we did not do.
We ride alongside Malawi lake. A small road winding through the hills. It feels like being on an island!
On our left the lake looks like the sea. On our right there are mountains and hills as far as our eyes can see.
And in front of us... monkeys! Everywhere on the road! One could think that we would eventually get used to them but it is always nice to see the monkeys sitting quietly beside the road watching us pass by unperturbed.
They are not afraid of getting closer to the bikes when Loïc gives them some peanuts.
It's holiday time in Europe. For us as well. The roads are fantastic, there is almost no traffic, people are very calm and don't hassle us when we stop. It seems that we are going to have a good time! And here they say: "you''ll love Malawi"
So we continue to ride alongside the lake toward Nkhata Bay.
The village is in the hollow of the bay. We get there by sunset, right on time to pitch the tents on the lake's shore and enjoy the view.
It is as beautiful when we wake up and we only need to open the tent partially to enjoy the view.
The main activity here is fishing. The lake seems quite generous!
Life is peaceful, we take our time, it's a holiday within our trip
Evenings are a good time for reading or playing local games.
Yet I am not taken with this campsite. I don't know why but I find it quite ordinary except that it is located close to the lake. We decide to leave and ride to the next bay a few km away.
Loïc: From this campsite I ride to the next village to find a barber (it's about time). I get arrested by two policemen not in uniform who inform me that I am not allowed to ride without a helmet here. It's actually the first country we visit where locals seem to always wear a helmet. We "discuss" a bit and they tell me I have the choice between "discussing" or "going to the police station". It seems like an attempt at corruption. On the other hand nothing serious can happen to me and the official fine (if there is one) is probably not very expensive. So I suggest to first discuss and possibly go to the station aftwerwards. They agree but they explain they don't want to discuss in the street in front of everyone. We sit down in a café's back room. They try to scare me by talking about banishment from Malawi and the legal process. I stay calm and collected. "Let's be offhand". I don't want to offer them money to avoid the fine so I play innocent and I wait for them to make a move. And it happens! One of them tells me to either go to the police station to pay the fine and I will get a receipt or to pay now, cheaper but without a receipt.
The other policeman seems a little more easy going. I think to myself "he is my ally" and I only talk to him from now on. I believe we provoke eachother's behaviour. If we are convinced that our interlocutor wants to harm us, things will happen as we feared. Conversely if we believe that a person is good then this person often behaves well.
After a 5 minute discussion about the reason for not wearing a helmet and my apologies, I understand that all they expect is that I return to the campsite to get my helmet. As soon as I promise not to repeat the offence, they say that I can leave and that I have nothing to pay. We are now good friends. So before I leave (on foot) we talk about football, the poor performances of the French team that they supported. The case is closed.
This is the ONLY time up until now that there has been an attempt at corruption, but eventually it all ended in prevention. And it is much more effective as, since then, I have always put my helmet on my bike in Malawi and I have made two new friends!
With all that I have still not gone to the barber!
Aurel: It's silly to say, but once again it is a campsite run by Westerners and they understand what tourists expect... A well equipped and maintained dream location with self-service boats, showers overlooking the lake, etc.!
Here, relaxation reaches a peak ! Days are busy with: having breakfast, swimming, eating, boating, drinking beer, reading and sleeping. It's a tough adventure! And we think of people who have to get back to work...
Loïc: If it's any comfort to you, you can imagine that we are sunburnt.
Aurel: We are thinking about you a lot...
Loïc: A surprising difference between Malawi and other sub-saharan African countries we visited is that, crafts are more diverse and better-finished than in Kenya or Tanzania for example. So I hire a painter to draw a map of Africa with our followed path on one fairing, and the map of Latin America on the other.
Aurel: We even meet Parisians and we wish them a "happy end of holidays". It's our favourite game
Loïc: I finally manage to go to the barber. What a disappointment, here as in Ethiopia they do not use razor's to avoid the risk of HIV transmission. Only clippers. I soberly ask for a cut "shorter on the sides" but I finally end up like this:'
I may not have contracted AIDS but I feel like I have leukemia when I now look at myself in the mirror!
Aurel: We ride a little towards the South to an even nicer place... to relax even more...
The first campsite is quite nice there as well!
What do you see when you open your shutters in the morning?
But it is still not enough so we change campsite one more time. We go a bit further down the beach. And once again the campsite is run by Westerners and filled with Westerners...
There are even Brazilian bikers with a lot of good tips about our next destinations further South.
I'm not ashamed to say that this kind of place is pleasant. But it has nothing to do with Africa aside from the barmen. It's like a little world where we are not a permanent attraction. Outside the campsite we usually draw all the attention with our two big bikes and at the end of the day I appreciate to be able to read without 50 people looking at me. We enjoy the good times in the campsite and we immerse ourselves in the " local culture" whenever we want.
Here aswell, the village stretches along the entirety of the beach. Daily life is cadenced by fishermen returning to "port" to dry fish or to send them to the markets.
Loïc: I enjoy answering to kids who say "hello" and I sometimes take the time to talk to them.
A 2 year old kid introduces me to his mom... she is 18.
She speaks English well and offers to exchange mail addresses. Why not?
She runs to find a small notebook to write down my address ...
I realize that it's her son's health record...
This is James. I help him fix his bike chain and he asks me to be best friends.
If the "Petit Prince" was a girl this could be her:
I always have fun around kids who want nothing more than to be photographed and share laughter after seing the pictures...
Aurel: We love holidays!
We'll be nice as we're not going to talk about walks on the beach, local beers, kayaking trips, naps, grilled fish...
Holidays are over as we must take the road towards Zambia. A maintenance stop is ahead of us.
Loïc: Before this trip, Malawi did not bring anything to my mind . We decided to go there after hearing praise from travelers coming from the South. Overall I find this holiday destination much better that the conventional Kenya and Tanzania. Local art is much richer, communication is pleasant and easy, people do not harass us. It's restful. And it's so beautiful! Both the lake and the hinterland mountains.
Aurel: They said "You'll love Malawi". They were not wrong!