Senga Bay, Lake Malawi
As I rode east out towards Senga Bay, I kept seeing signs for Safari Beach Lodge, which had camping as well as rooms, so that's where I decided to go. Turned off the highway onto the 1km road into the Lodge. Now, there is one thing I really hate about beaches - S A N D ! Yes, the track in was sand, but I barely managed it without dropping. Wandered up to reception after taking my gear off, only to hear that their camping area was under some sort of construction, and was not available. But of course, madam could have a room for only US$100 per night!!! Sheeeeeesh! No thanks! Now I've gotta do that sand all over again, just to leave the place.
Back on the bike, I attacked the sand and was victorious again, and headed out to the bitumen again, turning left through the big gates of the Sunbird Resort then left onto yet another sandy track, leading to the Steps Camping Ground, which is actually part of the Sunbird Resort next door. Sheeesh, this track was worse than the first one, but I made it to reception without dropping it!
Set up camp in a nice area with a good view of the beach, as there were no other campers in the park. But this would change in days to come.
Above: Looking out towards the island. Below: Towards the bar area.
Above: Looking over towards the hotel. Below: The view from standing behind my tent.
Oh, it was sooooo nice to have the place to myself for a while. But the next day, the big Adventure Tourer trucks started rolling in and setting up camp. One truck came in very late, while I was asleep, and I awoke to find myself surrounded by tents, almost on top of mine! Why, when there is a whole great big camping area, do people insist on putting their tents soooo close together? Yaaaaaarrrrrkk!
I chatted with the dreadlocked driver of the first truck to arrive, as he couldn't believe a woman was riding a big bike. Here we go again! But he gave me a big wave when I passed him the next day, on the way to Mozambique.
One arvo, a local guy came and almost harrassed me into buying a freshly caught fish out of the lake. I eventually said I would have one, so he went off and caught some, and brought back two - one for 1800 and one for 3000 Kwachas. I was a bit gobsmacked at the prices, approx $11 for the small fish, which was barely a meal, and relatively bony, too. He asked if he could fillet it, but I thought there'd be nothing much left if he did, so I cooked it whole (minus the head) and smothered it in a can of garlic and oregano flavoured tomatoes. Very nice, too, apart from the bones. Apparently it was a butter fish, so he said.
I ate over at the hotel's outdoor a la carte restaurant one arvo. Mmmmmmm, nicely cooked pork chops with a lovely spicy sauce, chips and veggies. And not too expensive either, at about A$15. As I was camping, I thought it only fair that I should treat myself to a decent meal occasionally. I had another snack meal there the next day, when I found out they had wifi, for which I had to purchase an access card for 700Kwachas ($4.50 or so). But at least I had internet again for a while. I do so get withdrawal symptoms after 3 or 4 days!
But I'd been fortunate in that the resort security supervisor, who knew of my no-petrol problem, had been to town (Salima) and managed to get me 10 litres on the blackmarket WooHoo! I was mobile again, as that would hopefully get me to the next available servo down south.
I packed up on Saturday morning, and set off across the bloody sand again. But it had been churned up terribly by the big heavy adventure trucks and various other traffic which had been to the park in the past few days.Yep, in some really deep sand it suddenly just decided to slip slide and lay down on me. I didn't even try to pick it up, just walked back to the park gate and got one of the guys there to come help me.
I was soon mobile again, heading south towards Mozambique. But I had to be conscious of the petrol situation, as I still didn't have a full tank, so kept the speed down to the national limit of 80kph. It is amazing how good the consumption is at that speed! I managed to do 389km - to the first available servo - without even going onto reserve! But they had fuel, so I was happy. Not so happy about the persistence of the begging kids, though. They can get really annoying when they won't take no for an answer, following me from servo to restaurant to supermarket, begging all the time.
The Mozambique border was only a few km away, so off I went. Stopped at some of the gates out of Malawi to check with the army guy there where I had to go, and managed to unknowingly stop too close to the gate and snagged the pannier in it as I pulled away. Yep, down it went on the right hand side this time! The army guys picked it up for me, and off I went, trying to outdistance an "agent" who was sooo persistent. In the end, I got a bit narky and told him I'd been through about 50 borders, so I knew what I was doing! He didn't take this very nicely, and stood in the doorway of Immigration, calling me names and repeatedly saying I was a "hard woman". Mate, I couldn't give a damn what you call me, just get out of my way and leave me alone!
Off to the Mozambique border offices. I really must say here that the Moz government employees are REALLY slack!!!! I felt like slapping the female who "served" me! Such disgustingly poor customer service. It was as if she couldn't be bothered, and would rather be someplace else than at work. And she persisted in speaking in Portugese, although I think she could speak some English. Eventually, I worked out that I had to apply for a visa for US$66, as well as pay 50 meticals (local currency). I was having difficulty getting her to explain what the 50 was for. Eventually, I guessed correctly, it was for the actual paper form of the visa application!
I managed to scrounge up enough US$ to pay the visa and get the 50 mts. Then when she'd finished stamping everyone else's forms of those who came after me, she reluctantly did mine, then I was shoofed off to the Chefe do Poste, who I assume is the boss of the place. Here, I was fingerprinted and photographed, and a visa was eventually issued.
But then I had to cross over to the other side of the office, to do the bike's paperwork! They don't accept the carnet du passage, so I had to buy an import permit and then I got ripped off because I had to buy insurance - for just ONE day, as they don't recognise the COMESA yellow card insurance!! Cost me about US$25, I think, as they took my Malawian currency, fortunately. Still, one must abide by each country's rules and regulations, I suppose. They're there for a purpose (collecting money??).
Finally, I was finished, and set off, hoping to make the city of Tete, in Mozambique, although it was a fair hike. I had no Mozambique currency, so couldn't buy fuel if I needed it (long distances between servos and ATMs here in Moz)so had to hope that I'd be able to conserve enough to get me to Tete. As it happened, there were NO SERVOS at all along the way! Oh, have I mentioned that ,when in Africa, one can rarely use credit cards at servos, or anywhere else, for that matter?? Cash only.
I got into Tete just on dusk, and found an ATM that worked (not a common occurrence in Africa!) and withdrew some money, a smallish amount, as I was only gonna be in country for one night. Rode to the hotel I'd chosen from the GPS. Nope, they were full up, but I could put my tent up on the hardpacked driveway if I wanted. But no toilets or showers, of course. Nope, gave that a miss and went back into the centre of the city, as I'd seen a hotel there.
By this time, it was well and truly pitch dark, and hot, and I was getting a bit frustrated, so this hotel was gonna have to do, if they had a vacancy. Yes, they did have a vacancy, at 5,500 whatevers!!!!! I'd withdrawn 1,000 thinking that would be more than ample! The reception guy converted it into US$ - about 204, he said! Shhhhhheeeeesh, but I took it anyway, as there wasn't much option. And at least they took Visa, thankfully. And they had wifi internet, which is another story, but I eventually got it, after paying more than I should have been charged for it. (long story). At least they opened up their back gate and let me park the bike in there under guard.
The next morning, after refuelling and leaving town, I got stuck behind a great long line of traffic, mainly vanloads and uteloads full of people. Fortunately, they all turned off to some function, and I was able to get some speed up Very dry, desolate country out there, but invariably there'd be people walking or cycling along the road. I daren't stop for a leak, no matter how far I was away from habitation, as no doubt someone would have appeared from the bush as soon as I pulled my knickers down!
Mozambique would have to be the poorest country I've been in here in Africa, I'd say. The houses are just the small mudbrick squares or rectangles with thatched roof, or the round rondavels with thatched roof. Even in the small towns and villages through which I passed. Rarely a western style house at all. And there was rubbish everywhere. No pride in their surroundings, unlike the people of Malawi, who made an effort, even having flower gardens occasionally, as well as veggie gardens.
By about lunchtime, I'd arrived at the Mozambique/Zimbabwe border. Got sorted out of Mozambique, by another example of customer disservice, then through no-man's-land to the Zimbabwean offfices. I had to get a visa (US$30) but I had the money put aside for that. Once that was done, I had to go to the next counter, to Customs, to get the carnet stamped and the bike into the country. Nope, go over to the cashier's desk. Curious, I went over, and the guy eventually put down his newspaper, looked at the carnet and asked for US$16 - for Road Tax and Carbon Tax.
Whoops! I hadn't allowed for that one, as I didn't know of it. I had only $7 US$$$ on me! But a security guy took my Tanzanian currency to a blackmarket money changer, and got me $10, which was enough for the required payment. Yes, I got ripped off by the money changer, but it wasn't a huge amount, so I didn't care, and didn't feel like arguing, standing there in the hot sun, as that was the only way I was going to be able to get into Zimbabwe.
All done! I ride to the barrier. "Where's your gate ticket?" the guy says. "What gate ticket?" I reply. "It looks like this one." Nope, couldn't find it quickly, so had to get off the bike and park it. Eventually found it in my purse, but it wasn't stamped, so had to go back into the office and get it stamped by Customs. What a kerfuffle, for little reason! And I'd already asked the security guys if I'd need any paperwork to get through the gate, to which they replied "None".
But no, it isn't over yet! I ride through the barrier, and come to yet another barrier. The guy just stood and looked at me. I indicated that I wanted to go through, so he finally came out of his little office and said "Go back over to the police at the tent". I'd heard yells as I rode past, but there are always yobbos yelling at me, so I took no notice. And they did look just like yobbos, too, not in uniform, just casual clothes.
So the three of them went all over the paperwork and then over the bike, wanting to check both the VIN plate and the engine number. Sheeeeeesh, what a drama for nothing! I had the feeling they just wanted to be pedantic to a woman! In other words, they were just being a***holes! The leader finally commented that they don't see many women riding bikes. Yippee for you, mate, I thought as I rode away and the barrier finally opened.
I was in Zimbabwe.
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