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The kindness of people in Zambia and Malawi


The day I decided to leave Livingstone, I undertook the bold gamble of withdrawing money. First I stand in line for an hour to fail front of the Standard Chartered ATM. Then, the ATM of Barclays decided to swallow my card “on user’s recquest”. Why not. They told I should wait two days later for security reasons. I have a few spare dollars in pocket butthere is no way t wait 2 days here. It will take me five hours to get it back and another hour trying 5 other ATM in town to withdraw 200$. Well, it is now too late to leave and I met two other cyclists. This is unusual in Africa.

There was first Bob, I would mention the story in another article, with passages of CIA and government of Zimbabwe.

And then there was Sarah, who cycles from Kenya to South Africa. Ah! I would have liked to know her yesterday when this stupid american girl told me it is impossible to travel to Africa when you are a woman! Of course it is more difficult to travel alone where you are a woman and must take more precautions but it is possible if you really want to. Unfortunately, it is more comfortable to imagine and convince yourself that you can not. I have since discovered this page that lists women traveling alone by bike :

Sarah raises funds for an association that proposes to build a community hall in the biggest slum in Kenya, Mathare. I’ve never understood the principle of raising funds pedaling because in my mind, people might as well give if I do not pedal but I’m probably a little too down to earth on this concept, and Africans, by dint of asking myself the question, had convinced me that I should do something with that. I do not want to support a cause randomly or get involved in a big organization and I was looking for a project in connection with my trip. Without compelling idea in mind, and after 10 seconds talking before her departure, I proposed her to support her project too. If my physical efforts can be used for something…

And I relate it almost shamefully today, the chances of my journey led me to develop my own project that I will mention in a few weeks when I could set up something a little bit more serious than today. So I failed to support it and I can’t do less than to make a little pub in this article if some want to support her in her adventure :

I was cycling the next day towards Lusaka, to cross Zambia and then reach Tanzania. I hesitated until the last moment to make a detour of hundreds of kilometers by Malawi, knowing that I had a rendez-vous with a friend in Tanzania in about two weeks. People are adorable first along the road before to completely change in approach of the capital and especially in the capital. This is a common pattern when you arrive in town, people are often less smiling and more aggressive. I think while taking the road to the east, less traveled, will lead me to discover nicest people and I bifurcate at the last moment towards Chipata. I will not have to regret it. I took an incredible walk in the Zambian countryside in contact with the locals. All have incredible banana on their faces when they saw me and the kids run after me all shouting “How are you!” or rather “Awayou” They don’t even expect no particular answer except that seeing me crying “AWAYU” too, waving my hand or that I organize an improvised candies distribution tour, surrounded by 20 kids raising hands.
Adults are still not participating in the distribution but are just as happy to scream “Awayou” lustily. Sometimes I don’t greet a group of busy adults talking to each other or working (which is rare). Error! They call me immediately so that I raise my hand! In short, I sometimes feel like Chirac, a former and popular french president, shaking hands everywhere.


Zambians are quite lazy so. The conclusion seems a little rough but I left it to a local farmer. I noticed a much reduced activity up along the road. You don’t distinguish a Thursday from a Sunday, the majority of the people are sitting. The men in a circle under a tree talking and women usually along the road, sitting behind coal firewood for sale. When some work or carry bags on their bikes, we almost want to tell them how they should do in another more effective way. Nothing is thought to save time. So I was doing my comments to a farmer with whom I camped one evening. His answer is relentless: People are lazy! They do what it takes to have enough food every day and stop. They do not think for the future.

Ultimately, this is also how I like them. If they were as excited as in rich western countries, I would certainly take less pleasure in traveling in their country and then it is ultimately the pace they have chosen and their convenience. I wonder sometimes if the concept of progress is made for them. They seem happy in their traditional way of life and their wobbly houses. However, some ask me what to do to live in Europe or like European, imagining that money falls from the sky and my bags are filled with notes. I barely want sometimes to tell them that they should start working hard first as we do, before eventually direct them to the lottery of the US green card, probably easier to get than an European work visa.

If Zambians are quite magic, road landscapes of the east part of Zambia, however, are not really, I expected better. This is far from ugly, but Africa generally offers much better than that.


I arrive at Chipata in a sad state and the guards of the clothing store even decide to follow me to the shelves because my dirty and torn shirt is in a pitiful condition. My scent must also draw attention I guess. I also bought a backup tire because the rear tire has nearly done 20 000km now. To avoid Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital and earn some time on my journey to Tanzania, I decided to cross the Lundazi border further north. I had not expected that I should cycle 80 kilometers in dirt roads without any road signs to the town of Mzimba in Malawi. I crossed the border at 8:00 am after sleeping at the Zambian customs and they asked me for the first time, the papers of the bike. Yes, of course, I proposed him to write it down on a paper while laughing.

Lost in the tracks, intersection with no signs, I sometimes have to wait 10 minutes for a guy willing to go through it and direct me. If I ask the return of the tarmac it is always very close and often at 6km. I try to laugh it up when I have to push my bike in a sandbank 15 km after. Malawi is not fundamentally different than Zambia regarding the population, still it speaks English, it is always cheerful, helpful, meals are always composed of milmil / sima with a little piece of meat and herbs (as in Botswana either) and their price does not exceed $ 2. They always talk under the trees.

The panorama is much prettier, green and hilly. The road from Mzimba to Mzuzu reach nearly 2000m high to offer great views all around before returning to the city where the children call me Chuck Norris because of my red beard. And of course, my skin color. Connected for the first time on the internet for two weeks in a cyber cafe, the computer take one minute to open a Google page, and I think back for a moment of my Pentium 166. I look at the first two messages: the first tells me that the situation of my small Australian company is very bad and the second is a message to my parents to tell me they called the ambassador of Malawi because I gave no news for 5 days, the GPS did not work … Five days in Malawi, a country like Zambia, where my only risk is about to burst a tire, I laugh and tell me that there are days like this where I should have to stay my hermit time.


The road after Mzuzu is even more beautiful. I climbed a long rise after passing through a long green valley and find myself to overhang Lake Malawi for many kilometers downhill in the middle of baboons showing me their slicky butt with energy. The lake reminds me of the beaches of northern Scotland with turquoise waters and surrounding by white sand and emerald vegetation along the shore. Once down in the village of Chiweta, I offer me a meal in a restaurant half Catholic, half Soccer, posters of Christ and the Last Supper marrying with Manchester United, Ronaldo and Messi and facing Puff daddy and 50 Cents .




It is quite common to see this kind of association in developing countries and still quite delicious. I then wash myself in the lake, in the middle of the small fishing boats carved into the thick tree trunks offered by these countries. I would cross two white during my few days in Malawi. The places I crossed seem there are very few tourist and deserve to go check it out if you plan to leave soon abroad.




For my last night in Malawi, a funny thing happened to me, recalling an episode in Central America I had narrated here. I approached the town of Karonga after a day of 170km (tail wind). The rain begins to fall, I thought to find refuge on the radio station of the city, all fenced and has a beautiful lawn where I was already dreaming of installing it my tent. This is not allowed.
Well, I see a Baptist church and will ask them hospitality on their lawn. If I do not believe in God, I am well aware that churches remain a peaceful place where no one have to fear anything. To avoid the situation in El Salvador where they laugh at us for an hour because we admit we were atheist, I say I am a Catholic when they ask me the question. In the end, my family has a Catholic background that I assume without worry. Religion is not useful to me but it has been for hundreds of years to build a common set of laws of common sense among men.
 However, I regretted having said that (I was Catholic) for two reasons. First, I discovered that they are more clever people and could have understood my point of view without screaming and promise me hell.. Second, just before leaving and thank them, I was invited to pray with them. Why not, I expected something classic and I go into the church. Then they start singing gospel style where everyone claps his hands. I find it fun and participate even if I do not get a word of their dialect. Then, they start praying, eyes closed, and clenched fists shouting that God would protect me, in English this time. It was also nice but I nearly wanted to laugh for the way they do it. Then they continue with Chi Banana (this is the name of one of the pastors, that means “big banana” … because his grandfather had banana fields) reciting a prayer, still for me, in a quiet and traditional style. And to finish off, I am asked in my turn to pray aloud for everyone. ! I was not expecting that so I improvised a mix of thanks that I intended anyway to serve them, with some “ God bless you all ” to end it. Pfiuuu, I laughed for an hour on my bike. It was still nicer than in El Salvador and this time, it was my fault. Next time I’ll be honest, even if I have to be thundered by God.

And do not forget the Malawi health advice of the day :


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