“Towards late afternoon I became ever more drained, both physically and mentally. In an effort to get some instant energy I drank my whole last can of sweetened condensed milk that I normally used for coffee. This helped a little bit for energy, but my mental state was ever degrading and I was seriously contemplating what and why I was doing this. I also ran out of water and there was no place to refill as the lake was now behind some mountains.”
Leaving Ludewa I was super excited because the next village I aimed for was Manda, right on the shore of Lake Nyasa. Although I knew from the outset that there was a small possibility I may not find a ship to take me to Mbamba Bay, I was still quite disappointed to find that there were no ships or even boats at all, ever, that would be able to take me to where I needed to go.
I found a nice little spot in the village and right next to the lake where I decided to make camp for the night. While pitching my tent I was approached by two border police officials whom asked to see my passport. At first I thought I was going to be asked for another bribe, but they continued to question me intensely for more than two and a half hours. Even after they let me go one officer stayed behind to keep a watchful eye on me all night.
The border police woke me up unexpectedly in the middle of the night. This time they were dressed in fully camouflaged military uniform and were accompanied by a senior official. He wanted to know whether I was military, where my gun was, how an ordinary person like me without military training can get there on a bicycle, why I am traveling alone, how I knew where the different villages were and how I can afford to travel for six months without a steady income. I was also asked to take everything out of my tent so that it could be inspected. After inspecting my map for quite some time and looking through some of my bags the senior official calmed down and said that if I have any problems during the night I should not hesitate to contact them, but that I should be out of there by 8am.
The first part of the next day almost every male between the ages of 25 and 35 wanted to know who I was, where I was coming from and going to and what my purpose there was. I felt very unwelcome. However, I later learned that the shoreline of Lake Nyasa is the border between Tanzania and Malawi and that, because the area is so remote and inaccessible it is popular with illegal immigrants, smugglers and traffickers of all sorts from Malawi. I also realized that cycling by yourself for pleasure for months on end and through some very physically and mentally demanding terrain and situations is simply something people here do not even dream about. Life is hard enough as it is. Why make it harder? So they simply did not understand it and with that perspective things now made a bit more sense.
Understanding the nature of the area I was in I made a push to Liuli, another shoreline village 95 km away, rather than camping wild. However, the road condition had not yet improved and the inclines became ever more steep and long. I had to get off and push my bicycle uphill one slippery step at a time more times than any other day. Because of the distance I knew I had to cover I had a good breakfast but I did not stop for lunch. This was a big mistake.
Towards late afternoon I became ever more drained, both physically and mentally. In an effort to get some instant energy I drank my whole last can of sweetened condensed milk that I normally used for coffee. This helped a little bit for energy, but my mental state was ever degrading and I was seriously contemplating what and why I was doing this. I also ran out of water and there was no place to refill as the lake was now behind some mountains.
I made it to Liuli long after dark with a semi flat tyre and after being helped twice by villagers to push my bicycle uphill. One villager in particular, Michael Ndunguru, whom I unfortunately do not have a picture of but whom I will never forget, walked with me for some kilometers and helped to push my bicycle up the many successive hills. A helping hand from a villager, without being asked to help, reminded me that this is just the way Tanzanian people are.
Liuli to Mbamba Bay was only a half day ride and only the last 10 km or so was tough. I immediately spotted the dock where a small cargo vessel was anchored. There I met Egbert Jamen. He spoke English quite well and told me that I could most likely get a ride on the ‘sugar ship’ later that day if I went to ask the Captain.
Tanzania has a huge sugar shortage because of changes made by the current president that is meant to steer Tanzania towards better self-reliability and sustainability using its own available natural resources, thereby also creating employment, rather than simply relying on cheap imports from China. Right now those changes have resulted in a shortage of some commodities, but I think in the long run this will have beneficial effects on economic growth as Tanzania has so much more potential than just tourism.
The sugar ship was due to depart at 3 am. With more than half a day till nightfall Egbert first took me to the very relaxed immigration office where the two on-duty officers were lazy’ing about in hammocks – in their defense very few travelers come through here and they had already processed the sugar ship. Once I had my passport stamped Egbart escorted me to his friend’s little restaurant situated next to the dock. It was closed but I was still free to make my own lunch and share a well-deserved victory beer with Egbart.
Egbert continued to make sure I have everything I needed the rest of the day until late at night and even helped me load my bicyle and gear onto the ship. Tanzanians care for and appreciate their visitors very much. This is just the way they are, and this is how I will forever remember Tanzania.
Kwaheri, from the stunning shoreline of Lake Malawi in Nkhata Bay where I am now resting for a few days.
p.s. Although I am having an incredibly adventurous journey my purpose is to promote AntibioticAction, an initiative to raise awareness on the rising threat of antibiotic resistance, and to promote scientific efforts relating to antimicrobial surveillance on the African continent. My journey is made possible with support from Global Academy Jobs, an online portal for connecting academic institutions worldwide with the best talent. Follow the links to visit their websites for more information.