Today is only 91 km with 700 metres of climbing so I was hopeful of getting to camp early. Unfortunately, we had been warned that Chitimba had no ATM so to get money out in Karonga. We also needed to get a SIM card for the phone. Not a good start: the banks either don’t have money or don’t accept our cards, we were told by a local to come back after 8:30. We then went to the phone shop where there was a long line of TDA riders also wanting to get their phones sorted.
The phone shop went along the same lines as the border crossing the day before. One person sitting at a counter selling new phones (without even one customer while we were in the shop), one person recording the money, one person doing the registration, and one putting in the SIM cards which meant basically 3 staff doing nothing most of the time. It’s what I have heard referred to as “African Time” and there is nothing that can be done to hurry things up.
By the time we finally had our phones sorted and got money from the bank and got onto the road it was 9:30. It was really hot and really humid, we had a head wind, uneven tarmac, and it was really hot. The road was lined with children and the occasional adult demanding “give me my money”. We seemed to be making really slow progress.
There are lots of aid agencies here, every couple of km there is sign saying “so and so developmental scheme”. Maybe the amount of money that has been poured in here has contributed to the “give me my money” chanting.
It does get wearying and I feel bad when I don’t respond to groups of children that are just being friendly and waving.
We stopped at a small village for a cold drink, and sat in a shelter on planks with chickens sitting next to us, with a number of curious children watching us. At least when you have stopped you don’t seem to get the money demands.
Lake Malawi is huge, we are staying at a lodge right by the lake. However, to get to the lodge we have to leave the main road and go down 1 km of a sandy road. The moment we left the road we were swamped by locals who wanted to show us carvings, take us on trips, do our washing, selling us illegal substances. It was a relief to get to the lodge gate and have them shut on the other side.
The Chitimba beach lodge is very pretty with outside sitting areas with nice thatched roofs. We were lucky and got a room with an en-suite.
The room had big spiders but they hid as soon as we came in and we didn’t see them again. There is a tiny fan which isn’t working as the power is out. Apparently the power can be out for 2-3 days in a row. The owner says he will put the generator on at 6 pm if it has not come back on.
It is so hot that we decide to go for a swim in lake, taking the risk of Biharzya
( also known as schistosomiasis) a disease caused by infection with a freshwater parasitic worm. Sounds pretty revolting but Jen the medic advises that it is treated with a one off dose of medication. Jen is swimming. The owner Ed says he has lived here for 12 years and has never been infected.
The resort doesn’t have facilities to do dinner for this amount of people, so TDA is providing evening meals both nights. Tonight it is vege stir-fry with rice for all riders plus tomato, cucumber and lettuce salad.
After dinner we had a nice bottle of chenin Blanc at the bar and chatted to the owner Ed. Ed and his wife are from the Netherlands and bought this place off the internet 12 years ago. It was interesting talking to him, over the years he has tried to put programs in place for the locals but he has not got very far. There is a problem with staff after a couple of years stealing. Ed says one of the problems is the amount that comes over the bar in a day is more than they make in a month. Ed said it’s hard for the locals to get ahead as the ones who do have a job are expected to support the extended family.
The room is very hot and despite the power going in the bar the room fan is not working. I don’t want to have the windows with holes in the netting open as don’t want to become a mosquito buffet.
It takes ages to go to sleep but at least it is a rest day tomorrow.