Stage 54 (35): Kasungu to Lilongwe
The rains eventually stopped at some point before midnight, and the Herons settled down as well. Back to an early start today, 5:30 bags, 6:00 breakfast; rolled up the wet tent and shoved it into the duffel bag as the Herons (and the rest of Kasungu) were fully waking.
Actually a hint of blue sky as we set off on thru the middle of town, then picked up the M1 again, southbound. Warm and humid but not unpleasant. The land much like the latter part of yesterday - a wide open plateau (?) or plain, very gentle slopes if and when they occur, and still dominated by what I take to be subsistence farming. Lots of small roadside vendors displaying tomatoes, melons, sometimes potatoes, sometimes chickens or goats. Also some sort of beans; I should know but can’t recall the type. They might actually be roasted insects … I’ll have to stop and inspect the next time I pass one.
About halfway through the morning section, we cross over the upper Bua River; it seems idyllic and there is a nice looking rest house there on the banks but it’s firmly shuttered. Local fishermen are sorting and drying their catch; fresh water minnows from their appearance, but I suppose they provide something.
Yet another small settlement and I’m again struck by the number of AirTel kiosks in this region, selling airtime and I think dispersing cash sent in from the Malawi diaspora? Note: AirTel is Malawi's leading provider of prepaid, postpaid mobile, & 4G services. I think anyone can become an agent and reap a tiny commission; but as my old mate Jim refers to it, it’s a case of ‘ruinous competition’ so I’m guessing that it’s another false road to riches, except of course for the telecommunications company itself.
Later in the morning I start seeing more commercial farming operations, including tobacco.
Just before the lunch break, and I’m over the first climb of the day which isn’t much but I still feel like getting into a bit of shade and take some water. I sit down besides a gentleman who introduces himself as Nadel; he’s 82 and dapper, very articulate and speaking impeccable English. He’s very curious about us cyclists so I fill him in on the TDA. I think he’s bemused by the whole thing.
Into the afternoon, the day gets warmer as expected but not really hot. Some 30 km back from Lilongwe, I’m encountering full-on commercial agriculture with silos, large fields of maize and tobacco. Then tall brick walls, razor wire topped, and gated; estates of the well-to-do. The traffic intensifies and the shoulder disappears; this being the M1 and supposedly a major arterial route, it’s in shocking condition.
The last 20-15 km or so is through road construction and presumed improvements. I don’t appreciate the road crew installing concrete pylons every 25 m or so on what shoulder exists, forcing me out into the traffic lane. I stop at about 10 km out for a restorative coke and to settle down, but when starting off again I get mixed up at a round-about and go off-course. The Garmin re-routes me through what I take to be a series of very nice residential areas, but it’s sure a circuitous route, including a footpath and pedestrian bridge over a river. Eventually I make camp (approaching from the opposite direction to that originally planned), noting that I’d added on some extra kilometres.
A cold beer proves to be the perfect attitude adjustment.
Jim, Toni-Anne, Rachel and I go to dinner later; lots of laughs and all looking most definitely forward to the rest day tomorrow (Friday).