Up the Rumphi
Stage 51 (32): Chitimba to Mzuzu
Supposedly only 19° this morning pre-dawn, but it feels like mid-30s given the humidity. I can hear rumblings of thunder in the distance as we set off just after sunrise. The first 15 km flat more or less, running along the lake shore. Virtually no traffic, which is great of course.
Right about 15 km, the fun begins - the main climb of the day taking us up and over the western escarpment; 11 km hill climb with an overall average 6%. Lots of switchbacks. As it turns out, not really all that difficult; humidity seems to lessen as we climb, temperature stays cool (overcast helps, I’m sure) and we occasionally get a bit of breeze on the switchbacks which are more exposed. 5-6 broken down flatbed trucks along the way attest to the difficulty of getting up this road; we meet a few fuel tankers and large transports making the descent (and I think at least one climbing up), but the growling of their engines and air brakes give plenty of warning.
The views out over Lake Malawi really are spectacular.
Just over the top, and it’s a steep descent back down to the Rumphi River Valley; we then follow this river valley for the remainder of the day, slowing gaining altitude all the way to Mzuzu.
We encounter a solitary cyclist, Henk, from the Netherlands who’s cycling the reverse direction to us. Henk is on his 4th year of cycling Africa (in stages, I believe); started in Morocco and came all the way down the west coast to Namibia and South Africa. Now he’s returning home via the eastern route to Cairo and Alexandria. I’m a little gob-smacked listening to his account.
Steady ascending the Rumphi is helped by a bit of tail wind, and it never gets really warm. And perhaps my legs are getting used to these days. The River itself seems in full flood from the recent rains and runoff; although usually out of sight, it’s almost always within earshot.
A sign post leads us to one of several cane bridges spanning the river; ladies cross balancing loads on their heads, and babies on their backs. I merely put a foot on this bridge and decide that’s enough for me.
Mzuzu is rush-hour mayhem by the time I get that far. We stay at Macondo Camp, a rather luxurious camp combined with an Italian bistro … hot water showers, even.
All in all, a good day.