Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Chasing Clouds

My Christmas holiday started with a 4 day bike ride from Lilongwe to Nkhata Bay. It had been a while, the last cycle from London to Devon with my sisters August 2014!

My sisters kindly taking control and trying to map read!
It was ofcourse as memorable as the last – John O Groats to Lands End 2013 for my birthday. I had a few friends join me, including my dad!

Alice Maggs and Ny cycling Liverpool to Bristol 2013,

 which took me back to when I had cycled through East Africa in 2011 on a heavy duty touring bike (

Cycling along the Nile , Egypt 2010,

Being pushed by kids, Ethiopia,

This seemed like a life time ago now but was probably the one step of fate that had brought me to live in Malawi.
The end of a term or a year must be closed with many collected thoughts so I decided it would once again be best to fix my bum to a bike saddle. I felt this was the perfect opportunity to open my Christmas holiday and the much preferred form of transport compared to the hot sweaty compacted 12 hour bus that I recalled from last year. I cycled with a friend called Nick. I met him down the road, at Mabuya backpackers and got the vibe that he was also a keen cyclist. It was the way he talked about his bike for some amount of time and the bike expeditions he had been on, especially in the Alps in France. He had even managed to bring over 2 stunning road bikes from the UK. It was very rare to see 1 of these bikes let alone 2! We both worked in Lilongwe and lived in close proximities in Area 3. It was great to find a partner in crime and adventure to cycle with. In Lilongwe we spoke of a budget and accommodation. As the frugal person I thought it was very wise to discuss this before we started. I explained we could stay anywhere down the lake in rest houses.
We began our cycle on Saturday 20th and our first stretch was Lilongwe to Salima, just before the town there is a junction. It reminded me of the border towns: everyone in your face trying to befriend you for your money. We found a guesthouse which was also a local pub. This was the lowest on our budget, we were both happy. Cheap and cheerful:  a hole for a toilet at the back of the courtyard, unfortunately there were also holes in the mosquito nets covering the bed. As I lay on the bed listening to the African beats competing against one another my thoughts took me back to my cycling travelling days in Africa. If we weren’t rough camping we would stay in these cheap fun hostels where the loud music would go on until dawn.
Ofcourse we were on holiday so we joined the people in the local bars on that one stretch of road. Now I lived here I could see straight through this stereotypical chat as the final sentences always asked for money. I was a stronger and wiser person and decided I did not want to drink much between all these annoying conversations. Finally I managed to direct Nick to a much quieter spot, the local restaurant! After the Lilongwe to Salima road of many undulating hills my cycling legs felt like they had been activated. We were both exhausted and in bed by 8.30, so much for a Saturday night dance that we had planned on the bikes on the way there!
As we cycled we were waiting to see the Lake Malawi to jump in it and swim but the further we cycled we realised the Lake was some way off from the main Lakeshore road. It was hot but if we kept moving the wind was great natural ventilation.

Lakeshore Road

For our second night we made it to Nkhotakhota. I was very impressed; the accommodation was all hidden down to the Lake from the main road which explains why the area was untouched by tourism. We found a massive colonial house, Sitima Inn. It was designed like a ship with light wells and openings on each side and a gorgeous balcony / bar and restaurant on the top floor. The food was also incredible. The dorm had raised our budget but we were happy to find hot showers and a toilet with a seat. We were right on the Lake waterfront so we stepped out to swim before bed and early in the morning before cycling on. The beach was sandy and quiet filled with locals getting on with their daily lives. The kids and ladies all lined up removing sand from the Lake and piling it up to sell. The people didn’t hassle us at all, it was a dream compared to the Salima junction.
After all of the great food we managed to cycle approximately 140km on the Monday 22nd December. We reached Kande Beach by nightfall although this was really stretching ourselves as we hadn’t even made time to swim. It was always so hot we were constantly chasing clouds for some shade. The heat was quite overpowering, at some stages the lakeshore road was not what I thought it would be and certainly not what I remembered. Although I realised any recollected memories had phased out and blurred into the many different countries that I had once travelled. The Lake was only close on a few snippets, other than that we could have been cycling on a hot summers day in Europe stretching through green flat plains of vegetation.

Lakeshore Road
Kande Beach was a great final stop catered for tourists. The beautiful thatch dorms were very spacious for our wet smelly cycling kit to be spread out to dry. Waking up to the relaxing sounds of the Lake waves, this was also accompanied by the rains: heavy downpours, thunder and lightning, it was a real treat.

Kande Beach
Kande Beach

Our expected time of arrival to Nkhata Bay was met. We had sweat out any bad liquids ready for the Christmas season.
Nkhata Bay for me is a magical place, where my creative mind expanded and ran wild. I oscillated in different positions of the jamrock reggae / rock music band (while in practice). The band played on Christmas Day at Mayoka tourist lodge and I was delighted this came with a buffet Christmas meal that I couldn’t have dreamed of even though I was just dancing with a percussion instrument beat.  Music was fun and I also had a burst of poetry ideas and went back to a few weeks of trying to write songs. I stayed with my creative friend Zion who constantly had many building projects going on, luckily this second Christmas I was invited to stay in the Chikale music house where I found lots of creative inspiration.
In the quiet mornings I could follow the trail down to my own private rock and small bay where I washed, swam and collected my thoughts. Fresh (for 2 minutes) my day was filled walking up and down the bays inland roads. I met my friends and jumped from the local to tourist bubbles. The sweat began before I even reached the top of the hill so I often split the day with a few swims. I designed 2 houses on the bay by the hospital for my friends Zion and Christa. These local material low cost houses would be places I could stay in next year.

Unfortunately I had to take a friend to hospital 1 night. It was like I was in a horror movie. The rains and lightening deafened and blinded any senses on the windows. There were shrills, screams and crying on 3 accounts, when people had passed. Any ill body frames lay still and were often skeletons on drips with one person close (a family member) who looked after them all night. The people were constantly flapping towels for mosquitos and heat. There were no mosquito nets to be seen in a place where malaria was much more prone. I was bitten many times laying waiting during the night, but I still have not had malaria (probably jinxed myself now).

Dancing, music, playing with friends kids and swimming on Chikale beach were the highlights then New Year’s topped it all off. Jamrock opened with the live band and I bounced from one bar to another until midday January 1st preparing myself for the sober month of January!
My second home in Malawi will always be Nkhata Bay as the place now encompasses true friends and family.
Home will make encounters, feelings and reflections
It is the place you find yourself in all of the connections
And lives of others intertwined around
Circular dreaming’s can apprehend and take you to places you have been in
But where your heart and home is there is always friends, family and meanings
And you become close to certain characters as you empower both believing’s
For you can never walk alone as society is for teachings
And problems arise and those are to deal with
And sometimes you must hold your mouth and go kneeling
And you learn about people and who you can lean on
Cleaning your sorrows, uprising and seeing
The changes, the culture is all part of being
But I have made my nest, a home to fly in
As an energy has drawn me and balanced my healings
Perhaps there is reason why I am over the other side
But I have always been one to fly
Not for my selfness but for questions, testing’s and social apprehensions
But my home has transformed and given me a place where I belong
So this is where I shall stop and focus on true minds alike
And enjoy peoples’ fights
As love is so close to hate, we amalgamate
Finding any excuse to celebrate
And make whole new lives
This is my home
What are your problems are my own
And your strengths, mine to learn, spread and show
And my knowledge for all to know
As we live and learn together and create a life forever
This is home

I have come back to Lilongwe with energy ready for the many tasks: work, a new house and I will be collecting many more build inspirations joining this earthship build in Mzimba for 4 days. I can guarantee the next few posts will be about sustainable architecture. I am still constantly debating and questioning the solution as their are many factors to make something sustainable.

Landirani Training Village Workshop

Permaculture: planting trees as the rainy season commences