A pig on a bike

Day 79, stage 61, 107km

Start, School ground camp

Finish, Kasungu, Kasungu Inn

Today was a short day without too much climbing, just what I needed after a couple of difficult days. I had been up in the night to visit the toilet tent but I was beginning to feel a bit better. The morning was uneventful. I ate a normal lunch and kept it in. I began to feel I had some energy again. After lunch I joined Bas and Thys, a coupe of young Dutch riders, at a coke stop. Bas set a good pace and we did the last 25 or 30km together. It felt good to feel good again. At Kasungu Bob and I got a room at the Inn, had a hot shower and found snickers bars, cold coke and cold beer – with firming guts, a state very close to heaven.

Kasungu is a fairly big town. It has banks and supermarkets. The shelves are fairly full but the choice is limited. It is interesting to stand by the till at the big people’s supermarket and watch the people go through. The typical purchase amounts to 2000 or 3000 kwacha, about $5 or $6. Hardly shopping for the week. People quietly extract small kwacha notes from hidden folds and pockets. Business is busy but transactions small. There were also several shops selling bicycles. For 26,000 kwacha ($65) you can buy a brand new Flying Pigeon – shiny black, double top bar.  I almost bought one but it would have cost twice or three times that to fly it home. You can get a chines mountain bike for 37,000 kwacha. And this is without bargaining. These were the first prices the shop guy gave me when I started chatting with him.

Bikes is Malawi are everywhere – much more common than in other countries. They have bicycle taxis. A big padded seat is mounted where a pannier rack would ordinarily be. A couple of foot posts are mounted to the rear fork. Sometimes a set of handlebars is mounted off the back of the rider’s seat. The riders are strong. It is nothing to see a guy slogging up a steep hill with a mother and child on the back. In town, they have bicycle taxi ranks just as you would find a vehicle taxi rank.

This is also the country where they will carry anything on the back of a bike. We came across one guy with a huge table on the back of his bike. Following hard after him was another guy on a bike saying ‘Stop him! Stop him! He stole that table’. How do you expect to achieve the perfect table heist when your get away vehicle is a bicycle? But my favorite was coming up behind a guy with a big live black pig on the back rack of his bike. The pig was bleating out one side and shitting out the other. When I passed and expressed to him how nice I thought his pig was he gave me a smile that would have lit up a ballroom. Tomorrow was Easter Sunday after all.

But all was not well. An hour after supper the guts started to churn again. Shit. Literally. Good thing we took a room because I spent the night sneaking off to visit the porcelain princess.

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