We didn’t spend a long time in Malawi. And we only had 6 cycling days – a day and a half to Chitimba on Lake Malawi after crossing the border from Tanzania, four days from Chitimba to Lilongwe, and then another half day from Lilongwe to the Zambian border. My impressions of Zambia this time round were also filtered through the lens of having the squits (messy image). Malawi is the poor cousin in the region. The government has been badly mishandled for years, the economy is weak, the people poor and inward looking. It is a country of tremendous natural resources used to little advantage. It is the only country other than Ethiopia where kids line the roads screaming ‘money, money, money’ rather than ‘hello, hello, how are you, where you go?’ Not coincidentally, donor funded programs seem to be a major part of the cash economy. Yet in Lilongwe you see $250k cars and modern South African shopping malls – the very rich, the very poor.
The bike was fine in Malawi. No problems. In fact I didn’t do anything to it but put lube on the chain. It didn’t clean it once. It rained a lot so this was done for me. The front derailleur is finally working well. It had been bent a bit (not sure how or when) and it took a few trips to the mechanics to get it back in shape and shifting well. Tires are still performing well. No flats yet.
It was finally my time to get sick – Chitimba tummy. It hit me on the rest day and stayed with me until Lilongwe; this made the long, hilly and wet four days from lake Malawi to Lilongwe a bit miserable. I was keeping food in. I wasn’t getting my calories (we burn 5000 – 7000 calories a day) so my energy was low. I can’t complain too much. This is the first time I have had any real health issue that has affected my riding. But I am glad it is over. I did not take any medication. I think the best thing is to let the body take care of it self, which it did. The ORS was especially useful I think. I was taking a full 1 litre sachet at lunch instead of a ½ litre sachet. On the positive side, the ulnar nerve in my right arm seems to be healing itself. I have much more strength in my right hand now. I am not sure if this is a result of the body just adapting and taking care of itself or of my adjusting the way I grip the bars. At any rate I am pleased that it is getting better not worse.
Some people are really beginning to focus on the finish. They now want just to get to Cape Town – this translates into loss of enthusiasm, days seeming longer, and a general flattening of mood. I don’t share this fixation yet. I am still having a blast and focusing only on the day’s ride. I am thinking more about life after the Tour. I am sure some things will change. Lyndsay, who is roughly n my age bracket and did the full Tour 2 years ago (he is back this year to ride the sections he missed when he got Typhoid) says that riding the Tour changed a lot for him: especially his attitude towards what was important to him and how he wanted to spend his time. He seems to me a very interesting, focused and balanced guy. This speaks well for the impact of the Tour. We will see.