Bikepacking the Democratic republic of congo (DRC) Introduction The following is a collection of stories from 5 weeks bikepacking through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I continued riding through
one of the poorest countries in africa
A slow start
I crossed the border into Malawi the day after I got a really bad fever. However the next morning, I wasn’t feeling too bad so I decided I’d be able to cycle the 50km or so to the border town in Malawi.
The next day I made my way inland towards Kasungu. I really wasn’t feeling the vibes of Malawi. There were a lot of people (basically everyone) who either stared at me or shouted “Mazungu, Mazungu” meaning white person.
Everyone was super friendly, but I think the combination of not feeling 100%, riding along a main road and not being used to all the people everywhere was exhausting.
My goal after the first couple of days was to reach Lake Malawi, where I felt I would be able to relax a bit more.
After a few days I head towards the Lake and this involved crossing a national park that doesn’t allow cycling.
Within minutes of arriving at the Nkotakhota Wildlife Reserve I was able to negotiate a price with a truck driver to take my both my bicycle and I on the back.
It was a 40km journey and a pretty fun experience. The road became bumpy then began the challenge of making sure I was holding onto my bike so it didn’t fly off.
Reaching Lake Malawi
I really didn’t enjoy my time until I made it to Lake Malawi. Once I reached the lake, I rode from Nkohtakohta towards Ngala Beach where I stayed at a lodge that allowed me to essentially camp right on the beach. It was really nice to get away from the people, take a moment to breathe and relax a little bit.
On the second day I was in Ngala I met a local guy called Bay Giraffe, nicknamed because he was tall.
I went for dinner at his house and we played the local Malawi game Bao Bao which was similar to Backgammon.
It was a pretty fun time and interesting to get an insight into the local Malawian culture.
It really is such a poor country. The people there don’t have a lot of money and work all day for only $1-$2.
However, they are some of the happiest people I’ve met thus far in Africa. It just goes to show that you don’t need a lot to be happy in life.
After Ngala I headed to Nkhata Bay which is a bit of a touristy area in Malawi. I stayed there for 6 nights, partly because the snorkelling in the lake was nice. I was even able to go scuba diving which involved a day dive and a night dive.
The fish in Lake Malawi are famous and known as “Aquarium fish” because they are endemic to Lake Malawi.
My friend that works in an Aquarium back home in Australia said snorkelling/diving in lake Malawi is the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest. It doesn’t’t get any better than this for people interested in Fish.
That’s what convinced me to go Scuba diving there. To the untrained eye such as myself, it just seemed like normal random fish swimming around haha but I still enjoyed diving there, especially the night dive was quite fun.
My fever returned in Nkhata bay the day after I went diving and I really couldn’t move. I couldn’t even walk up the stairs to take a shower so I just lay in my hot tent all day on my deflated airmat. At that point I really wish I’d payed for a room the day before.
Heading into the mountains
(Nyika National Park)
After 6 days I finally left, still not feeling great and made my way to Mzuzu where I went to the hospital and got a blood test. I didn’t have malaria but I was infected from my thumb so was given some antibiotics and aspirin.
I then headed for Nyika National Park. What an amazing route I followed through some of the more remote areas of Malawi.
Riding through some small villages and really taking in the mountain scenery. It was the first time being in the mountains since the Cederberg Wilderness Area in South Africa.
I didn’t realise how much I missed the Mountains until I was there. The air tastes different, and there is a calmness about them.
I camped at the entrance to Nyika National Park one night where a bunch of kids were just standing and staring at me for hours.
I then rode through the national Park towards Chelinda Camp. It was really one of the highlights of my time in Malawi. Beautiful views, fresh air and peaceful serenity. I saw some different antelope and zebras roaming around and signs of elephants, although I didn’t actually see any.
As I headed higher and closer to the Chelinda Camp, it started raining and got a little cold. The first time I’ve ridden in the rain in 4 months since arriving in Africa.
But I really enjoyed it, I loved the coldness and harshness that you have to deal with in the mountains. There was something really special about that moment as I was riding through the rain after I’d just snapped my carbon Belt drive as I was riding uphill.
I put on the spare belt and continued towards the camp.
At the camp I was able to have a warm shower, have a nice dinner cooked for me by a German couple who was overloading in Africa and sit by the fire as I watched the stars.
I vowed that I would make an effort to spend more time in the mountains on the rest of my Africa trip as I had really enjoyed my time there. It was difficult but so rewarding.
After leaving the Chelinda camp the next morning, I headed towards Karonga on some more remote back roads only accessible by bicycle or motorbike.
It was constant up and down all day. But unlike other cyclists, I really don’t mind pushing my bike up and down over mountains and hills. there is something rewarding about it and it means you get to ride along some pretty remote and interesting trails.
Once I got to Karonga, I decided to backtrack a little to a camp so I could meet up again with my friend Klaus who I’d met just before crossing the border into Malawi a few weeks earlier.
We spent a day off discussing our different experiences in Malawi and talking about Malawian culture and how basic the food was and how much we were looking forward to the food in Tanzania.
I also met Bryn, an 18 year old English backpacker who joined Klaus in his car for a couple of days.
After a day of rest, I made my way to the Tanzanian border and had a pretty simple border crossing into Tanzania.
I was really looking forward to Tanzania and the moment I crossed the border, I knew I was going to have a good time.
Reflecting on my time in Malawi, I thought I would only spend 10-14 days there but really decided to slow down and enjoy my time there. The Malawian people are friendly even though they are extremely poor and live very basic lives.
The more remote mountains of Malawi was some of the best moments I had in Malawi and recommend that to anyone.