• AndyAsh

Pack and Prep - part deux

The Final Countdown

So it’s less than two weeks to go until the whistle blows for the big kick off. With the Courts appearing to call a temporary truce in the disputes that have been at the heart of the recent civil unrest (and kept us indoors). The outside world finally looked safe…ish.

This was our last weekend to get some serious kilometres under our belts before things get too busy, and what a strange weekend it was!

It was very windy, as is often the case at this time of year, and consequently, not a little physically challenging; but it was also a weekend for unexpected things and small surprises.

Surprise number one, was our most unexpected road kill to date. We spend a lot of time on the road; so we have collected a surprising amount of road kill experiences. So far we have seen a good few notables apart from the usual snakes, dogs of all sizes, and the occasional goat, but this one was a “doozy.”

Once, while touring, we saw a massive snake that was as thick as a well-portioned arm (not my stringy arm), maybe eight or ten metres long, and freshly dead with two 4x4 tyre prints across it. We held our breath as we added two sets of Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tyre prints to the unfortunate snake; I guess it’s not easy crossing the road when you have no legs and you are twice the length of the road. Nevertheless riding over it was a particularly unpleasant experience!

We felt slightly “David Attenborough” later that same day as we saw a large crocodile enjoying a refreshing dip in (coincidentally) the same place as we had enjoyed a similarly refreshing dip a couple of hours previously. We simultaneously forgot how to swim.

Notably, I once saw a hyena that looked like it had ruined the front of somebody’s car, however, seeing a hyena is not too unusual, especially where we live, as it's a favourite hangout for them (bins and pets). But today’s road kill appeared to be a lioness!

Firstly there are not supposed to be lions in Malawi, but as we were close to the Zambian border, where there are fewer people, we felt that that was a possible explanation. Secondly, it was in a bit of a state so we didn't hang around to get a photo. Neither of us enjoys the smell of dead things, and this was quite a lot of dead thing, and a Guinness book of Records-breaking cloud of flies. We spent much of the ride speculating what else it could have been, but try as hard as we might, we could come up with no plausible theories. This was one for the record…a lioness!

The other strange things were less spectacular, but nevertheless mildly interesting. At one point a drunk guy made a grab at me as we rode through a busy trading centre; no doubt attracted to my apparent riches, matching shoes, and shiny bike. Luckily his eyes were pointing in different directions, his binocular vision adversely affected by the booze, and his grab seized only a large amount of fresh air to my stern. He was obviously of malevolent intent, and awash to the gunwales with evil smelling alcohol to boot. I think he’d been drinking Chifuku, a very strong local beer brewed from old porridge, dog shit, and farts; so I was extremely pleased with my narrow escape from his breath.

At lunchtime, I was also pleasantly surprised to find that a jam turnover I bought for my lunch was inexplicably filled with vegetable curry. I considered that a win!

View from the lunch spot

I was once more surprised on checking my iPhone, to find that some investigative journalists in U.K. had, after painstaking investigation, discovered that Boris Johnson, the U.K. Prime Minister was singularly unsuited for the job of Head of State. He appears to be at the centre of several extremely un-statesmanlike performances; not least of which he was appearing to call the Leader of the Opposition a “big girl’s blouse.” I was also surprised later, to find out that Johnson was himself puzzled at Irish Premier Leo Varadkar’s name; he was quoted as being sure that all Irish people were called Murphy. No, I’m not making it up - it was in the Guardian, so it must be true. I wonder if Mr Johnson and Mr Trump have a game of racist bingo going? My money's on Johnson!

The strangeness continued; along one stretch of road, we kept seeing a prostitute about every ten kilometres as she climbed from truck to truck plying her trade. It seemed to be a busy day for her, and I suspect she had arms like Arnold Schwarzenegger after all the climbing she did on these huge American style trucks. Speaking of trucks, one that struck us as slightly noteworthy was a fine looking monster dumper truck with "Big Dick" emblazoned across the back in three foot high letters. Dick was obviously of similar proportions to his truck, and proud of it.

To cap the strangeness, we were farted at by a cheeky eight year old girl, whose friends fell about laughing, as did the wife. Luckily she can laugh like a drain and remain upright on her bike as she does so. We normally get a wave and a smile from the kids along the route, and we mostly return the compliment. We failed miserably on this occasion as it's really hard to fart on a bike, on command, while pedalling hard.

Anyhow, back to the purpose of the blog…less than two weeks to go to D-Day. Every time I come home from work there appears to be less furniture in the house and I am starting to feel like a squatter. I love the clean lines and the feeling of space, but a few more spoons, and chairs wouldn't go amiss.

One of the chickens has stopped laying eggs, in protest at the fact that we have sold the cushions from her favourite egg-laying chair. Just wait until we sell the chair!


The bikes have been rebuilt and are ready for the final furtle this weekend. The maps are packed, passport photos taken, and suitable stashes of currency secreted around the bikes... not saying where though…(you never know who might be reading this!)

On second thoughts…I’m probably safe – nobody’s likely to read this. I could probably publish all of my bank account details, with PINs and passwords, and my savings account would be safer than a sausage roll at a vegan house party.

... 'n' Hers

I digress... In order to avoid the last minute faff of getting friends and colleagues to be at our house at an unholy hour on the day that we leave, we have arranged with other friends to stay at their house on the night before the Grand Depart. An early start will be essential as it is a long, hilly, and hard first day. Our plan is to astonish them with how much of their food we can eat, and to try to sneak out quietly, so as not to disturb them, very early next morning...hopefully hung over.

So, in summary, we are organised (sort of), ready to go, and trying desperately to avoid trip-busting misfortunes such as malaria or biking accidents.

Fingers crossed!

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