Wednesday, 7 April 2010


Have mentioned in my previous postings that "rest days" are wrongly called and today was no exception... I had decided to sleep late but unfortunately the 5h00 am wake up routine that we are in also works on rest days. So I had to kill time watching CNN waiting for the hotel breakfast buffet to open at 6h00... First time I am watching CNN in 3 months and nothing has changed... Bombings in Iraq and the English are confused about their future...

Today, on top of the normal rest day duties which includes laundry, purchasing of food, blog postings, shaving, and washing everything you own, I had on the agenda to attend the bike donation ceremony back at the TDA camp and to get my parcels sent from South Africa. One is coming hand delivered via Aneke a friend of Caroline the TDA nurse whilst the other one is supposed to be redirected from Dar es Salaam's DHL office to their Lilongwe branch. When I heard 2 weeks ago that the first parcel was held at the customs in Dar es Salaam, I immediately organised for a second packet to be resent via Aneke who happened to be in Pretoria that day. Thanks to a very fast action from my office staff at Junk Mail, all the items were repurchased in a few hours and sent via Aneke who was gonna join us here in Malawi. It was a wise move. The DHL office did confirm that it was absolutely no problem to redirect the parcel that was held in Dar es Salaam and even confirmed that it had arrived in Lilongwe... he he.... Well, today I found out that the parcel is still in Dar es Salaam at the custom... Plan B was the right thing to do and now I can enjoy new gloves, have extra tubes and replace the broken padding inside my helmet.

So, instead of driving around Lilongwe trying to find the DHL office, I now had a bit of extra time which I invested in a full body massage. My tired legs were screaming with pain and it was not the nicest massage I have had, but at least I got the pressure on my knees to loosen a bit. I wish we could get massages more often, they really make a difference, you feel so good after that. Unfortunately such luxuries are limited to rest days in high end hotels and so far I have only had 3 chances to enjoy such a treat. My total cycling time since Cairo is now almost 400 hours, so this comes to one massage every 130 hours of cycling....

After my massage, I took a quick walk to the nearest shop outside the hotel. I saw a nice looking restaurant called "Cappuccino". Perfect! I have not had a cappuccino in decades it feels, so I did not think twice and rushed inside already dreaming of the coffee flavour with a hint of cinnamon... Well, my dreams were short lived... Cappuccino had one espresso machine and it was broken... I should have known... This has happened again and again during this trip... Machines are broken and items on the menus are not available... But given the high level of development and comfort of Lilongwe, I got carried away and I was already thinking in European mode. So I let my frustrations go to the manager who was highly apologetic about the fact that Cappuccino did not have a working coffee machine..... When I told him that it was quite ridiculous that with such a name he had no coffee, he told me without joking that he was aware of the situation and was going to take the signage down!!!!! He he... I could not believe what I had just heard... I hinted that fixing the espresso machine would probably be a cheaper and faster option than re-branding his shop, but he just kept on laughing and was actually serious... I have to say that Africa keeps on surprising me, for the good and the bad... I just shook my head and went shopping without any cappuccino but an interesting story to share.

Last night we ventured to "the best Italian restaurant" in town accordingly to the Lonely planet guide book..... he he... Another good story spoiled by an eye witness... This "best Italian restaurant" did not have one item that came close to any Italian food. As a matter of fact I doubt if they even knew where Italie was... Anyway the lonely planet employees should also think about visiting the places they write about.... Quite ridiculous....

The afternoon was shared between finishing my "cleaning everything I own" duties and the bike donation ceremony. Making it back to camp took a bit longer than I had estimated due to the traffic jams of Lilongwe. Lilongwe is a strange city. It is made of two parts, the new and the old city, but you have to be told which one is which as everything looks alike. It is by far the cleanest and most modern city we have crossed so far and it looks like suburbs of Pretoria with leafy streets and shopping centers popping everywhere. This is the first time we actually can witness the commercial influence of South Africa. From Nedbank to Nandos, all the main South African chains are here. Even the buildings look alike. Lilongwe is also by far the most expensive place we have come across. For the first time we have taxis with seat belts, clean seats and in perfect condition. (charging first world prices of course). When I think back to the taxis of Khartoum or Addis, we are a world apart. I honestly did not expect Lilongwe to be so much more developed. Even the taxi drivers are friendly, calm and honest.... Way... That is a statement!

We donated 72 bicycles to 3 health care associations. This year, 32 bicycles went to Emmanuel International, 20 to Partners in Health, and another 20 to Canadian Physicians for Aid and Relief. That brings the total number of bicycles donated through the TDA Foundation to more than 350 for 2010, and more than 1500 bikes since 2003.

These bicycles donated here in Malawi are actually an interesting story on their own. They are old broken down or used bicycles coming from Canada and refurbished here in Malawi by an association called Africycle. This association has trained local staff to fix and rebuild these bikes collected on the other side of the planet.They are also very solid and will probably last longer than the cheaper versions produced in India and China. So the 72 bikes we donated today were purchased from Africycle for 100 euro each. This concept provides help both ways as it creates jobs for the people who fix them as well as relief for the people who receive them.. Great concept and a very efficient way to recycle. I have to once again stress the fact that I am very proud and pleased to have raised money for more than a 100 bikes thanks to you guys, it is really a great feeling to meet the people who can tell you exactly what a difference these bikes make to the people who received them. Well done!

                          We donated 71 bikes to 3 health care organisations. At this simple hand over
                          ceremony, the representatives of these associations told us how effective those
                          bicycles were and the impact they had on the community
                                    Alison welcoming the South African high commissioner to the
                                    TDA fundation bike hand over ceremony
                             This is also what we do on rest days, we swop and repair our tyres....
                             Each rider has a few set of different tyres for the different road conditions.
                             We don't have permanent access to these as they are kept on the roof
                             of the dinner truck. The TDA staff off loads all the tyres on rest days
                             (and some excpetional situations) so that we can change our tyres if needs be
                               I bended my disk brake rotor and a new one is on the way from
                               South Africa, in the meantime, I will be using the spare one
                               on my second set of wheels
                         Finally I received one of the two long awaited packages sent from
                         South Africa. The second one is still blocked at the customs in
                         Dar es Salaam... Biltong, new gloves, new tubes, new helmet
                         padding, a new pump, etc etc... This is Christmas!


Anonymous said...

Salut Gerald,merci encore de nous promener sur ton porte bagage a travers l'Afrique et bravo pour la
performance physique..respect..
Gilles ;-))

Anonymous said...

Gerald, you must be tired but you didn't loose excitement and the positive spirit in your stories at all. This blog should certainly be converted in a book, I am ready to buy!

tonton said...

salut mon neveu!
je pense que le bon bout arrive! tiens bon et j'espere qu'ils vont te laisser gagner au moins une etape au cap ou au moins en afrique du sud
allez bon courage! nous on file dans les alpes faire du ski (avec une semaine de retard!)
gerard (dit "tonton!")
au fait le montage du film de pretoria est fait !!!!!!