Liwonde, Malawi -> Tete, Mozambique -> Juliasdale, Zimbabwe
Spending six or seven hours per day on a bicycle means there is usually one topic that isn’t far from our thoughts – food! It’s the fuel (and reward) that keeps us peddling through the good times, and the… not-so-good-times. We’ve been asked what exactly we eat on the road – it goes a little something like this:
Our day begins with an early start. Up with the sun at around 5am, we pack up our tent and start to prepare a hearty breakfast of oats, fruit, (banana and raisins usually) powdered milk, honey and coffee. Well rested and fed, we usually cover the most miles in the morning. Around nine our hunger returns with a vengeance, so we tuck into a snack of fruit and/or biscuits we keep in the back pockets of our cycle tops. Sometimes we get lucky and pick up some delicious fresh fritters – a slightly-sweet fried dough similar to a doughnut – which are sold on the road. Lunch is a simple affair of a freshly made sandwich (tomato, cucumber, tuna and mayo is a favorite at the moment) under a shady tree. In the afternoon, we take regular breaks and enjoy tucking into a snack of fruit or bread with peanut butter, Nutella, and banana. Once we have found somewhere to camp for the night we make a carb-heavy dinner, usually involving pasta and an assortment of local vegetables.
We sometimes stop at a local restaurant for chicken, nshima (sadza in Zimbabwe), and vegetables. Nshima is made from maize meal and is similar to a white polenta – It’s delicious and the perfect high-energy carb for cyclists. We just have to make sure we have time to spare when we go to a restaurant because a meal can take 1-2 hours to prep/serve/eat. It’s a nice treat when the timing works out!
We’ve learned that it is best to stock up on certain items in large grocery stores in the major cities – tasty pasta sauces, for example, are almost impossible to find elsewhere and make a big difference to our pasta dishes. We also stock up on oats, whole-wheat pasta, tuna, and honey. One time we ran out of oats between cities in Zambia and could only find banana-flavoured instantly-dissolvable “cereal flakes”. On the other hand, there are some items that every little small town seems to carry: tomatoes, cabbage, onion, white pasta, peanut butter, and bread.
Our food stayed relatively consistent as we left Malawi, cycled through the hot and arid “Devil’s armpit” in Mozambique, and entered Zimbabwe. While we intended for this blog post to focus entirely on food, our focus during the last couple days of this stretch was entirely on water. We had taken the frequency of bore-holes for granted as we crossed the border into Zimbabwe and turned South toward Nyanga. The short-cut involved 100km on a “dust road”, as the locals call it. Only a few towns dotted the road on our map, but we expected to come across unlisted small villages as had been the case in previous countries. 30km down the road and we realized our mistake. We were running out of water and had to ration our intake for hours in the unforgiving heat. We finally made it to a town as it was getting dark, but their bore-hole was salted so they directed us to the river. We put our water purify to the real test by filtering a bucket of water with cow dung visibly scattered near the shore. Not only were we completely exhausted, but we quickly discovered that the bridge crossing the river had been destroyed. We decided to cross in the morning, which meant camping beside the river in full view of a group of locals. So much for stealth camping! They turned out to be very friendly and helped us carry our bikes across the river the next morning!
The second half of the dirt road section was by far the toughest day of this trip [and possibly our entire cycle touring adventures thus far]. Not only was the elevation gain endless but the road conditions deteriorated, so we were averaging 5 mph. A local advised us that we would be able to find villages with bore-holes, so again we ventured on without enough water to last us. At one point, we came across children by the road. After motioning towards our empty bottles, one child spared some water from a bucket in his family’s hut. It was warm and smoky, but we were relieved to have it, and the child was grateful for the lolly pop Simon gave him in return.
It took all day to cycle/push our bikes the 30 miles to make it to the tar-road (pavement) and a well-deserved cold drink. When asking for a guesthouse, we met Israel and his family who kindly agreed to put us up for the night and provided a beautiful local meal. But the fun wasn’t over. Days of cycling in the heat and drinking questionable water was enough to put Simon over the edge with a stomach bug and fever. Isreal kindly drove us 100km to a B&B near Nyanga where we’ve been well looked after by the owners of Tintangel Tea Garden. They even took Simon to a clinic to be sure he didn’t have malaria! This has been the perfect place to recover and enjoy the comforts of home. We have been pleasantly surprised by the kindness of the Zimbabwean people and look forward to continuing our journey through this beautiful country.