Eating Our Way to Zimbabwe

Liwonde, Malawi -> Tete, Mozambique -> Juliasdale, Zimbabwe 

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This is everything we packed in our back for the upcoming 7-day stretch on the road. Left to right: breakfast, snacks, lunch, and dinner

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.

4 thoughts on “Eating Our Way to Zimbabwe

  1. Wow. Great blog again You make my little cosy stay in Malawi seem a luxury.
    Do take care and look after yourselves Hope Simon is feeling better
    Good luck on the next adventure

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  2. I just love your blogs . They are so interesting and I can almost feel that I am peddling along beside( correction behind you) haha. I pour over all the photos time and time again .I was just thinking that all those natural vegetables must taste much better than the ones from the supermarket . I’m sure it’s a great joy when you come across a bakery or that wee man selling the doughnut type things . My favourite spreads are peanut butter and Nutella but unlike you Im not using up millions of calories so they have to be spread a little less generous than you would do . When Ruth and I and are two friends did the cycling holidays for the past 8 years we always enjoyed our lunch under a tree or sitting on a stone wall with the lovely scenery all around especially Austria. It was rolls from the breakfast table, Nutella and banana nearly the same every day with a bag of nuts and a sweet treat ,not chocolate as it would melt . It was like a very minature version of your experience . I feel now that we will not be doing these holidays any more ,I was beginning to feel a bit tired and difficult to keep up with the others ……time to slow down a bit . I haven’t done too bad so far !! I would really like to do some yoga or something just to make me a bit more supple .

    Some questions/ comments on the photos. What’s that brown stuff in the picture with the oats? I’ve never even seen such a broad happy smile as that one of you with the bread rolls!! The one with the man and the wee boys selling their wares …….I suppose that’s the reality of what it is like for a lot of people there…and yet even within their country there can be huge differences between rich and poor .i hope you bought something from that wee stall to make the man smile. I’m sending this now. I meant to comment on more of your fabulous photos but I’ll do that another time . I was speaking to Gillian and she said you were wondering why you had not heard from me . I had a wee blip but I’m ok now . Back to form but everybody says I have to do less lifting and digging . bor….ing!!!! Today I’m going to a small forge outside Portadown on the towpath from Portadown to Newry.. Esther and Ruth ( neice) are going to make something . They’ll have to do a lot of hammering the heated metal to get the shape they want . The sparks will be flying everywhere! I’d better get up now and get ready for my day in the rain and wind . I hope Simon has recovered fully from that fever he had and both of you are in full form and fighting fit . Lots of love Ina xx

    Sent from my iPad

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    1. Ina! I’m so glad to hear you’re feeling better. Going to a forge would be a new experience for me – sounds exciting!

      In answer to your questions: We usually add banana and raisins to our porridge, so that’s probably what you see. We now have gotten even fancier and add a sprinkle of granola on top! Anything to make it more exciting when we’re eating the same thing daily… though, I don’t think we’d ever grow tired of the banana, peanut butter, and nutella combination. It sounds like we’re on the same page in this regard! Your memories of sitting eating a similar snack in Austria are beautiful. I’m so happy you can relate to our adventure! We did buy tomatoes in that picture with the man and two younger boys. It was something crazy like 15 cents for a pile of 4. It’s a difficult reality, you’re right. Since the cost of living is so low, he is probably able to stretch that money, but it is a huge contrast from the way a small minority of people live in the country.

      Anyway, on a brighter note, expect our next blog post soon! We’re in a city right now and will be bringing everyone up to date. So good to hear from you. Enjoy the rain and wind! We’re dreaming of your weather as it gets hotter here.

      Much love,
      Olivia (and Simon)

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