I’ve done nary a kilometer of the tour yet, but so far the travel to Malawi has been very thrilling (even without the somewhat perplexing media circus that Madonna is creating with her adoption proceedings) and it was great to finally meet the other Lonely Planet folks right as I pulled into camp. The six of us ventured into town for some dinner last night, where the seasoned LP riders of the tour dispensed no small amount of advice to us greenies, covering everything from packing the bikes to dealing with the (fairly gruesome) toll that long days can take on one’s backside. Another day off will follow tomorrow, which will put us back on the schedule.
Tomorrow’s big event (aside from rumours of a Rana-led karaoke session at a local Chinese restaurant) is going to be a bike donation ceremony, in which Rana and Fe will be handing over their bikes and Tony will making a sizable donation to the Tour d’Afrique Foundation.
Traveling through town for the past couple days, the work of the Foundation has really started to come into focus for me. It’s amazing to see the utility that locals get out of their bikes — mostly heavy, Chinese-manufactured beasts that have been bolted together with makeshift repairs and miraculous ingenuity. Far from mere transport from point-A to point-B; these bikes are workhorses — many have an additional padded seat over the rear wheel to be used as impromptu taxis, or wobble down the street burdened with enormous loads of lumber, sugar cane, or scrap metal. I swear that I saw one young guy riding with no less than 40 chickens swinging upside down from the handlebars. Seeing the role of bicycles in the daily life here has really helped to make the work of the Tour d’Afrique Foundation very real, and, as excited as I am to get on my own bike and roll into Zambia in the coming days, I’m very much looking forward to the ceremony tomorrow as well.