From the monthly archives:

June 2010


by Kate on June 22, 2010

Title: Mayange Millennium Village, Kigali and the Genocide

Dates: June 9th and 10th GPS:

Distance: 0km Total Distance: 17,068km

1b. Emanuel & JohnThere are so many complex issues to write about that it is impossible to squeeze them all into one blog. The easiest news to describe is that it is great to have Zdenek back. He returned to the expedition, flying in from Europe on the 9th. In Kigali we stayed at the One Love Guesthouse, part of a self-funding effort for the One Love Project. Profits from the guesthouse, restaurant and bar go towards developing and maintaining orthopaedic workshops in Kigali and Bujumbura (Burundi) which have so far supplied over 6000 prostheses, orthoses, sticks or wheelchairs to those handicapped by the 1994 genocide. We were fortunate to meet Emmanuel, the founder and driver of the project along with his Japanese wife Mami and son. Emmanuel spent time showing us around and explaining about his vision and the organisation.

1a Emmanuel explains his storyEmmanuel was himself handicapped as a youngster after an injection during a medical procedure went wrong. He experienced all the difficulties of being handicapped in a society with no facilities or support to accommodate his disability – he is a survivor who had to struggle physically and mentally to be independent.

Emmanuel first had the idea of creating the orthopaedic workshops in 1989, just before the first conflict in 1990. Even then he was a skilled networker. He made contact with a Japanese man who later invited him to Japan to study, complete his tertiary education and learn skills needed to realise his idea of setting up the workshop. As a Tutsi, he was imprisoned and tortured during the early 90s. The One Love Project was established in 1996 in order to support handicapped people to become independent in society. The workshops were opened in Kigali in 1997 and Burundi in 2007.

1c. OneLove's chief prosthetic expert at workOne Love is now diversifying with warehouses in Miami and Kenya, where handicrafts made by handicapped artisans are sold; profits helping to fund the workshops so that beneficiaries receive their artificial limbs free of charge. The organisation also trains technicians, rehabilitates people with disability to rejoin society, has set up a vocational training school to teach all sorts of skills in business and handicrafts, encourages sports participation to those with disability, runs the guesthouse and restaurant (which provides employment to the handicapped) and many other activities which provide support.

1d. Finishing off an artificial limbEmmanuel gave us a tour of the workshop. He has sourced materials and equipment from all over the world – Japan, Switzerland, Germany, the US and the UK for example. He also managed the Rwandan team for the Sydney Olympics. It was a moving experience watching new prostheses being measured and shaped, knowing that each artificial limb was going to make a huge difference to someone who cannot afford it. Once receiving the limb the next challenge would be to learn how to use it and to reintegrate into the society where they would have previously been marginalised. To find out more please visit their website at

The main focus of our journey through Rwanda was to visit and learn about the Mayange Millennium Village. Mayange is the third Millennium Village featured during the expedition – the others being Potou, Senegal and Tiby/Segou, Mali. Those following the expedition from the early days will recall that the purpose of the Millennium Village program across Africa is to implement strategies in villages located in selected vulnerable zones to ensure the Millennium Development Goals are achieved by 2015.

My original connection with the Millennium Village initiative came via Ericsson, one of our gold sponsors who is also a major supporter of the MVs. However since the Mali visit I have also developed a strong partnership with another of the key stakeholders, Millennium Promise who is based in New York. (Please check out the Partners’ page and click on the logos to learn more about both)

Potou and Tiby are both located in the Sahel region. A major reason as to why they are classified as vulnerable is because of their marginal, drought-prone climates with unreliable rainfall. In Mayange, water is still a major issue as it needs to be piped from a reservoir to producers over about 40km (which is expensive), but here the communities are particularly susceptible as they recover from the 1994 genocide.

After our meeting with Emmanuel we were a little late as we set off for Mayange, roughly 40km south of Kigali. Ever since arriving in Rwanda (from Tanzania), the ‘land of a thousand hills’ had been living up to its reputation – it had been an uninterrupted rollercoaster ride over some huge hills – but nearing Mayange, the land flattened out. We stopped in at the office headquarters where Deo gave us a tour of the Millennium Village nerve centre.

2a. Kate with Donald Ndahiro, Director of the Mayange Millennium VillageWhen the project was set up in 1996, just two years after the genocide there was no electricity in Mayange and so for practical purposes they had to set up offices in a larger village which had power. Donald Ndahiro, the director of the Mayange MV made time out of his busy schedule to give an overview of the initiatives. While each MV aims to achieve the MDGs by 2015 and there are many common directives, each community has specific issues and challenges to deal with to get there.

Donald outlined what his departments were doing to improve infrastructure and communications, education, farming and agriculture, health and trade/business. I asked whether he thought the initiatives were scalable and appropriate examples which could be adopted by the rest of the country. Donald said that the government had already recognised this and steps had been taken to include some of the strategies as national priority.

We then drove to Mayange where we met Jeanette who showed us around for the rest of the visit. The plan was to see at least one example of each of the main projects. Jeanette’s job involves liaising with the village committees and then communicating their ideas and needs to then report back to Donald and the team. The MV team then assess how a certain directive could fit in to the overall plan – to assist in realising the MDGs. Once a plan is approved, Jeanette would then present a proposal to the village leaders.

Donald mentioned that the MV project has already had much success in improving food security since 2006. Drought protection has been a major focus by increasing crop diversity, improving agricultural techniques and by developing business opportunities, particularly by facilitating the formation of farming cooperatives. Programs including: the artificial insemination of cattle, honey production, fishing, poultry and a cassava processing plant have all been introduced with a focus on skills transfer.

3d. The team at workJeanette took us to meet one of the most successful farmers who has really embraced everything he has been taught – and shown great initiative when new methods did not work first time around. The farmer was so proud of what he’d done in three years. We saw his field of pineapples, mango and avocado trees laden with fruit, bananas, sugar cane, maize, capsicums/peppers, onions, beans and tomatoes. He’d learned how to intercrop and plant nitrogen fixing plants to improve soil fertility. There were drainage channels dug and mulch spread around plants to reduce moisture loss and increase fertility. Everything looked amazingly healthy, including the dairy cows. The farmer could now afford to extend his house and strengthen the walls.

4a. Moringa tree seed pods, school gardenNext we paid a visit to one of the primary schools. More classrooms have been built and teachers provided to improve the student-teacher ratio. School meals are now provided; many of the vegetables are grown in a kitchen garden. Interestingly, in the garden I spotted a moringa tree (Remember this tree is native of the Sahel).

The unassuming-looking tree is like a super-food. Most commonly the leaves are crushed and the powder used to fortify soups, beans and all sorts of things.

4c. New computer room (and classroom)The school is very fortunate to have a computer laboratory and WiFi. Students are now able to be computer literate, receiving lessons regularly. Teachers of course have to keep up. Teacher training is provided to keep them up to date. As of last year, children in Rwanda learn in English rather than French.

4e. John's English lesson - students now learn in English

Many teachers have had to receive English lessons. John thought he would test out the students’ English knowledge and took an impromptu lesson for a year four class. You can see the result…”My name is John”, I live in Scotland.”Where is Scotland?” The students loved it.

4f. Appreciating John's lesson.

Access to health was a major issue before 2006. So far sanitation has been improved with the new water pipeline. Health posts are being set up to take care of simply treatable maladies. Reproductive health was a major issue due to lack of facilities which is now being addressed. A whole new maternity wing has been added. We visited the newborn room. There have also been gains in the uptake of medical insurance with some simple education and promotion. Another big change is that everyone now has a mobile (cell) phone and full coverage thanks to a new cell tower constructed by Ericsson. They all know the free number to dial in the case of a medical emergency which has markedly improved access to medical attention.

After visiting the hospital, next on the packed agenda was a women’s handicraft program. The women’s weaving is to a high standard and an international market is being created. This project and now cooperative helps empower women, allowing them to contribute to the household income and gives them some extra motivation outside the daily grind of farming and bringing up the family.

6b. Washing peeled rootsFinally we were given a tour of the new cassava processing plant. The root from the cassava plant provides the staple food in their diet. The starchy tuber is peeled, washed, chopped in a machine not unlike a wood chipper, fermented, dried and ground into flour. Apparently the processing plant produces a high standard of cassava flour which in turn means higher returns for the farmers of the cooperative. The cooperative appeared to be working well and the workers seemed a very happy bunch.

That was the end of the Mayange tour. A lot was packed into one very interesting day and we sincerely thank Donald, Deo, Miriam and Jeanette for facilitating the visit and making it run so smoothly.

On the way back to Kigali we made a short diversion to see the Nyatama Memorial Site to the Rwandan genocide. John and I had already visited a memorial in Kigali which explains why it happened, events leading to the 100 days of frenzied killing and torture, the lack of response from the international community, the aftermath, child victims and about other genocides which have occurred over the last century. For me (and I think the others too) Nyatama was without doubt the most disturbing, horrific, emotive display I have ever experienced. Before I explain what we saw I think it is important to give a brief background of what I learned in Kigali.

Before German colonisation in the late 1800s and early 1900s the three ethnic groups in Rwanda, the Hutus (84%), Tutsis (15%) and Twa (1% – pygmies) lived in complete harmony, side by side. There is no evidence of any conflict. The Germans decided that the Tutsis, the minority group, were of higher intelligence and began to favour them for all the positions of importance and responsibility. Rwandans were classified a Tutsi if they owned more than 10 cows. The Germans also took anthropometric measurements, classifying a person a Tutsi if they had a longer thinner nose. After World War I, Belgium took over as the colonial power and continued with the same divisive regime. This of course bred descent amongst the Hutu majority which evolved over the next few decades into racial hatred. The first large scale conflict erupted in 1959, around the time of independence. The 1994 genocide was a deliberately planned; its architects (leaders, politicians, the media) manipulating, inciting violence, hatred and deepening divisions within the country. There were many warnings not heeded by the international community. Much could have been done to prevent or at least reduce what occurred during 100 days of madness when the Hutus attempted to eliminate the Tutsis and moderate Hutus who did not want to partake in the ethnic cleansing from the face of the planet.

Nyatama is a monument to humanity at its most evil. Many people fled to the Catholic churches such as at Nyatama to hide and seek sanctuary from the carnage, believing that they would be safe there. Many priests however betrayed their trusting constituents by turning them over to the Hutu murderers. At Nyatama over 5000 people – men women and children – were slaughtered. The aim was not just to kill, but to inflict as much pain and indignity as possible. As we walked in to the rear of the church, thousands of skulls were displayed on the higher shelves; some with spikes and other instruments of murder still embedded. The lower shelf was stacked with limb bones. Victims’ bloodstained clothes hung on the rafters and covered the side walls. There was a certain stench which I will never forget.

7. Most valuable personal possessions of those slaughtered at Nyatama Memorial SiteTo the right of the altar, there was a collection of the victims’ most prized possessions; pendants, crosses, glasses, jewellery, personal belongings. At the altar women were raped, their wombs removed before they were shot. Our guide pointed out the spot where bullets had scarred the concrete. We were taken to the Sunday school classroom behind the church. Here children and toddlers were tortured and killed by being smashed against a wall. The blood stains are still there. Finally we were taken to another adjacent building. There people were wrapped with mattresses, petrol thrown over them and set alight.

I did take a few photos, but decided to delete them all except the one shown (people’s possessions). I have also been deliberating as to whether I should write about what we saw at all. One of the main purposes of the Nyatama and Kigali memorials is to educate people about the genocide in the hope that the world will learn – with even more recent events of ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Serbia, I’m not sure whether the world has learnt, but these monuments send powerful messages and there is always hope. I read in a Ugandan newspaper last week that one of the priests who sought asylum in Finland has been convicted of his horrific crimes and jailed. Life in a Finnish jail might be too good for him, but at least another war criminal is brought to justice. In 1994 over a million people out of a population of seven million were slaughtered. Two thirds of the population were displaced. Many fled to neighbouring countries and 16 years later still not everyone has returned. John drove us back to Kigali. Barely a word was spoken.

We moved on the next day – I cycled out of Kigali and up a beautiful valley, over a high pass and into Uganda. All around me were smiling faces and many men cycled alongside me for a few kilometres at a time.

7e. Typical scene, leaving Rwanda

They have moved on too (at the very least, they get on with life). To see Rwanda now it is hard to believe what happened just a few years ago. Anyone over the age of 16 must have been present and must have some horrific memories, lost family members, been physically injured and mentally scarred. It’s hard to imagine how people can forgive after neighbours turned on each other. The international community has poured huge amounts of money into the tiny country to help Rwanda back on its feet. There must also be a pouring of immense guilt along with that.

This makes initiatives like Emmanuel’s One Love Project even more special – they are really making a difference. What has been achieved in just four years at the Mayange Millennium Village is testimony that Rwandan communities are resilient, proud and able to rebuild even after the most horrific experiences imaginable. They are all moving on to a better life.

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Title: Songwe River to Kigali (Rwanda)

Dates: 27th May to 8th June GPS:

Distance: 1385km Total Distance: 17,068km

Roads: 873km gravel, sand; 512km tarmac – high mountains, long climbs, rolling hills in central Tanzania

Weather: high 20s, early 30s, prevailing easterly winds (cross winds)

1a. Climbing out of MbeyaFinally I have managed to draw a new route map which shows the first 17,000km of the journey. Please click on the adjacent icon to see an accurate representation of the route so far (up to Kigali). Entering Tanzania, we moved forward into another time zone – we’re now only 7 hours behind Eastern Standard Time in Australia (and just 5 hours behind WA). The first day in Tanzania was all about sucking in as much air as possible and absorbing a new culture as I cycled from about 500metres near Lake Malawi to 2300metres before dropping back to 1700metres at Mbeya. Initially the road ascended through some wild jungle-like terrain, away from the lake and into the low-level clouds. I saw two troops of monkeys beside the road and stopped to try to film some of them. This wasn’t that easy because they always try to hide by keeping leafy branches in their line of view.

1c. View from the pass

It started to rain heavily as I worked my way slowly up through some extensive tea plantations. Land use from then on became intensive with a variety of vegetables and fruit being grown on terraced plots and for sale beside the road. I was sodden by lunchtime (70km) and so John made soup to warm me up – and to go with the “Obama Buns” he had found in a small bakery. President Obama is a very popular man across Africa, but seems to be even more so as we near Kenya his country of birth. In Mali we saw “Obama” perfume in a store in the town of Nara. I’ve noted children wearing Obama t-shirts in most countries and we see Obama posters everywhere. The Obama buns were actually excellent – very sustaining.

1a. Climbing out of MbeyaNear the summit I met a German cyclist, Ingor – another tourist riding to the World Cup in South Africa. He didn’t think he would make it to the first match which he reminded me was against Australia. I reminded him not to be too cocky about the match… In Mbeya, John checked with truck drivers who had recently travelled or knew about the route we planned to take through to Tabora. The word generally seemed to be that it was passable for a LandRover, but not a two-wheel drive vehicle. We had been worried about all the rain we were having around Lake Malawi, but the lake creates its own weather pattern and the high mountains form a barrier to the weather. Once over the next huge pass out of Mbeya, we would enter a rain shadow – dropping down to the high central plains. We decided to go for it. The route would be much shorter and I was eager to venture along this little travelled road through central Tanzania.

I was looking forward to tackling the first obstacle – the high pass dividing Mbeya from Chunya – and had psyched myself accordingly. There was no warm up climb – it was simply straight up out of the town. I immediately dropped into the lowest range of gears. The path was extremely steep and stony, so it was a matter of focusing on just in front of the wheel to keep upright.

1b. Highest pass in Tanzania - should read 2466m!When I did have the opportunity to look up, the views were exceptional. Mbeya, one of Tanzania’s largest towns, gradually shrunk to appear as an insignificant mark within the immense scale of the valley. I felt extremely satisfied reaching the pass; a sign reminding me that it was the country’s highest trunk road. Whoever wrote the sign was about 500metres too generous with the altitude though, saying it was 2916metres rather than the 2466metres displayed on John’s GPS. The road then wound a convoluted path along a ridge, staying above 2000metres for at least 20km, before dropping down through some treacherous patches of bulldust and on to Chunya.

The following day was marred by slow punctures and a leaking oil seal on John’s rear axle and so we lost time attending to the breakdowns. Punctures are simple to fix, but the LandRover’s problem was potentially serious if John didn’t attend to it straight away. Replacing the seal was a fiddly job in the bush amongst accumulating numbers of sweat bees. Not too much time was lost however and I still clocked 106km, finishing in the dark.

4d. Cleaning teeth and eating fruit, KitundaSunday 30th May started alright and I enjoyed passing through a string of small villages. Then it all started to become heavy going as the path became sandy, especially along the low points. That wasn’t the worst of it though – just as I was struggling through deep sand I was bitten again and again by tsetse flies. Pretty soon a large angry swarm of tsetse hovered around and behind me. My clothes gave no protection. They could bite through my cycle shorts, shirt, gloves and socks. The bites are sharp and painful – sometime deep enough to draw blood. Give me the good ol’ Aussie fly any day. Australian bush flies are just annoying, and during my Australian expedition, once I generated some speed and brushed my shirt a few times I could lose them.

Tsetse however appear to be the athletes of the fly world. Even at 40km per hour, they would easily keep up – I could not lose them. John cycled out to meet me before the end of the first session and he too was attacked. They seemed to disappear in any inhabited area. When we stopped moving, they would soon lose interest and disappear. The trouble was that I had to cycle eight hours a day. For two days that meant I was continually attacked and found myself cycling faster and faster to try and get rid of them – to no avail.

3c.There were few villages marked on our map, but one was Kipembawe. We had expected to find the usual string of shops with little to buy and people milling around, chatting, selling from roadside stalls. Kipembawe was different though. It was completely dead – a ghost town. We never managed to confirm what we deduced from looking at the deserted buildings. A series of houses lined an overgrown street. They were solid well-made brick structures.

3b. Possibly a military outpost, built 1945The date 1945 was painted on one facade and serial numbers branded each house. We think it was some sort of military outpost built at the end of the Second World War. By whom, we don’t know and no one seemed to know much about it. It was strange that it was deserted as usually in other places we have visited, locals would have moved into the houses or at least reuse all the materials.

5b. Taking desperate measures to keep out tetse fliesThe tsetse problem worsened on second day. I started the day wearing a thick cotton long sleeved shirt which also protected my backside a little. They bit straight through that so I added a cycle jersey under it. The double layer of clothing worked, but they just concentrated on other body parts, especially my hands and the backs of my legs. Next I added a waterproof jacket and wrapped the shirt around my waist – a little better. Heading north from the remote village and mission of Kitunda, the problem worsened to a new level. I was travelling under a cloud of thousands of aggressive flies.

5a. Tetse flies on my bar bag. A difficult photo to take while cycling and being bitten constantlyMy barbag was coated with a thick mass of flies. (In the picture you see, I had tipped many of them off the barbag to retrieve my camera. I had to endure plenty of bites while I took the photo. John said that they would sit on the spare wheel of the vehicle and some would even keep speed as he drove, so he had to keep the windows closed. After lunch I resorted to desperate measures. My full suit of armour included; thick socks, double-lined track bottoms with a pair of cycle shorts over the top, cycle jersey and waterproof jacket, winter gloves, tape around my wrists because they kept finding the gap between glove and jacket, scarf, insect head net. It kept out the flies but was extremely hot. Nevertheless it was relief. There was a lot of sand and a few testing rough patches to endure too, but at least I could relax a little.

6b. Cycling through a herd of cows, Nzega to KahamaDespite the discomfort, we were travelling through a beautiful wild place with no people around – not even a car passed during the night. Setting off the next morning I was prepared for another battle with the tsetse, but it never eventuated. Just as fast as they descended upon us, they disappeared. I noted on the map that we had been travelling across the same latitude as when we encountered the tsetse in Angola, although the problem in Angola was only for about 40km and less intense than in Tanzania. About a kilometre from our campsite John noticed some lion footprints.

Tabora was a big friendly, relaxed African town. We enjoyed a day off there catching up on internet connections and bits and pieces. We’d been led to believe that that was the end of the rough unsealed road and so John switched tyres back to efficient road tyres. Six kilometres out of town however I was back on the dirt. It was heavy going for another day and a half before we finally rejoined the tarmac. Our next major concern was security between Kahama and the Rwandan border.

6c. Fruit seller, 15km from the tarmacEven a fellow in a small village, 15km before the bitumen warned that the region after Kahama was still full of refugees who fled from Burundi and Rwanda during and after the genocide. John quizzed a few truckies and learned that the real danger of being ambushed and robbed was after dark, so we proceeded with caution ensuring that we reached the safety of a hotel. This meant lopping off a couple of hours at days end to ensure we were set up before dark.

As we neared Rwanda, the land became very hilly and I was slowed up by a few long climbs. Rwanda is known as “Land of a Thousand Hills”, so I was expecting some hard work. Across the border at Rusumo (spectacular waterfall), many things changed dramatically. It was back to driving on the right hand side of the road. There were a lot more people. Rwanda is a tiny landlocked country with a population of 11 million. Rather than one cyclist joining me at a time, it was more like a peloton.

10a. Clean, landscaped streets in a village 40km into Rwanda from Rusumo

There were plenty of smiling faces and every time I stopped I was mobbed by a crowd of inquisitive children. There are no plastic bags in Rwanda and the streets are free of litter. Village main streets were clean and tidy with rubbish bins and gardens. There has been a lot of aid money pumped in to Rwanda to help citizens recover from the horrors of the genocide when at least two-thirds of the population were displaced and one million killed.

We made good time to reach Kigali a day early. Zdenek flew in on 9th June to rejoin the expedition. Our main goals were to visit the Millennium Village of Mayange, just south of the beautiful city and learn more about the genocide and how the nation is coping 16 years on.



by Kate on June 7, 2010

Title: Lilongwe to Songwe River (Malawi – Tanzania border)

Dates: 20th to 26th May GPS:

Distance: 662km Total Distance: 15,683km

Roads: Good tarmac except 90km rough unsealed, mud Rumphi to Livingstonia

Weather: Perfect! Mid-high 20s, cooler nights in mountains

1a. Meeting with Mr Wona, , Globe Metals headquarters, LilongweJohn and I had a day’s pit stop staying at the headquarters of Globe Metals and Mining in Lilongwe. Michael, Dominic and Dries made us feel very welcome as we prepared for the next stage, caught up with emails, sent packages back to Australia, fixed bike and LandRover, and had a physical rest. I also did some PR work for Globe in the afternoon, meeting the Deputy Director of Mines, Mr Wona, and his small delegation. Michael, Dominic and I chatted with the group for about an hour or so sitting in Globe’s beautiful back garden. The day passed quickly and soon we were off again, heading north out of the city along the main road.

2. On a break between Lilongwe and KanyikaMy goal for the first day was to reach the turn off to Globe’s Kanyika exploration camp, 166km from their Lilongwe headquarters. I cycled alone for virtually the whole day as John had a few chores still to do before leaving the city. Initially the road climbed up about 200 metres and then I levelled out along the high fertile plains, roughly 1200 metres above sea level. The rich red-brown soil and conducive climate means they can grow just about anything. The main cash crops appeared to be tobacco and cotton. It was harvest time for both, being the end of the rainy season.

7b. Carrying tobacco to marketSmall tobacco producers carried their produce to depots either on foot, or by bicycle. With the wind behind me I could smell the distinctive tobacco scent often before the large overloaded trucks passed en route to market. Cotton production was on a decent scale; cooperatives had stacks of bales at their depots ready to be weighed and loaded for transportation. About 45km after the major town of Kasungu I reached the village of Chataloma and the turn-off. The bike was loaded on to the vehicle and John drove to Kanyika through a labyrinth of tracks and small villages. We arrived just after sunset. Lucas, the onsite manager and Cosmos, the cook met and looked after us for the two nights we were there. The camp was quiet as no exploration was going on at present – but it was nice to be able to relax away from the busy city.

Globe has a number of different projects in Malawi. At Kanyika they have found Niobium used to make a specific steel alloy. At Zomba, 300km south of Lilongwe they are involved in a Rare Earth joint venture. Michael explained that rare earth oxides have ‘super conductor’ properties. One of their many uses is to improve the efficiency of some renewable energy resource technologies such as wind turbines.

4a. Second form study in old classroomWhile at Kanyika, I was particularly interested to visit the local Kanyika Secondary School. Globe had financed the production of 100 new desks, employing local artisans to make them. I was pleased to focus on secondary education as so far during this journey I have concentrated on the importance of primary schooling. Dominic arrived at camp just before 9am, having driven almost 200km – an early start for him. We met and learned much from Veronica, the Deputy Head teacher and Joshua Katete, a new teacher at the school.

The Kanyika Secondary school has four teachers who are expected to teach the 96 students. To cover all the classes, each teacher must be versatile enough to teach four different subjects. Veronica explained that they have to be extremely organised to manage each day, juggling home life, lesson preparation and marking with classes to give the students the best chance of reaching their goals. They had one student qualify for university last year while others were able to move on to their chosen careers. We visited a study class where four senior students were preparing for their final exams; one wanted to be a doctor, another a nurse, one was aiming for the military and the fourth wanted to be a driver.

4f. Girls make up 30% of enrolmentsI was keen to ask about the number of girls enrolled, knowing that educating girls is one of the most important issues to help alleviate poverty in the long term. Veronica said that only about 30% of students are female. The main reason is because of early marriages. Typically girls in rural Malawi get married at around 15 years of age and therefore do not have an opportunity at secondary and further education. She said in Malawi, boys and girls are considered of equal importance (unlike in other cultures I came across in the Sahel). Given the problem Malawi has with population control, encouraging girls to stay in school rather than having children at such a young age would help alleviate one of their biggest issues.

Globe isn’t the only contributors to Kanyika School. Funding has been received from the European Union and the Malawi Government. School fees, which are about $US70 per annum used to go straight to the government to then be distributed to which ever schools they saw fit, whereas now the government now allows the fees to be managed by the school to be better directed to whichever area needs it. I visited a second form class in the original school buildings opposite the new EU funded block. In Malawi there are four forms at secondary level. The class was studying for their biology exams. They were a pretty rowdy lot, so I’m not sure how much study was getting done.

3b. Sitting at new desks (Globe contribution), talking with Veronica, Dep. Head TeacherBefore leaving, I invited the teachers back to Globe’s camp in the afternoon to try to connect them with the BTC education program. They were keen, arriving at camp in the mid-afternoon. I spent the rest of the day educating them on how to use the internet and set Joshua up with a new email address. Lucas said Globe would support by allowing them to use their computer. I did what I could and really hope it gives them a chance to connect with other teachers. I will be difficult, but Lucas said he would follow it up and encourage Joshua and co.

5a. Remnants of the colonial tobacco producing eraJohn and I really enjoyed our time at Kanyika. It was a chance to take a closer look at rural life in Malawi, away from the main roads. We left the following morning, winding our way 35km back to the highway through villages and fields of maize, tobacco, sunflowers, cotton and other produce. There was plenty of evidence of the old British colonial days, when the tobacco industry really thrived. Some of the colonial buildings, now mostly dishevelled, were obviously quite grand.

Back on the road, the distant hills and high plains evolved into some serious climbs. The next evening we stayed in the cheap government run lodge set amongst the pine plantations at 1770 metres. Joseph, the manager explained that they were Mexican pines introduced by the British to kick start the forestry industry. Being so high, we were suddenly in an alpine climate where we enjoyed the warmth of a log fire after John cooked a great vegetable soup. Quite a contrast to the heat and humidity experienced so far during the journey.

6c. How do they do itThe next morning the ascent continued up to about 1900 metres and then a whole lot more arduous work on the bike before descending to Mzuzu for lunch. Some of the cyclists pushing to Mzuzu were carrying incredible loads of firewood to sell. John and I could not work out firstly how they stacked their bikes so high and secondly just how they mounted and manoeuvred them. We talked to and filmed a pair at work – incredible.

Being a decent sized town, we thought we’d find a nice restaurant for lunch for a change from preparing our own food. There I had a brief chat with a couple of MSF (Medicines Sans Frontiers) doctors. I asked what kind of crisis they were dealing with in northern Malawi. The Australian doctor, who had just been with the team for a month said there was nothing specific, more that there were a complete lack of medical facilities and healthcare in the villages. He said that in a village he visited the previous week there were twenty children dead from measles! Hard to believe. The MSF team spent most of their time treating easily preventable diseases.

We turned off the main road to follow the old road from Rumphi to Livingstonia. It wasn’t much extra distance as it ran parallel to the new highway, but the map showed it to be the scenic route. It was good to be off the busy road. I cycled through village after village. Small time tobacco producers were busy with harvest – some drinking a bit too much of their harvest money away in celebration. The track was indeed incredibly picturesque, but it had rained overnight and as I hit the higher mountains near the lake there were steep muddy slopes to contend with. Livingstonia is a mission set up by explorer David Livingstone.

7f. Easy for me to push around the problem, near the summitOn the finale of the muddy climb to the town, a small truck became bogged in the mud, blocking John’s vehicle. He had to wait until they freed their truck, making a causeway of grass and sticks to give the tyres something to grip.

I simply pushed my bike around the mess and on to the mission. It’s a stunning place; plenty of history and incredible views over Lake Malawi.

Lake Malawi is Africa’s third biggest lake, about 600km long and very deep. It is at the southern tip of the Great Rift Valley which we will be travelling through all the way to where it reaches the Red Sea (also part of the same fault in the Earth’s surface).

9a. Lake Malawi below Livingstonia

I had always wanted to visit the Rift Valley, and so reaching Lake Malawi was an important landmark for me. From Livingstonia it was 18km of extremely steep downhill on rocky slopes with loose large gravel stones. It was a serious workout for my brakes and I eased down the mountain almost as slowly as I climbed it, concentrating intensely on keeping control. It was equally a stern test for the John in the LandRover. Every now and then we would get spectacular glimpses of the lake, right across to the mountains of southern Tanzania on the eastern shoreline.

Ten kilometres down the highway we stopped in at Sangilo Sanctuary Lodge, recommended by our friends from Globe. The plan was just to stop and camp for the night, but it was such an idyllic place, I decided to take our rest day early. Terrific food and company and our own private sandy beach to look out over the lake! Not a bad place to spend a catch-up day. Anne and Ian, who were caretaking the place for ten weeks, really took care of us. Cyril from Resource Star Ltd kindly took care of our expenses.

From there it was a simple day’s ride, passing small villages and rice fields up the coast to through Karonga and on to the Tanzanian border on the Songwe River. I had planned to take the least travelled route from here through central Tanzania to the town of Tabora. The road is not well used and marked as impassable during the wet. It had rained the last two nights and our concern was that this route may not be an option.

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