Friday, October 29, 2010

And in the news today...


Just a quick one today, we are aware that we are a little bit behind so stay tuned for our Tanzania update shortly. In the meantime, we just received this hot off the press from Malawi. Ignore the dates, this is Africa man... We used this company to help us fit the tyre back in Malawi, being the sole Yamaha provider for the country they thought they might be able to use this as a bit of a marketing tool! So this was in the national newspaper, also available for digital viewing here...

Masses of love to you all.

P and K


Saturday, October 9, 2010



On Sunday morning, 26th of September 2010, Paul and Karla stood atop the highest free standing mountain in the world!!! We reached Uhuru peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, 5895m above sea level at 6.00am after a midnight departure time. To say we are pumped would be a gross understatement!

Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest point on earth that you can get to without technical climbing equipment. It is also as mentioned earlier, the highest free standing mountain in the world. Several thousand people attempt to summit this mountain but only 40% actually make it. Sadly, at least ten people die here every year too. It is a massive undertaking, a dream achieved for us both and the experience surpassed all expectations and ended in such extreme emotions!

The trek we chose can be done in 6 days but 7 is the recommended minimum. We opted for the additional acclimitisation day which turned out to be what most people were doing. Up until summit day, day 5, we had the most relaxing few days that I think we have had since we started our trip which was not what we really had expected. We went on little jaunts ourselves each afternoon and had a really relaxing time taking photos and chilling out. The reason for this is to simply let your body get used to the high altitudes and the lack of oxygen, we spent about 3 days around the 3500m mark and then approximately 12 hours at 4700m which is the base camp for the summit. Those 12 hours up until midnight proved to be very interesting...

Karla and I hung around watching people return from the summit as they trickled back into camp. Everyone looked rough as guts! We got a bit concerned when we saw this girl standing with a roll of toilet paper gazing into the voids, the toilet door was about two metres in front of her and she really looked like she needed it but her brain and her body were conflicting big time. Someone else followed her mumbling to himself... We looked at each other and decided that it would be best if we just got into our tent and ignored all these space heads that had just come down from where we were going.

I cannot begin to explain what happened on summit night, at nearly 6000m above sea level the world is a very different place. Your brain thinks so too! Your body is iced up, toes are blue, fingers are not there, each step becomes a study into the mechanics of walking. I had intended to write this the night after I got back because I was full of emotion and excitement. Some days have past since and I am a bit hazy as to exactly what I felt aside from awe and a heavy sensation of, well, heaviness. I had to walk ahead of Karla as my toes were freezing and I needed more circulation. I was the first to reach the summit that day, along with my guide, Karla was a few minutes behind. The last 200 metres or so to actually get to the summit were some of the hardest steps I have ever taken. I touched the peak and burst into tears, I have no idea why. I looked through slits in my balaclava for my wife and when I saw her stepping through some of the harshest weather I have ever seen I burst into tears again. When she reached me at the summit tears were everywhere. Our guides hugged and congratulated us and told us that we had to go down after the obligatory photos. We had no problem with that, it was between -25 and -30 degrees celsius and our water bottles froze up. Our cameras stopped working after a few photos, not a bad thing as my fingers froze onto the button each time I endeavoured to take a photo. The shots you see below are what we did manage to capture from the highest point on earth I am ever likely to get to. There are some there from slightly lower altitudes too just so you can see the landscape around this majestic place.

So, this has been the highlight of the past three months for us both without a doubt. I had no idea that the top would be such a beautiful place. There are glaciers everywhere. When the first sun rays penetrated the ice everything came to life in the most amazing way possible. Such a cold place, such a beautiful place and an inspiring one.

And it got me thinking...

Karla and I got to realise a dream in doing this. It had been one of our goals for this trip and indeed for longer than that. When we turned around and began our walk away from the summit we started seeing the other people who had just crested the plateau and began the last walk around the rim to the actual highest point. Out of them all, one looked all right and even managed to reply to us. We took to giving each and everyone words of encouragement telling that them that they were nearly there. Some stared right through us, others were being pulled by their guides with closed eyes. You cannot imagine what this all looked like. One chap looked at us when we told him that he was nearly there, he replied by saying "but I just feel so sick...". Other girls tried to lie down on their guide's laps and get some rest, being ushered out of this temporary slumber by being told that if they stayed there any longer they would quite simply shut down and freeze. Yet each of these people had this subconcious dogged determination to get them there no matter what. Only in some cases would the guide have refused any further progress and forced a retreat. It happens all the time. So close yet so far...

I hope that some day you too get to realise a dream. Something that you thought too hard or simply out of reach. Something that you have to work so hard for that you forget everything else that ever was or that will ever be. My brain fought my body, I don't know which one won really. But I knew that something very important happened to me right there. I hope I will get that feeling again.

I want to big up my wife for a second. What a warrior! She got her first signs of altitude sickness at around 5500m above sea level. She pressed through extreme nausea and was the first girl to summit that day from our base camp. As I mentioned earlier, I burst out when I saw her making those final steps to the summit. She did more than make me proud... Love you babe x

Live your dreams guys....

With much love

P and K xxx

Our first view of Kili in the distance on our 2nd day of hiking. Very exciting and very beautiful!

Matthew and Deo, the awesome men who took us step by step to the summit!

Wide open spaces on our way to the basecamp of Kili (Mt Mwenzi in the background)

Some lovely afternoons walking in Kilimanjaro National Park (Kili in the background)

One of the porters balancing some of our equipment on his head, the way all African people carry their things. The path is steeper than it looks...seriously!

With the porters, after arriving at basecamp, where we watched those returning from the mountain.

At Gilman's Peak after returning from the summit, trying to get a drop of water from our frozen bottles.

Sliding down the scree on the way back from the summit, knees like jelly! No we haven't been eating all the pies...we were wearing every piece of clothing we owned!

These are the trolleys they bring you down the mountain on if need be for altitude or injury! No helicopter ambulances available! These fellows were replacing the two trolleys that were used to bring people down to lower altitudes on the night we summited.

The morning after summiting, you can see the path we took straight up the middle of Kili...we'd already been walking for 9 hours at this point on 1 1/2 hours sleep the night before.


Our last morning with our awesome group of guys! It took ten fabulous chaps in our expedition crew to get us to the summit over the week!

One of our campsites.

And another...

Beautiful 'everlasting' flowers everywhere.

We camped above the clouds for most of our trip.

It was a little bit chilly in our tent!

We hiked Kili in our motorbike gear and my merrells. Hukuna Matata!

We made it!

Sunrise at the summit...we hiked up there by the light of the nearly full moon!

Glaciers on the top of Kili!

Karla on her way down after successful mission



Before I start this off, we actually left Malawi over a month ago now. We have neglected the blog for one reason alone, Tanzania rocked big time and we have been so busy with activities and long days of riding that we simply have not had the time. There will be an entry for Tanzania shortly as we have now just crossed into Rwanda. So, all the way back to Malawi...

It was all action as we crossed the border and this kind of shaped our time there. It was literally between Mozambique and Malawi that we noticed a giant bolt sticking out of our rear tyre. Seriously, it was as thick as my finger and we knew we were in trouble. We decided to ride on and see how far we got, Blanytyre, the nearest city was about 100km's away. Maybe, just maybe....

But 30km's later it was not to be. We heard a ping and just like that we were skating on the rear. Finding a level patch of road to commence work we unpacked the tools, got the new tube ready, had some brief chats with the local village folk who had come to watch the shenanigans and started to change the worries you would think.

All went well... tyre off the bike, old tube out, new tube in, tried to get rear tyre back on the rim. This is where it all went wrong... we simply couldn't. We tried everything but the hard carcas tyre would not stretch enough to fit back where it had come from. At one stage we had about 7 people all involved with the tyre levers trying to lever it back on. Long story short, the well intending local folk butchered the tyre and two of our tubes. We managed to patch one of the tubes and late at night, after about 7 hours working on this blasted tyre, we limped into Blantyre desperate for a bed! As luck would have it, my sister has business connections in this city and after accidentally stumbling on them without any prior consultation, we decided to see whether or not they would have any 17" tyres. Turns out they don't. Thus, time to fly one in via courier. NB, always have someone on hand back at point of origin who can help with goods and shipping. My sister Lynn was an absolute champion, within twelve hours of me telling her about my dilemma, she had gone out and with the help of a mechanic friend of mine, had a new rear tyre and some advanced tyre repair kit ready to be shipped to Malawi. Beautiful job sis, thanks so much!

So we had a week to kill while we waited for the new tyre to arrive, we reverted to buses, bicycle taxis and bakkies as a means of travel, and it was quite nice for a change to have a third party in control of the logistics. We went to Lake Malawi, it is after all the main focal point of the country, and did our first fresh water dive which was interesting. The lake was amazing, it really looked like the ocean, with waves and an endless horizon and the water was amazingly clear. The lake forms the direction of the country, it is a long and narrow land. After the trye arrived and was fitted, via a machine this time, we rode the lake shore in a northerly direction, had a few relaxing days of swimming and hiking, and slowly made our way towards the Tanzanian border.

Interestingly, Malawi was the first country that felt like we were travelling proper. People ride motorbikes with no helmets, there are practically no traffic laws and most notably, you can eat from street stalls wherever you go. South Africa, Namibia, Botswana and indeed Zimbabwe are all very westernised and people generally eat in restaurants which can be tricky at times when you are in the middle of nowhere. In Malawi, much like most developing countries, you can grab a wide variety of food for next to nothing from almost anywhere. We had been missing that on our travels thus far and this was really welcoming for us both.

We had a great time in Malawi bar one thing, the people could be challenging. While we did meet some really lovely people, quite often the local folk would have a go at us, yell and then laugh in our faces. We tried time and time again as we had both heard constantly that Malawians were amongst the friendliest in Africa. We tried to work out why this was happening and never came up with a definitive answer. We speculated that as 85% of the people in this country live in rural areas, are relatively uneducated and not overly accustomed to tourists and the local benefits of tourism, they instead see the passing 'whities' as richo's who have loads of money and should be giving it out freely. That, and perhaps also seeing Karla rock up in all her bike gear with closely cropped hair. She was called 'Hey Mr' on several occasions, so maybe they didn't know what to make of us with her legs wrapped around me and squeezed onto the back of the bike...perhaps we were a 'strange' site.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed Malawi. In Livingstonia, we stayed at what we both think was the most picturesque location ever. The Lukwe permaculture camp! Cabins were built out of natural materials and simply hang off the cliff edges. You could see for miles as you were so high up and best of all, we were the only ones there...perhaps because the road up the mountain was a 4x4 track. However Yele managed it with all the gear, minus poor Karla (she caught a bakkie as the road was too rocky and we were nervous about getting another puncture). What an amazing place and best of all of the lovely food served was all grown in the luscious cliff slope gardens.

But Tanzania it is not! I would like to switch my focus to that entry now so stay tuned. Here are some shots that we feel encapsulated our time in Malawi, hope you enjoy them.

Until next time, love always.

P and K xxx

A local girl.

Changing the tyre on the side of the road just after the border crossing into Malawi.

The local kids like to play with old tyres and tubes usually pushing them along with a stick...the good old fashioned way.

The crowd that assisted us to change our tyre on the side of the road.

A prayer before each bus or minibus journey...the minibus in particular was not renowned to be the safest form of transport.

Back to the old bicycle taxi whilst Yele waited for some new shoes.

The kids followed us everywhere!

Whenever they saw your camera they would jump in front of it despite what you were taking a picture of and then ask for money, money!

Us on a walk somewhere

The fisherman going out for a night's catch on Lake Malawi.

A beautiful Chameleon...the locals are afraid of them as legend has it they are a bad omen.

A view from beautiful Livingstonia

A quick bite to eat on the side of the doesn't take a minute to fit Karla's ear plugs so the helmet just stays on.

Lake Malawi, the horizon blurred in the distance.

The staple diet we enjoy...beans, cabbage (or spinach) and nsima (a maize meal).

Fishing is the main industry in Malawi