Lilongwe Malawi.

The Kemp family are legendary. They’ve been hosting old friend Ronnie B., for the past several days and now have let this weary and weathered motorcyclist into their home. And I’m Malawi heaven. With a wireless network, good company, great food and plenty of “Greens” (what they call the locally brewed Carlsberg beer), I couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay in the capital of Malawi.

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Many days, good meals and cold “greens” with the Kemp family, Paul, Carol and Peter. Thanks!

With more than 12 million residents Malawi could be the most densely populated country in Africa. At the turn Kamuzu.jpg of the century the British South Africa Company administered the central highlands of Malawi as British Central Africa and then encompassing the western area around the lake the area became the colony of Nyasaland and ultimately under the banner of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which also included present day Zambia and Zimbabwe. But in the 1960’s as Great Britain loosened its grip on and waned interest in its African Colonies, Malawi became an independent country in 1964. Though for the first 30 years of its independence Malawi was hardly a democratic nation under the autocratic rule of Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, who declared himself president for life in 1971 and banned foreign press, fixed agricultural prices, banned miniskirts and trousers for women, long hair on men and many other westernized things. Ironically, as a black man he gave support for Apartheid in South Africa and thereby gained the support and aid of the South African government. Famous for imprisoning those who spoke against his regime and controlling national press while imposing a strict night curfew. He even banned many guide books in the mid-1980’s, including a Lonely Planet book that was critical of his rule.

Finally, in 1993 his president for life status was struck a big blow when 80% of Malawi’s eligible voters chose a multiparty democracy over Banda and his dictatorship. So in 1994 under new president Bakili Muluzi, the dress code was repealed, freedom of press reinstated, political prisons closed and the night curfew lifted. But Malawi hit on hard times as inflation soared and international aid, which had been stopped during the final years of the Banda presidency, was slow to resume. Muluzi even tried to pull a Banda by attempting to change the constitution that would have given him presidency for life. You gotta love Africa. This attempt failed and a new president, Dr. Bingu wa Mutharik was elected in 2004. But even his government has been hit hard with corruption, famine and scandal. But in the faces of the people I meet in Malawi it’s difficult to sense its troubled past. People are happy, smiling and genuinely interested. It’s no wonder they call it the “heart of Africa.”

For the Kemps, transplants from South Africa, Malawi represents a slower and easier pace of life than that of the hectic and chaotic mess known as Johannesburg in South Africa. Not that living here is without challenge. Most basic products you’d expect to find in a grocery store can sometimes be very scarce. Especially now just a few weeks after the end of South Africa’s holiday period when shipments from South Africa cease until they commence sometime in late January. While visiting a few of the grocery stores in the capital city it was big news that for the first time since December yoghurt was available and on the shelves.

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In a Malawi supermarket with Ronnie and Carol shopping for the evening’s barbeque. Note the security guard with his hand and palm facing the camera. He ordered me to stop taking photos in the market.

I enjoyed three nights with Ronnie and the Kemp family and there friends enjoying great food, music and plenty of ‘green’ beer. Paul, at 16 years old owns a quad-bike and a 250-cc KTM dirt bike, spending his weekends at the local motocross track. He’s also one of Malawi’s top requested DJs, quite a feat for a sixteen year old. Peter runs a chain of supply stores while Carol teaches craft classes to locals and ex-pats from her home.

Meanwhile, I have been trying to track down another tire for Doc. Rob in South Africa has been helping me find one in Tanzania with minimal success. After several attempts I finally got in touch with Ray Wilson, the KTM dealer I bought the original and lost tire from in Lusaka. He has another tire. But getting from Lusaka to Malawi is going to be a lesson in patience, logistics and prayer. Fortunately, Peter’s friend and neighbor, Grant runs a shipping company. If Ray can get the tire to Chipata near the border of Zambia and Malawi, Grant will get it to Lilongwe. Meanwhile, Ronnie and I don’t won’t to wear out our welcome at the Kemp’s and are eager to see the countryside before crossing the border into Tanzania. With some planning we hope to meet the tire in Mzuzu, Malawi’s fourth biggest city, later this week. My fingers are crossed.

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Grant Le Roux and his daughter Kelsey at a nice Indian restaurant. Grant is helping me get my tire from Chipata to Lilongwe who then will hand it off to Peter who will find a way to get it to Mzuzu where Ronnie and I will wait before making a dash to the Tanzanian border.

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Sipping a cold “green” while displaying the plethora of technology I’m carrying on this journey. Sadly my SonyEricsson phone has now morphed into a cheap Nokia. Missing in the photo is the iPhone. Do I really need all this stuff? Ah, but it’s so much phone… I mean fun.

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I tried the local brew but after a few sips I resorted back to the locally brewed Carlsberg “green”.

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