Another Major Screw Up.

There are two ways of looking at the present situation. First, after traveling for more than two years and never losing much more than a baseball cap, reading glasses or the occasional loose end – never anything major – that I’ve been lucky. But on the other side of that coin, after traveling successfully for so long with a tried and true system of packing, procedures and protocols that the rhythm of the journey should never skip a beat. But all things must pass. Chalk it up to an interruption of said rhythm by riding once again with someone else. Or perhaps the rain has dampened (soaked?) my spirit and senses and caused haste and mistakes. I just don’t know. But if it couldn’t get worse, it did.


The Zambia countryside was littered by small traditional villages like this.


Whenever I stopped I attracted attention and many who were eager to have their photo taken by this motorcycling mzungu (gringo)



The short ride to the Malawi border this morning took me through small villages where water had drained and carried red clay all over the road and this mornings rain caused tiny little rivers with rushing waters across the road. At the Zambia border the officials wanted proof I paid my carbon tax which was illustrated by a soggy receipt. Slam. Bam. And a few more rubber stamps and I was on the way to the Malawi border. That’s when I ran into Ronnie. A short hour’s ride from Lilongwe he came to escort me to the home of his friends Peter and Carol and their sixteen-year old son Paul. Dressed in his rain gear and with a phone glued to his ear, he explained that he still had more airtime (call credit) on his Zambia pay-as-you-go phone number. I cleared customs and immigration without any fees payable to the government for my bike or my visa for Malawi. I did have to give Prime Insurance Company 2,000 kw (about $16) for liability insurance.

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Welcome to Malawi.

With extra time on my Zambia phone number, I took Ronnie’s lead and tried to make some calls, send SMS and otherwise use up the last of my credit before leaving the Zambia border and its cellular coverage behind. I was mildly successful until the rains came. And they came hard. Fearing damage to my phone, I shoved it into the Sea-to-Summit dry bag I use for such occasions. But this time the phone shared the bag with my small Moleskine notebook – the book I record all of my travel details, expenses, email addresses, contacts and notes for my book and this blog. Then I shoved this into the front pocket of my BMW Rallye II Pro riding jacket. The bag didn’t fit very well but it seemed secure and wedged in tightly.

Big mistake.

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Ronnie and I outside the immigration and customs office at the Malawi border. Note the blue dry bag sticking up in my jacket. I figure when on the bike and in a seated position my thigh pushed under the jacket loosening the bag from the pocket until it dropped without me noticing. Damn.

When we arrived at the Kemp residence I went to retrieve my book and phone. They were gone. I was livid and besides myself. Making a horrible first impression on the family who would host me, feed me and offer warm hospitality for the next three days, I stomped around the house unleashing a barrage of profanity and tearing everything off my bike. Then I wanted to cry. Two days in a row. Two major screw ups. And very costly screw ups. The phone was a SonyEricsson P1i which cost about $500, the tire at $120 and my black Moleskine book? Priceless (my apologies to VISA). It took a couple hours but soon the water was sliding off my back and I was buying a cheap Hungarian manufactured Nokia for about $30. The budget’s been blasted and the bank broken. Damn. Sometimes you just need to move on.

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Even in this picture I’m seen in the doorway and the tiny shade of blue meant after purchasing insurance I still had my phone and Moleskine book. Damn.


Last known photo of my SonyEricsson P1i that night at Deans Hill View Lodge in Chipata.

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