Cycling through the warm heart of Africa – Malawi

My camping spot with a perfect view down to lake Malawi

Even from far away still on the Tanzanian side I was able to see the beginning of Lake Malawi. As people told me before, Malawi is the warm/happy heart of Africa and there are some beautiful National parks and lake side camps to visit. I was pretty excited. The border crossing was simple, but expensive, I had to pay 75$ for the visa which is a lot for such a small country. Fortunately, I did not get my bags checked like some backpackers before me. Sometimes border security wants to check my bags and this takes forever, very annoying! Usually, before I cross borders I check the exchange rate for my leftover money. What I know as a fact is that you never get the online exchange rate. So, I just approached one of the guys, told him how much I have and what I wanted. Without hesitation he agreed. That is never a good sign haha! As I did not have much left it was fine, a loss of few cents is ok, even though I really dislike their pushy behavior and I never want to let them walk away with a profit 😀

Riding along the lake was a fantastic experience. The road is new and in super condition. There are barely any cars and I had a slight tailwind! Wuhu! I heard people struggled with a lot of headwinds, which is probably the worst thing you can have on a bicycle.

Traffic in Malawi is the lowest I have experienced to far. I loved it.



Fishing village

I enjoyed some swims in the lake and also went on a fishing boat with two locals. It was interesting to learn the techniques they use as well as to see the very colorful fish we caught. From the Lake I went up to a first plateau where Livingstonia lays. I stayed at mushroom farm and had one of the best camping spots so far. The hostel was well run, with good food, guided activities and hikes. I continued further on dirt roads towards Mzuzu, as the distance was too much to do in one day I had to find a spot somewhere. As people in Malawi were super friendly, and the population density is pretty high, there are not many options left than pitching the tent in front of a family’s house. Everyone is always very welcoming, offering me water to wash, food and even a space to sleep inside, which I kindly decline since I sleep way better in my tent:-) I loved cycling off the beaten track in Malawi, people were so much nicer than along the main road. As once a big storm came up I sought shelter underneath a roof. I sat 5 minutes there surrounded by kids as one of them walk out of the house with a plate of food, some shima, vegetables and bananas, exactly what I needed! Just this kindness towards strangers made me feel exceptionally comfortable. In Mzuzu I had the chance to get into the first real shopping market since Kenya! So nice to find stuff you haven’t had for a long time! The only downside to those shopping centers is that I always buy way too much stuff that I don’t actually need, but it is just nice to have it.


The road up to Livingstonia
Steep but with a beautiful view


One of the nicer dirt roads I had, stunning views again


Staying at a families place


I had many thoughts about my route in Malawi: Should I continue down the lake or go up again and visit two National parks? As I went down to Nkhata bay I realized that I have spent enough time in backpacker’s/tourism places and even though it won’t be easy, it would def. be more memorable than following the main road down. Most cyclist are cycling all along the lake down to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi.

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The D-Tour I did, def. worth it

I relaxed 6 days in Nkhata bay, did a lot of reading, swimming and it just felt good not doing anything at all. The lake was wonderful, but as it is rain season, a lot of dirt gets washed into it. I had 3 small open wounds which all got infected. First time for me this happened and I thought it is better to see a doctor:) He cleaned my wounds, gave me some antibiotic pills , a cream and I paid a total of 6$, totally worth it Since I decided to go up to Nyika and Vwaza Marsh National park, I had to go almost the same way back for 200km. I first thought it would be boring… but since I mostly face forward it felt like I haven’t seen this part before.

My first doctor visit! hopefully also the last one haha
Whenever I get a bit of sun I try to dry my tent. Not always easy with the constant rains
Lovely women along the road, I usually stop and have a quick chat with them while eating a little snack

Nyika National Park

As I heard from overlanders before, the road up to the plateau is in a very bad condition and some couldn’t even drive up because of flooding rivers and huge put wholes. Anyway, I thought I have time and I heard so many good things about this NP that I thought I cannot miss anything if I just try hard enough. The way to the gate was ok, some passages where I had to push, some where the road was extremely bad that I just jumped off the bike and walked the stretch. I slept at the entrance gate of the national park the first night, so I had all day the day after to get from the gate to the camp. Initially, I thought it is only 30km towards the park, but as I talked to a ranger he told me it was 60km. Oh well, I thought, I will not return now. The next morning started with rain, and it didn’t stop until high up above 2000 meter of altitude. I haven’t experienced that much fog yet on my trip but it was for sure a bit scary to see all the Elephant dung laying around but not being able to see more than 5 meters. It was raining buckets for at least 4 hours. Sometimes I really asked myself, Lukas, what are you doing here. My bicycle was super heavy since I had food for 6 days with me and water for 2 days. Pushing all that weight up from 1100 Meter to 2350 Meters was quite a challenge. It took me 8 hours to get the 60km done. However, I really don’t mind about those challenges anymore. I realized those are the days I will mostly remember; all the tarmac cycling days are not very memorable most of the times.

As I stayed at the Chelinda Campsite I was provided with firewood and hot water every evening. I felt so much at peace up there. I was able to read a lot, do some maintenance on my bike, cycle around and just watch the wildlife for hours. As it is quite a nobel campsite, you are kind of lost if you don’t bring all your own stuff. Food and lodge rooms are very expensive, camping is only 10$ and if you cook for yourself it can be quite cheap all in all. I am glad I have some big bags with me which I can fill up with food. If I would not do bike packing I would have no chance to go to remote places like that and stay self-sufficient. There were absolutely no tourists up there which is pretty common right now everywhere I go since it is rain season. I loved it and it was definitely worth all the effort!

Heavy rain coming


The road up to the Nyika plateau… Couldn’t see very far!




Vwaza Marsh National Park

The beautiful thing about Vwaza is that during dry season all the animals from the whole park gather around the lake. During rain season however, you need to be very lucky to even see an elephant. I did not have any expectations going there, I wanted to cross over to Zambia from there anyway so why not sleep a night at Vwaza. I was very lucky and saw an elephant herd close by, what a great day it was. During the night was a bit at unease, I usually have no problems with wild animals around my tent at night, but that night I was a bit afraid from the hippos around. You never know what they might do. Even though the area and its surroundings are breathtaking, the campsite was very run down and filthy. I am always glad to have my tent with me, it is clean inside and no bugs will bite me at night.

From Vwaza I rode all the way to the border on dirt roads, roads I sometimes didn’t even find on People were welcoming, and I stopped a couple of times for a chat. Since I had a lot of time on that day I decided to head over to Zambia directly. It turned out to be more of a challenge than I thought. For the first time on this trip I got completely lost in a forest. I tried to get to the great border road which goes along the Zambian Malawian border, however it took me over an hour fighting through thick bushes to find it. I always continued and thought yeah this road will somehow get me there, it turned out that most of them brought me even further away. It was totally an adventure, I didn’t feel lost, since I thought I can always pitch my tent and go back the same way on the next time, but I was really glad as soon as I got back on track again.

I got really lucky and saw some Elephants at Vwaza Marsh


Elephant leftovers…
A Hippo below a tree

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As anywhere where agricultural income is a big part of the economy, cash crops play a major role. For the first time on this trip I have seen Tobacco being planted. Depending on the region, I either see tea, corn, chilies, tomatoes, bananas and beans quite often, but tobacco was the first for me. As I talked to local families and farmers, they explained that they harvest the tobacco leaves once per year, it goes first to Mzuzu and from there to the capital Lilongwe, from where it is shipped to America. A farmer told me that prices fluctuate, as everywhere it is all about demand and supply, however, he also said that it is currently pretty stable.



I had the pleasure to be riding in Malawi on three Sundays, and every time the same thing repeated itself. It seems like the whole country is drunk on that day. Every man at the side of the road has shiny eyes, shouts something no one understands and usually cannot walk straight anymore. If you enter small stores, they usually have half of the shelf filled with stuff like biscuits, bred, washing powder, and the whole other part is filled with small alcohol bottles. One bottle contains around 200ml and costs 40 cents and has an alcohol percentage of 45%. No wonder why so many people have an alcohol problem.


It was raining the whole day on my way down from Nyika National Park, the roads where a mess and some people told me not to take the shortcut. As I did the shortcut before the other way and I didn’t want to do 10 extra kilometers, I took the shortcut again. Unfortunately, as it was already raining for hours straight, the red clay ground became really slippery and dangerous with the heavy bike. I sometimes got off and walked down, sometimes I just risked it to ride down. Unfortunately, it got me really bad at one spot and my bike just didn’t stop slipping down and I really fell hard to the ground. Luckily, only a couple of scratches, just the thought of what is if something had happened in such a remote area was a bit scary. This was the first time I fell off my bike, and hopefully also the last time.

People along the road

The kids are very creative with their toys!



Total kilometer: 719km

Days spent: 23 days

Cost for food: 109$

Cost for accommodation: 131$



Sudan! 1200 km through the Sahara


Hey Lukas, when you ride to Cape Town, won’t you need to cycle through Sudan? Yes, I do. Ohh… isn’t Sudan a super dangerous country? I got the question asked so many times. It seemed very weird, people telling me how dangerous Sudan was, but they have never actually been there. This happens in so many everyday situations, people thinking they know everything, just from listening to the news, reading journals or even better; someone else told them… Since my preparation time was quite extensive, around 1 year, I had to listen to so many “No Sayers”. Lukas you can’t do it, it’s too dangerous, too hot, too sandy, too unstable, too whatever. I felt like a lawyer, constantly defending myself. So, what now, I have arrived in Sudan, cycled 1200 kilometres across the Sahara during summer. Can’t say it wasn’t tough, or that I didn’t have really long days, or that I slept very well because of the storms at night. However, I was having the time of my life. What an amazing feeling just to be out there, independent from anything. No one has any clue where the hell you are, it is just quiet, the sky and especially the stars were breath-taking.  Mind-blowing, even for myself. This is what I had always been waiting for, the real adventure, my time to discover Africa has finally started!


Sudan – My arrival

Sudan, until now the most hospitable country I have been to. Imagine, for the first 7 days I did not spend a single dollar on food… feels very special. It is crazy how different the people in Sudan are compared to Egypt. Sudanese people are way more relaxed. Every day, I get invited several times for coffee, tea and food. I feel really great cycling through Sudan. All the people give you thumbs up, they cheer you on and just want to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. One time I was standing at a water station, asking a guy where the next restaurant was. It took 3 minutes and I was sitting in his house eating lunch. People here really don’t have anything, poverty rate is high, but still their hospitality seems to be boundless.

They gave me a bed to relax during my lunch break
Lunch break on a praying carpet, people really care for my rest 😀
Morning Coffee with some Truckdrivers


I arrived with the ferry in Whadi Halfa on August 27th. I spent a wonderful night on the deck of the boat, watching the full moon all night long. The whole unloading process took forever, but I didn’t care, I have so much time for whatever, why should I stress myself. I had to show every single bag to the customs officer, they checked it through, but really didn’t go deep. It just took forever, and I hate unpacking my whole bicycle with so many items loaded. It is like I am missing 6 arms to do all the things I have to do at once. Due to political sanctions, no foreign credit card works in Sudan. Travelers know, always carry enough Dollars with you. The situation in Sudan is kind of special. To exchange money, you must do it on the black market, since the official rate is like 7 times lower. Right now, the rate is quite good, it is 1 to 40. Imagine the highest bill is a 50 Sudanese Pound one. Changing 100 dollars gives you a huge pile of bills that don’t fit in a normal wallet. It is illegal to exchange your dollars on the black market. I mean it’s obvious, that’s why it’s called black market in the first place, but still everyone does it. People will ask you on the boat, after you get through customs, or you just go to random stores around town, through some backroom door and an old guy will be sitting there with piles of bills and he will change your dollars too. The rate changes on a daily basis, so bargaining is possible.

This is worth 40 dollars

Some of you might ask yourselves, how did I get a Visa for Sudan? It is super easy. I just wrote to the Sudanese Embassy in Geneva; Hey, I will be cycling from Zurich to Cape-town and I need to pass through Sudan, can I get a Visa? Yes, just send me your passport and 100$, you will get it back within 4 days. Worked great, perfect service! I got a Visa that gave me 2 months to enter the country and 2 months to stay inside, this provides a lot of flexibility.

Sudan has special regulations on taking pictures. In fact, it is just one rule: you are not allowed to take any pictures at all. People love if you take pictures of them, they even throw themselves in pose, but the government just doesn’t want that you take any pictures of some infrastructure stuff. I only got into trouble once. In Karima, where one guy became kind of furious by me walking around downtown taking pictures. Haha, I apologized, and it was good again.

Don’t worry, he wasn’t freezing, it was still around 40 degrees 

After getting a local SIM card, changing my money and buying food and water for the next 4 days, I took off in the afternoon for my first night in the desert.

My way down

Since I had only 12 days’ time to reach Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, before my birthday, I was on a tight schedule. Cycling for 12 days sounds rough, but your body gets surprisingly fast used to it. Out of the 11 nights I slept 3 times in a filthy hotel, costs per night were around 4-6$ so I did not expect much, something I never do. If you have low expectations, you cannot get disappointed. I rather sleep out in the nature than in places where you don’t know when the bedsheets were washed for the last time. Is it maybe 5 months, or rather 10? It’s better not to know those things I guess. The only thing I really take care of is that I always have enough food, for at least 3 days, with me and enough water for 1 full day, which is around 12-14 litres. Carrying more water just gets too heavy. Along the Nile you could find a water station at least every 50km. The water has the most diverse colours, from light to dark brown to grey, whatever colour you want you can find it. I always tried to filter the water. Sometimes when a truck driver handed me an ice-cold bottle of water I was too lazy to filter it. In the Afternoon at around 14:00 I always started to wave down truck drivers with an empty bottle of water. Seriously, 95% always stopped and handed me over water, mostly cold, sometimes frozen or when I got lucky even a cold Coca Cola. When you only had hot ass water for the last couple of hours and someone hands you an ice-cold Coke, you feel like you were in heaven. The next hour just becomes so much more pleasurable then. I usually got up at 4:30, sometimes 5 if I was not feeling it quiet yet. the Sun goes up at 5:15 and it is getting hot quickly after that. I usually took a break from 11 to 14:30, because it was just too hot, and it would have been a massive waste of valuable water. However, it was not always easy to find a good shade.  I started seeking for a nice dune to camp behind at around 16:30, which gave me 1.5 hour to cook, set up the tent, and to put everything away again. I barely had any internet on the way until Atbara. I really enjoyed it and it was nice to just read in my book. 

Seeking shade… not the best lunch break I have had, It was just blazing hot and it didn’t really have a lot of shade
One of the best moments, when I got two frozen water bottles in the middle of nowhere by some truck driver


It is rare that you find a place like this with a bed and no one around
There was too much wind so I decided to sleep in this ruin… bad decision, it was  extremely hot all night long
When I wanted to put away my tent, a scorpion suddenly rushed out from underneath my tent
I really dont know why, but there are so many dead cows laying at the side of the rode
Camping spot
The Pyramids of Karima
A waterstation

The Sandstorms and I 

The first four nights were amazing, there was a breeze going, I only had the inner tent pitched so that I could see the stars, and no clouds at all. Afterwards, almost every night became a little nightmare. When I went to sleep at 20:00, the sky always looked perfectly clear, but at around 23:00, strong winds started to pick up and I found myself in the middle of a big storm. It is not a pleasant feeling, just being out in the middle of nowhere, by yourself, almost blown away by the wind, but what can you do? I wasn’t scared, I had everything under control. I was laying in my tent like a starfish, so the tent could not take off. It is hard generally to pin down a tent in the desert. The sand doesn’t hold the tent pegs. I usually hoped the storm would go away once the sun goes up. Unfortunately, this happened only once. The other two times I had to pack everything together under extremely windy conditions. Everything went well, I just felt it on the bike a bit that I had not sleep at all. During those 6 days, I did a total of 650 kilometres with constant headwinds. On the worst day I had an average of 10 km/h during the first 4 hours, which makes you quite tired on a 9 to 10 hour cycling day. In general, body feels great and I can really push. However, I always check to eat a lot of salt and magnesium. Treating my body well if I am putting so much pressure on it is essential.

Yes, it was quite sandy…

My birthday, Alexander and lots of stories

It felt quite special to celebrate my birthday in Sudan. Surely something not a lot of Europeans can claim for themselves. Due to Sharia law, alcohol is strictly prohibited. So, I guess I will have to drink my birthday beer once in Ethiopia.

Zander is from the UK, currently living in Johannesburg and cycling from South Africa all the way up to Alexandria. I would have loved to cycle with him, hopefully we will be able to do that in the future sometime. It is not that I feel lonely, it is just cool sometimes to have a buddy with you to share stories, cook together or just to push through the headwind. Zander spontaneously decided to stay an additional day just for celebrating my birthday with me. We had great food and lots of interesting talks.

Birthday Dinner with Alexander
When Alex left at 5:30 in the morning, heading towards Egypt

Woman in Sudan

I feel there is a huge difference to the women I met in Egypt. Here, women seem to be way more open. They say hello, smile, shake hands with men, and are not as separated from the male world as it seemed to be the case in Egypt. They also wear colourful dresses and I can tell you: It looks beautiful! I have not taken any picture yet. I always feel kind of touristy doing that. 


Most people barely know any English, my Arabic is really not good but with hands and feet I always manage to get what I want. Usually when I do my lunch break I am surrounded by young guys. I figured out most of them are super into football, so it’s always fun to just name players and compare them. Most favourite one I always get asked is: Ronaldo or Messi? Ronaldo of course 😉


The Pyramids of Meroe