My husband suggested that I write a blog article or something about our time riding motorbikes through Africa so far. The truth is the idea did not excite me at all. What on earth am I supposed to write about? And why should I be writing? What’s wrong with him? Not that we have not had adventures or seen beautiful places, but I cannot imagine writing any of that stuff into a coherent story of more than two paragraphs. To me it all feels like little snippets, a collage of little memories.
Jeff decided to help me come up with ideas about what to write, “Why don’t you write an article about what it is like overlanding as a woman?” Gag! It seems pretty much the same to me as overlanding as a man. It may be different for cats or dogs but I cannot comment on that. “Okay! Why don’t you write then about what it is like as a new rider?” Okay, so this is arguably a better topic. I did get my license the day before we left South Africa. I only learnt how to ride a motorbike about a year before we left and was not very experienced at all. All this said this still did not seem like a very exciting topic. The truth is that it hasn’t felt like a big deal to me. It is basically a case of just keep going. Riding on tarmac roads is not a problem. One gets used to African traffic very quickly. Off-road sections have been challenging. We have ridden through deep sand and tricky technical spots that have been pretty scary for me. It is not a big deal though, I either just have to keep going or if I feel like I really can’t ride something, hubby is there to ride through the obstacle. All things aside, my riding has improved a lot in the five months we’ve been on the road. So my advice to anyone thinking about doing a trip and being nervous because of a lack of riding experience is “Just do it”.
Finally, Jeff suggested that I write about the benefits of riding on small bikes. We’ve taken on the African continent on Honda XR125’s. I guess this should make me an expert in this realm. The truth is that I have no clue about this topic really, as I have never ridden anything bigger than a 150cc Vespa! Big bikes scare me. I am petite and the thought of handling a big 1200cc or something similar puts the fear of God in me. That being said, our small bikes have been fantastic. We have not had so much as a flat tyre, the bike has been manageable for me in difficult terrain and it cruises comfortable at 80km/h, which I think is plenty.
None of those topics excited me. I really just wanted to escape from writing but then I thought I could write about something that I love; something that has come to be close to my heart. It has “saved our lives” a few times and life would be just boring without it. It has come to be something that we depend upon, something that we look forward to, something that makes the world a better place. This little everyday miracle is collectively known as street food.
We have now travelled through South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania. Street food is to be found almost everywhere. Were it not for the mamas and kids selling vetkoek, a kind of semi-sweet doughnut, (locally known as bolinhos in Moz and maandazi in Tanzania) almost everywhere imaginable we would have gone many a day without anything more than powdered cereal to eat. These little treats have become a staple for us. They are dirt cheap and delicious.
But the story does not end there. My good friend Richard, a Zambian by birth, is always affectionately referring to Malawi as the land of fish and chips. This became a reality for us. Well, maybe not the fish so much. I will admit that we have not really been brave enough to buy capenta, the tiny dried fish that are readily available everywhere in Malawi and elsewhere, but we definitely made full use of hot chips. There are stalls next to the road in towns and at major intersections where this delight can be purchased. Usually the setup includes someone cutting and washing potatoes, someone cutting salad and someone frying and serving the chips together with some salad. This is often also accompanied by someone selling kebabs or some other bits of meat or liver. We also came across deep fried banana cakes, rice cakes, chickpeas and potato cakes. We once bought something deep fried that looked new but after Jeff spotted a fish eye looking at him from inside the batter we decided to give this delicacy a skip…
However, the best street food, and seemingly the greatest variety (at least so far) is definitely in Zanzibar and the best time to visit the market is of course at night. This is the cherry on top of all delights. Here you can really satisfy your senses. From maandazi and deep fried, spicy potato balls, to chipatti, mishkaki (beef, liver or chicken kebabs) and fried octopus the choice seems endless. There is also a lot of fresh fruit available, bananas, watermelon and giant avocados.
If you are ever in Zanzibar, do try the Zanzibari pizza. This is a local ‘delicacy’ that resembles an omelet. The maker seems to collect whatever food is available (vegetables, melrose cheese, mince meat, egg etc) and fry it together in a small pizza shape. It is surprisingly tasty and very affordable.
With all the variety that we have found here western fast food really dims in comparison (in my opinion). I’m looking forward to see what new little miracles I will find further north…