Destiny and a new set of wheels....

Trip Start Sep 28, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Germany  ,
Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A funny story.........some would say a little spooky!

Traveling through Africa, Malawi to be exact, we met a lovely German couple, Markus and Anne, they were doing a similar trip to us…….4 months from South Africa to Kenya. We met them on three separate occasions, each totally unplanned. The first time we met was at the base of Mt Mulange.....they had just climbed and we were about to, we saw them talking with their guide, we wanted to know all about it, we picked their brains about how, when and with whom to do the climb...we talked and then without knowing anything about them we parted company each heading our separate ways.

A week later we arrive at a camp site at Cape McClear, the bottom of Lake Malawi.....and guess who's there....that's right Markus and Anne, soon we know their names and a few details about their trip....where they are from, where they had been so far, etc. Over the next few days we share stories and swap experiences and finish by taking dinner together at a local restaurant.......if you can call it was called a restaurant but I think it was just an extension of someone's living room....I think we may have been their first guests ever, the meal tasted pretty it should have, it took two hours to arrive, I think after taking the order he then had to go and buy the ingredients, catch the fish, soak the beans etc. The next day we parted company again....not exchanging details, I'm not sure why, maybe we just forgot. We took the ferry up the lake to Likoma Island for our week on the beach, and they hitched a ride with some other travellers to Senga Bay, another lakeside town in Malawi.

A week and a half later we settle into our camp site at Chitimba (northern end of lake Malawi), we decide to take a stroll around the local area.....guess who we bump into....that’s right Markus and Anne...they are camping where we are, we take some time to chat, catch up and make a plan to take the bus together the next day....both on our way to Tanzania. The following morning it's a crazy torrential rain storm, we pack up our tents with speed and spend the next hour or two taking shelter in the camp ground bar, and get to know each other a little more. Rain gone now, we take a strange bus trip together....strange cause there are no people on board....totally empty except for us and our packs (unheard of in Africa)....roads really wet and driver enjoying the light load getting a bit more speed out of the bus.....great….but we make it!
At our destination we depart hastily, it's raining again, Markus scribbles his e-mail on a little bit of paper.......see you in Germany some time.....little did they know that we had every intention of taking them up on their offer!

Half way through our travels in Italy, we decide Germany is the next destination, yes we will buy bikes there before heading further north. We couldn’t think of a better place than Berlin…turns out we were right. There are bikes everywhere, as well as great shops and lots of delightful passionate bike people (tell you about the bikes next). We email all our German friends in the hope of meeting up……maybe some tips etc but we can’t read the scribbled email of our friends Markus and Anne…sorry Markus, we don’t know if it’s a v or an r…….we try a few different combination…..but no good……..hmmm.oh well, they don’t live in Berlin anyway, so we plan to try and get in touch with them later.

On our third night in Berlin, about 7.30, we jump up and race out of the house, we need to get to the bike shop before closing time and pay the final instalment on our bikes, it could probably wait till tomorrow but we think it’s probably a good idea to get out of the house. After doing our business at the bike shop we choose a different subway station to make our way back home, we get to our stop, walk off the train and guess who’s standing there…… guessed it - Markus and Anne, here for a weekend in Berlin for the first time in 2 years……and staying just a few hundred metres down the road from us. Their train was coming, we quickly swapped e-mail again…then they were gone. For the next few hours……we just went WOW….and I think they did too. What are the chances of such a chance meeting….we probably should have gone out and bought a lottery ticket!

It wasn’t long before we had an e-mail asking us to dinner. Markus and Anne very generously took us out for a German meal…..schnitzel, spatzle, pflammkuchen (german pizza), bier………it was so good to see them again and catch up on all their news……the most exciting being that Anne is preganant and has the beginnings of a baby bump………it was a magical evening.

I’m not sure we believe in destiny but maybe we should start!

So yes, we are in Berlin….and YES we now have bikes, and YES we are very excited!!!

There are about 400 bike shops in Berlin and we only visited two before making a decision, we felt guilty enough to have to say no to just one shop after they spent hours talking us through all the options, the thought of visiting more shops was too much. The Germans are ridiculously helpful, and so generous with their time we could not bear spending another 4 hours of someone’s time only to say no thanks. Besides our bikes are pretty perfect, and rather pretty. Steel frames for strength, mud guards, a rack on the back for our panniers, bottles, bells, bags and lights powered by us!! The hardest choice for us was the colour, this decision made a little easier by our time frames (short). Mine a nice dark blue with red panniers (sorry dad the panniers you bought all the way from Australia we just too small). Alex went for the black, (no surprises there) and chose the, you guessed it…..surely not- she then went for the panniers in black as well. It was a difficult decision when it came to the lock and the basket and the helmet………..what is the best colour to go with black she asked…..well black of course. She asked me whether it would be safer to go with the white panniers, she wasn’t talking about not being hit by a car here she was talking about colour combination. I was hoping to finishing this paragraph with the one item that was not black, but I can’t seem to think of one, cause they are all Black, Black Black……..She does look very good though!!
(Alex's note: Actually Jason is twisting the story at my expense - at short notice we didn't have any choice on the colours, and mothers please note that all items have red and white reflectors on them so are very safe.)

So we had a very enjoyable, non-touristy week in Berlin, staying in a warehouse apartment in the so hip it's still quite seedy suburb of Neukolln. When we weren't researching bikes and camping stores we were hanging out and exploring our local area, visiting a couple of art galleries, catching up with a few people we have met on our travels (Nice to see you again Mathias.....maybe next time Leif), and chatting to our flatmates for the week - a Swedish DJ and his American girlfriend who ran a sustainable fashion label. And from we can figure out, there aren't many German people in Berlin - everyone seems to come from somewhere else and has fallen in love with the city.

After Berlin we take the plane to Stockholm, we are staying on a berry farm for a few weeks, we then take the ferry home to Estonia (home for me anyway)…….even though I can’t speak the language nor have ever been there….I still like to think of it as home. Just outside of Talinn we will stay with an Estonian family helping with the building of their house…….. Then we start to ride, we think through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland, maybe ducking quickly back to Tuscany for house sitting, then back to Poland for a wedding…..not ours, but some Polish friends we also met in Africa……..yes their e-mail works, we took a little more care with that one.
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Laura on

I love the black bike! Very stylish.

Great Granny Gay on

Always great to get your blog - still miss you 2 - love the bike snaps XXX

Paul on

Such wonderful posts. Miss you guys. Xx

Steve on

Bikes! You have got some. Have fun riding around the East of Europe (although it might be a bit flat there...).
I flew from Iran to China. I couldn't face the visa hassles of Central Asia, and so will ride the Karakorum Highway. I hope - visas are yet to be arranged.

John on

What a wonderful experience, you guys! It gets better and better! And isn't it great to know that if ever you get lost or lonely, Markus and Anne will pop up and put things to rights! Stay well and keep us in the loop. XXXX

Sarah Ash on

HI Alex and Jason!!!!!

WOW WOW and WOW.... you guys sound and look like you have had the most amazing experience... the blog is fantastic and i cant wait for the next update!!!!

Im not going to lie - i am a little jealous BUT so happy to see all your adventures!

Take care and lots of love, Sarah

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