As predicted by Henk, the week has gone by in a flash and today was our last day riding to Ekwendeni. We were thankful for a lift in the minibus up the steep hill out of Nkhata Bay and for the cloud cover and cool breeze once we started cycling. The small towns and villages were noticeably more prosperous as we travelled north, with better housing and teenagers making their way to school which is all privately funded.
Today’s challenge was the 350m climb up the Mzuzu escarpment to the higher country. We were fortified for this with extra bars of chocolate and goodies at the first break, which was very effective as everyone completed the climb. An additional hazard was cycling through major roadworks en- route, dodging numerous trucks, diggers and other vehicles. The road would certainly have been closed for health and safety reasons at home!
The scenery was beautiful as we cycled on through undulating hills covered in thick, lush vegetation. We carried onward through Mzuzu town in the early afternoon, the largest and busiest we have seen this week. We had a final break a few km short of our destination, where Henk generously provided some bubbly to toast the completion of our cycling challenge. Much hilarity followed as we attached balloons to our helmets for our arrival at Ekwendeni Mission, much to the delight and amusement of the huddle of kids who had gathered around us.
Staff from the Mission Station were waiting at the roadside to greet us, and we were led by a group of women singing a joyful and exuberant welcome song. As we arrived many others joined the throng before we gathered in the beautiful 19th century church.
It was a very moving experience, and I was not the only one holding back the tears.
The Minister of the Mission Station led us in a period of thanksgiving and prayer with psalm 136 “Oh give thanks to the Lord for He is good! For His mercy endures forever”.
As this week draws to a close, I feel there are so many things to give thanks for: our safety throughout the journey, the friendship and fellowship shared, discovering beautiful Malawi and the life of its people. It was also a humbling lesson receiving the thanks from the Minister for what we have done for them and how much our visit means to them.
The day concluded with a lovely celebration dinner, with speeches, presentation of gifts to our hosts and the completion certificates for the cyclists. Then the best news of the day, a long lie till 7.30am tomorrow morning, hurray!!