Mount Mulanje

November 13-16, 2008

From Cape Maclear we headed south. It was another 2 days of driving – things are even slower in Malawi. We took a break for the night in Zomba, the old capital, and by the second day we reached our destination: Mulanje. On the way we sat next to a police man who asked us if we can help him join the US army. And we also spoke with a priest who helped set up an orphanage in Blantyre (though from what he described some of these orphans have parents, so maybe we didn’t get the full picture).

Mulanje is the largest town next to the biggest mountain in Malawi: Mount Mulanje. We came here to get a dose of hiking in, and also in hopes of finding cooler weather at higher altitudes. We hired a guide (Lerson), we packed some supplies, and we settled into the Mulanje View Motel for the night. Funny thing – it was actually cheaper for us to take two single rooms than a single double room. We tried to point this out and to get them to reduce the rate for the double room, but they wouldn’t budge. So we went with two single rooms. Don’t worry – our relationship is fine 🙂

While we relaxed that evening we met a Danish couple who just returned from their hike up the mountain. They both work in the travel business and they booked an all-inclusive trip for their short vacation. They wanted to make some changes, to return to Blantyre a day early, and this turned out to be a huge headache. They spent 3 hours trying to contact a certain guy to approve their ride (a ride that only costs $3 / person, BTW). We thought it was ridiculous, and it reinforced our belief that it’s better to plan less.

The next morning we were off.

First day: going up

We got started at 6 AM, walking through the tea plantations at the base of the mountain:

mulanje_tea_plantation

mulanje_tea_plantation_2

The temperatures were cool for a short while, but things changed quickly. By 7 AM we were sweating hard and going up some steep inclines:

mulanje_climbing

There’s a local tree that bears fruit called “masuku”. We’ve never seen it before, but we tried some of these fruit along the way and they were pretty good:

mulanje_masuko_fruit

There’s not a whole lot of flesh to eat between the skin and the huge seeds, but what flesh you do find is very sweet.

Mulanje is not a single peak (like Fuji) but rather a small group of mountains. Eventually we reached the top of a ridge and entered a large plateau between the mountain peaks.  There was even a small air field in this plateau. Lerson said that the very wealthy take flights up here instead of climbing up. Not us.

After about 5 hours we reached the CCAP hut, one of several huts on the mountain, where we parked ourselves for the night.

mulanje_cabin

After a short rest we took a walk to some pools nearby. By this point it was getting chilly outside, but of course we had to go in (it was the only way to take a shower, and we needed one).

mulanje_pools

Second day: going down

For a while we toyed with the idea of staying on the mountain for a while. The temperature was so nice and there were lots of peaks to climb. But then we decided to try to hussle and make our way to a chimp sanctuary in northern Zambia (more on that later). So, on day 2 it was time to head back down.

On the way down we listened to our MP3 players. Pnina has her audiobook trying to repair the damage done by history teachers in America (check the reading list page for more). I was listening to NPR podcasts talking about Paul Newman’s passing away (I didn’t know he was a serious race car driver) and about how Flea of the Red Hot Chilly Peppers is now a freshman at USC.

mulanje_heading_down

We ended up in the nearby town of Likabula, from which we had to take a matola back to Mulanje. The matola ran out of gas part way through, and this is not the first time we had a vehicle stall for lack of petrol:

mulanje_matola_stuck

But finally we returned to the tea fields at the bottom of the mountain.

mulanje_end

We grabbed our stuff from the hotel and started hustling westward.

Advertisements

One response to “Mount Mulanje

  1. wow, what a gorgeous hike! so cool that you tasted the local fruit too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s