I arrived in Blantyre at 7am ish. The city was already awake. As usual taxi drivers and vendors tried to sell me something. I always try to look confident and walk straight out of the bus station. If you look a little lost or new to the place is the end. I started to walk around looking for a coffee desperately. Once I arrived at the coffee shop I asked around if I could find a second hand shop in order to buy some cloths for the mountain. I knew that would be bloody cold there so I needed more clothes. While I was walking looking for clothes I found a certified apple shop. I thought it was a sign and that I should give it try and repair it.
After leaving my computer I took a minibus to Limbe. From here I took another minibus towards Mulanje. I was heading to Africa Wild Truck a really nice place managed by the lovely Stefano and Francesca. I arrived to the lodge at 1pm and there was M. to welcome me. I had my usual coffee and started to have a great conversion with one of the girl that was working there. She was an incredible knowledgeable kid. It is not easy to find anywhere a kid like that. We talked about biology, politics, nutrition and about the Mulanje. She was a beautiful human being. After a while a had a chat with the guide John. He would bring me up to the Sapitwa point. The highest tip of Mulanje (3002m). We agreed that it would take 2 days and 3 nights, so that I would need a porter. Mulanje is not just f famous for the Chambe pick (longest rock climbing in Africa), it is also very popular for the porter race . It is a race that happens every year in July. All the porters run up to the mountain. It is crazy challenging. Next day it was by birthday and I decided to chill a bit as I was travelling for 2 days already. So I told the guide that we would start the trip the day after.
It was my birthday, 29 years of life cycle. I walked all day around the tea plantations and down to the dam. The Mulanje was in its background. It was a beautiful piece of landscape. While I was walking around I sat for about half an hour on a stone. Some of the guys working on the tea plantation approached me and asked me some questions. We started to talk and they told me that they were earning very little money for this job. They were very happy though. Africans are always happy.
When I came back, people were looking for me. I was not really allowed to go all the way down to the dam for security matter. Believe me, it was very secure. Locals were so welcoming and kind. The things is they obviously wanted me to hire a guide to walk through the tea plantation. It is always like this.
Next day I was ready! John came early and we left towards Mulanje village with a minibus. We started the hike also with the porter, Bismarck. As we were going up the landscape were breathtaking. An incredible nature arrangement of nature. What a power. The hills were coming down slowly and the colours were an incredible mix of yellows and greens. All the hue just there, gently mixing with the empowering landscape. I was blessed, again. We made it to the fire camp around 4.30 pm. There were some guys putting the music up and I kindly asked to switch off the music as I went to the mountain overall to have some peace and to be noise free.
Next day we woke up at 5 am, and started to hike around 6am. The weather got worst and worst as we were going up. It was raining, slippery and very cold. Some people were coming back and told to the guide that was too slippery and windy to carry on. He didn’t mentioned this to me. However I started to realize that he was becoming more worried as we were going up. ‘What’s happening John?’, I asked. ‘The weather is not good for the hike. It will get more dangerous as we go up. The mountain will just become steeper’. He said with a concerned voice. ‘So what we should do?’. I quickly said to him. ‘I don’t know what you want to do’. ‘ Well for sure I don’t want to die and also you are the guide and you know the mountain’. ‘Then I think we should turn back down.’ On our way back we met a few more hikers who decided to carry on anyway. By the time we were down the weather improved and I challenge my guide to go back up. He told me that the weather could change again drastically and that we could not see anything from the top anyway. I didn’t want to listen to the advice I was given. ‘I really want to go back up’ I said. ‘Ok, let’s go’. He promptly said. As we were going up the weather was ok. We met all the people that were behind me when I previously went up. They told that I was very resilient and that I would make it to the summit for certain.
The hike was absolutely breathtaking. It was a lot of scrambling on heavy rocks. I loved going through the caverns. It was an extremely interesting hiking. We definitely needed a rope. My guide didn’t have one. However the people just behind us had one. We could finally overcome the last difficult obstacle before the summit. After a few caverns here and there we got to the summit.
The way back was a completely different scenario. It was so foggy that I could not see my guide, I could not see much really. The rain started and the wind was blowing me away. It was a very ash weather for the descend. I fell down a few times and injured myself. I started to think that I would not make it until the end. That fire camp was so bloody far and I was completely wet, injured and tired. We made it after 3 hours. My guide kept reinsuring me and taking care of me. I mean if anything would ever happen there, nobody would come back up to help. There is no alpine emergency in Africa. It’s just you and the providence. Who fuck knows what would have happened. I am still alive for sure, but when I was up there the only thing I would think about was my people. I would not brake their heart.
When we were at the fire camp I was blessed and relieve. I was exhausted and seeing all group of friends together in the fire camp made me feel incredibly lonely. Sometimes travelers feels fucking lonely. You can’t trust anyone, so things keeps growing inside yourself. Sometimes you just want to cry. Sometimes you just want an hug. Sometimes you just want to die for how much is overwhelming everything. However the happiness you feel when you travel is something amazingly rewarding. I feel alive and blessed for all the beautiful things I have the opportunity to see and to experience. I mean how many people have seen the things I had the opportunity to see. I tell you not many.
Next day were another 8 hours of descendent. It was hard as everything was aching. Every single part of my body was hurting. The descendent was very beautiful too. The waterfall were breathtaking and amusing. The sound of the water was continuously flowing in my ears. In the end we had a swim in the waterfall. I jumped from a 10m rock into the iced water. I immediately wake up and felt more alive then ever. What an adventure!
“I will not be another flower, picked for my beauty and left to die. I will be wild, difficult to find, and impossible to forget.”
Erin Van Vuren