This is the last article in the series about the adventure on Mulanje Mountain. My friend Dan, the author of Grit, and I took a three day, two nights trip to Mulanje, to attempt to reach Sapitwa Peak. We managed to reach the highest point on the mountain in style. Nevertheless, what do you do when you reach the peak? Every bit of your focus was about getting to the summit, and once there then what? Very big mountains frown on you attempting to stay on the summit forever, yet that is all that fills your mind. You have reached your goal, and there is nowhere else to turn. There is no more going up. This is it. Thank God, hitting the highest point is euphoric, and the moment gets to last in your mind. However, in reality, you have to go back. It makes the return journey harder in a way than when you were seeking the top point.
That was the case with me after reaching the peak. I looked and searched for meaning. First, I called Cathy, my wife, from the peak to take advantage of the romantic connotation. Calling your loved one from the highest point suggests the height of your love to her. It was a subtle hint, which I am sure did not escape her. Then I turned my attention to small details that could have easily escaped my attention during my ascent. I took time to look around and enjoy the scenery. Therefore, I dropped the pace, which allowed Dan and Rex, the guide, to proceed to Chisepo hut ahead of us – the assistant guide and I. In order to test my navigation skills, I tried to go ahead of my assistant guide, and despite numerous arrows painted on the rocks in red to indicate the direction to the hut, I got lost more often than I could care to count. This was supposed to be a familiar path, but it just showed how important it was to have the company of the local guides when getting to and from the summit.
When we reached Chisepo Hut, we found that the two groups that had gone to Sapitwa ahead of us had returned and settled for the night. The first group consisted of five medical students from Michigan, USA. It was their first time on the mountain, and four of them managed to reach Sapitwa. One of them was called Soolee, I believe. The second group was a family from within Malawi. It was a dad and his two teenage daughters. It was a second visit to Sapitwa for the elder daughter. Whilst the father was returning to Mulanje Mountain after a hiatus of 20 years, and it was his first time on Sapitwa. Mr Aila Delemans is a very brave man. And the mountain was glad to welcome him in its might. We could have stayed on Chisepo Hut as planned, but we had left all our stuff at Chambe hut. So after a brief break, on my part, and much longer stay for Dan, having arrived much earlier at the hut than me, we said our goodbyes to the fellow hikers and proceeded to walk towards Chambe hut.
An hour later, we were engulfed in darkness, yet the path remained treacherous in several sections. This posed a fresh challenge as night navigation is in a league of its own. Two hours later we were at Chambe hut with nothing broken expect our hiking pants. Actually, there were not broken rather torn. The sliding down from the peak had taken a toil on the poor clothes, and a repeat of the same during the night cover, completed the damage. When we reached the hut we found three visitors sleeping on the veranda. Out of respect, we did not wake them up, but proceeded to prepare for the night inside the hut. In the morning, we discovered that it was two students from Australia, and their local guide. Apparently, they slept outside to watch stars at night. When we started the morning fire, we were introduced to Cecilia Cameron and Mallory Dobner from Australia, and Fanuel Jarson their guide, who works at St Andrews in Blantyre as a mountain club guide. Out of the two, I believe it is Cecilia who had managed to reach Sapitwa Peak, around Christmas last year. We had a light conversation as each team prepared for the descent. Such is a strange and interesting life of sharing huts, utensils and in this case, hut veranda.
After our breakfast, we packed, took inventory of the hut, then left for Dziwe la Nkhalamba, the most famous natural pool on Mulanje Mountain. It is near the bottom and boasts of a waterfall on one side, and a secondary, shallower pool on the other hand. The main pool is very deep, and unfortunately, continues to claim lives. If you happen to be there, please, do not take a dive if you do not know how to swim. However, if you are a cousin to fish, then indulge. On the way to the pool we met the two groups from Chisepo hut also going down. We took the Chapaluka trail which has a gorgeous river that runs alongside it. At the pool we took our last main photos and headed out to the Forestry Office at Likhubula.
Soon it was time to part ways with our guide and his porters, John Ben and Daniel Mtunduwatha. Rex Chikwita, the guide, gave each one of us a parting gift and we said our goodbyes. Until we meet again, this was an interesting adventure at the time when it seemed impossible at the beginning but ended up being great. I returned to Lilongwe, my home, a land of plains and small hills. Dan remained in Blantyre, surrounded by beautiful mountains in all the corners of the city. If you find time, please, make it a point to go up Mulanje Mountain. You will be glad you did.