The Breathtaking Lake Chilwa Basin

Did you know that Malawi has a salt water lake? It is situated in Zomba and it is called Lake Chilwa. That’s a strange name and I’m clueless of its origin. The lake is part of a basin that goes as far as Phalombe, a district that is adjacent to Zomba towards the rising of the sun. As a basin, there’s a marshland that is home to wild ducks and many more species of birds, some of which have become protected by the country’s laws.

I first visited the lake when I was very young. I could have been 12 years old or younger. There was one dirty road that led straight to the only jetty. The rest of the area was covered in reeds. It was very hot and the air tasted salty. Or that could have been my imagination playing tricks on me. I was told the water was not suitable for drinking, but added a special flavour to the fish caught from the lake.

The fishermen were still using primitive fishing methods. I found it colorful. One would take a circular net and flash it in the air before it landed in the water. Or so I think. (This fragment of flashback has to be checked with facts on the ground – and there’s your trip to this circular shaped lake.) The lake was not deep, as a result people were using canoes to cross it to the biggest island some kilometers away. The canoes had two large holes on their side. One was near the front, and the other near the rear. Instead of paddles, they were using long bamboos for propelling the canoes forward.

The boatman would sink the bamboo until it touched the seabed and then heave it backwards. Then he would proceed to pull it out of the water and cast it in front of him and repeat the process. The canoes would move forward very slowly. Everything was in a slow motion. Then someone would take a bucket and empty the water that was sipping into the canoe through the two holes.

No one could explain the function of the two holes. And no one seemed particularly concerned that the water was deliberately let into the canoe in the first place. This was a game of neither efficiency nor speed. Fortunately, it looked idyllic and artistic. There was no need to rush – the lake was not going anywhere. Incidentally, this is the only lake in Malawi without an outlet, so truly it was not going anywhere.

We bought bags of sun dried fish and headed back to Blantyre where my mum cut it open in the middle, opened it up, cleaned it, dipped it in a dough and fried it in cooking oil. This was a favorite snack, a fish finger of sorts, for those with melancholic attachment to village life. I ate my fill especially the one that was spiced with the hot peri-peri pepper powder. That was my romantic connection to the lake of salty waters.

But like many good things that must come to an end, the bags slowly disappeared and with it my crunchy snack. By the way, this was the only time my mum let me near this snack. Buying it elsewhere was a no, no! “Dirty, dingy kitchens and unhygienic preparation process”, she’d constantly warn me. My great uncle Mr Gwembere, an adventurer with fishing boats on Lake Malawi, who taught me fly fishing from our front lawn, broke the rules once and bought me a massive local fish finger under strict instructions not to share the secret with mum. I ate it with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, waiting at any moment to break into sweat, my tummy churning into a storm. It’s a good thing it never happened, and after some time the secret bubbled into a confession to mum.

I never returned to Lake Chilwa until after college. I was with a friend looking for rice paddies where an aromatic rice variety is grown in the rice schemes dotted around the lake. But that is a story for another day.

The Lake Chilwa basin is now under threat from low rainfall, invensive farming methods, siltation and effects of climate change. With a history of drying up during acute drought spells, one only prays that conservation efforts from various players will be able to mitigate against the destructive forces bent on decimating this precious ecosystem.

Of A Shredded Suit, A Croc and A Hippo

A Taste of Lake Malawi
A Taste of Lake Malawi

 

Lake Malawi is the biggest and most famous lake in Malawi. It has two big islands – Likoma and Chizumulu. Those that have been to Likoma say it is an island paradise.

Malawi is a slender wedge sandwiched by three giants – Tanzania to the North, Zambia to the West and Mozambique to the East, South and West. The lake follows the same lentil shape from the tip of the country up north to the eastern region, tightly hugging the eastern boundary with Mozambique.

The lake is the most known tourist attraction in the country, with restorts dotted across its many sandy beaches. However, few establishments have resorted to perch on rocks for those that don’t feel comfortable standing on sandy foundations.

We have five lakeshore districts, Mangochi, once part of the southern region, but now apportioned to the eastern region; Salima and Nkhotakota in the central region; Nkhata Bay, Karonga in the northern region. I also understand that parts of Rumphi have access to the lake. As a tourist, both local and international, you are spoiled of choice.

My earliest trip to the lake was a family affair with the Makwitis’ – lifelong family friends. We visited the Kilekwas, a cousin to my mum, who had a lovely cottage by the beach in Mangochi. This was in the 80s. I was far from a floater let alone a swimmer, but that did not stop me or my cousins from splashing water among the gentle waves on the shore of this magnificent lake.

Stories of crocs and hippos added to the thrill. Any shifting shadow in the shallows would be followed by a yelp and a mad dash to the safety of the dry ground. My dad, in order to avoid our aquatic melee-like, preferred to swim a bit further from the shore towards where some soft reeds were flourishing. Despite getting a caution from my aunt, he continued showcasing his floating and swimming skills. After sometime he got bored and approached the shore. He had barely reached his beach chair when a hippo surfaced right on the spot he was minutes before.

We were told that it was most likely that the beast was busy foraging in the water, on the lakebed, while he was swimming above it. I wonder if he still remembers the story. Considering how savage hippos can be, this could only be a miracle. That night we heard the fellow locals clapping hands and singing songs to invite the hippos to come ashore and dance. Once the hippo approached the land, the group would give it a wide berth until it returned into the water. And the hand clapping and singing would continue, way into the night.  I have never heard that since my many returns to various parts of the lake.

In the morning, one could see tracks of a giant crocodile on the beach leading to the back of the cottage. It had grown a taste for local chickens and it had successfully managed to break into my aunt’s chicken roost few weeks before our visit. Like any thief, it could not walk away from its pattern of victory. The number one rule was to steer clear of any reeds, and stick to the sandy beaches. How this was not seen as a leaking advice is beyond me. Anyway, crocs or not, it was a nice time at the lake. After all, this one was after fat chickens and not our tiny, scrawny bodies.

On the last day of our stay, my mum decided to get me into a three piece suit. Yap! Right at the lake. I obliged. Somehow I wanted to stand on the beach again. I had to negotiate vertical stairs off the wall that separated the veranda of the cottage from the rest of the beach. There was a wire fence nearby. When I returned from the beach, there was a big tear in the pants of the suit. All the grown ups insisted that I had caught it again the wire, as I was negotiating the vertical stair.

Of course, I didn’t catch any wire but I had no plausible explanation either. We said our goodbyes and got into our car. I now had a second slash from the top to the bottom. More rents appeared as we drove away. By the time we reached Liwonde, a tourist stopover on Shire River just after Mangochi, where we stopped to have lunch at Liwonde Discovery Lodge, my pair of trousers was in tatters. I had to change into a fresh pair of casual trousers. Up to this day, I have no idea what caused this systemic wardrobe failure.

Lake Malawi, a fresh water body collected over a depression in the African Great Rift Valley many millions of years ago is a natural wonder. A place of crocs and hippos, it is also a place of unparalleled beauty and tranquility. For some reason this Lake of Stars, as it is popularly known, shredded my suit, and hosted a pacifist dancing hippo and a croc with a taste for chickens. Despite its twisted sense of humour we have been bonded together since.

Plan to pay it a visit this year.

Busy or Not, a Mountain Has to Move

The Mountains Are Calling
The Mountains Are Calling

 

Movement is relative. If I’m moving towards an object, it could very well be that the object is moving towards me. I need to get to a mountain or a mountain should come to me. Hehehe! A little bit of reflection here in a bid to justify the title. I’m yearning to reach some mountain top. But alas, the first quarter has really been very busy for me. Not that I’m complaining, but now the absence of the summit – any summit, is grinding me to powder.

Now that Easter break is coming, I’m thinking this could be the perfect time to escape city life and experience once again the exhilaration of country mountain air, buoyant on wild greenery. In a way, I should admire those that take time to plan to hike. You know, everything has to be right. They need to feel prepared. Every muscle must shake and quake at the right frequency. All the bones must be perfectly attenuated in grade A tendons. All pistons must fire in the right sequence. You get the drift.

While this is true for epic hikes, it is not necessary for a weekend getaway at your local hill, unless, if it has an active volcano at the top, or is known to be infested with venomous snakes that chase visitors on sight. In that case, then yes, perhaps take time to prepare your will, arrange your finances, say goodbye to your family, and then give it a go. Otherwise, it doesn’t take much to prepare for a hike. And guess what? What would work for a typical long walk, or a gym session, would also normally work for your hike.

So take for example, carrying water. You need to be hydrated at all times. Finding yourself in the wild, without any knowledge of local watering holes can cause a lot of discomfort on your part. In the extreme case, it could lead to injury, short term or long term, perhaps even permanent injury. But again, if this is just a weekend outing, it shouldn’t get to this point. So, forget about death or long term injury. Nevertheless, carry enough water with you. My style is to carry some with me, and keep a backup in the car. Should I lose my water bottle, and then have to trek back mile after mile to the base camp, at least, I should be able to get a swig once I reach the starting point.

Another point, is getting an energy snack. Now, you know it doesn’t always have to be something fancy like bars of chocolate or a packet of exotic sweets manufactured in a confectionary factory that happens to provide royal bites to national leaders around the world. No. A packet of groundnuts will do. Or a banana, if you don’t mind the possibility of fighting it out with monkeys once they see the yellow oblong treat in your hands. An energy snack can be anything you fancy that has carbs, or sugar in it. I’ve ever heard of someone carrying glucose powder to get a quick energy boost. Whatever your take, an energy snack must be somewhere near you.

Now what about a guide? If you know your terrain very well, and don’t intend to wander away from the beaten path, then possibly you just need to let someone know you will be wandering alone on your favourite hill. Otherwise, get a guide. And putting a time limit before someone gets concerned is also a prudent addition. So say, you tell your loved one that call the police, military, ministers of tourism and health if I don’t show up by 16:00 is not an exaggeration on your part. This is called taking an initiative, and must be pursued diligently each time you venture out into the wild. Oh! Put on the alert list your local mayor too. Mayors love speeches, and you need someone who can make a moving speech before deploying a searching party for you. Hopefully, they will not find you asleep on your favourite rock having eaten a whole bunch of bananas, leading to moments of tranquility, deep reflection, and subsequently and consequently the inevitable siesta.

What does this all mean to you? I think it says you don’t need much to prepare for a hike. You don’t need to walk for half a year in preparation. No. You don’t need to prepare to prepare – I’m speaking from experience, rather, observation. Just get your hiking clothes ready and venture out. And you are at liberty in interpreting what constitutes hiking clothes. Anything loose, comfortable on a pair of your favourite pair of sports shoes will do. And if you are living in this part of the world, you need something that would protect you from rains, sunshine, wind and dust. Okay. This shouldn’t put you in your deep preparation mood. Get into your walking gear, put on your hat, and get going.

With that in mind, you can see why I’m yearning for a weekend getaway. I have a choice of beautiful hills and mountains among Bunda, Ngala or Nkhoma in Lilongwe. Or Chongoni or Dedza in the adjoining Dedza district. There’s also another Ngala mountain in Dowa. These are surrounding areas from the Capital City of Malawi. Some mountain has to come to me. The only burning question is how many bananas am I taking with me?

 

Be More Race – 79 Days to Go!

79 Days To Go!
79 Days To Go!

 

The countdown for the Be More Race is in full swing. Already we are now down to 79 days, left. Have you started your preparations? The race is for the swift to win like that adage an early bird catches the worm. So if you haven’t taken to the tracks yet, now is the time.

Later on in this series, we are going to talk to the winners of last year’s race in order to obtain useful insights for you as you prepare. For now, we can start with the basics:

 

  1. Run, my brother run. Run, my sister run.

The best advice I ever got on anything was when I was preparing to hike Kilimanjaro was that practice is the best teacher. If you will hike, the best you can do is hike often. So it goes that if you are going to run a half marathon, the best you can do is run a couple of half marathons. That is 21.2 km of fun and grit in the administration capital, Lilongwe.

Give it a try as soon as possible, and then collect the data to analyse. Are you generally weak? Are you having problems breathing? Are you too heavy? Or perhaps too light? Though I doubt if that would be a problem, but then you never know. Are you too slow? This one will be important if you want to finish among the top 10 or top 50, whichever is comfortable to you.

 

  1. Watch for general fitness

Some skills are required for specific type of sports, but fortunately, some are generally generic across the board. One such skill is the ability to be in a state of general fitness. This means you can be able to run, walk, jump, swim, bend, stretch, twist without attracting any groans. Whatever your plans for the race may be, I would suggest you start working towards gaining this level of fitness. A visit to the gym at least twice a week, or a walk three times a week, or a run over the weekend, will push you towards this state.

It’s time to give up a bit of couch potato rights and start getting active. It doesn’t have to be excessive for now. Just a little bit every day will give you some decent results. After all, when you are generally fit, it is easier to avoid physical injuries.

 

  1. Visualise the challenge

Maybe this one should have been the first thing to do. Do you have an idea how long is 5 km, 10km or 21 km? Get on a familiar road and measure this distance. These days it is not difficult to achieve this. You can use a number of apps on iPhone or any Android phone. You can also use the odometer in your car. Drive the distance, then walk the distance. You can even run the distance later. Have a mental picture of the distance you will cover on the day of the race. That will help you build stamina against the challenge.

 

  1. Hydrate

Gone are the days when it was a macho thing to walk for a month without taking a glass of water. You need to train yourself to take water regularly. Start doing that now, so that by the time to race comes, you’d have conditioned yourself to maintain healthy levels of hydration. You’ll need it.

So forget about studying the camel for now. On that day, you’ll be like the hippo. Not, the shape of course, but the love for water. You will have taken a lot of water the previous day, and on the day of the race, there will be more bottles waiting for you.

 

  1. Sleep, and sleep some more

How much do you sleep these days? To be a great athlete you must learn to rest the body. And sleep, in large quantities, achieves that better than any other method of resting. Start working towards sleeping normal hours so that by the date of the race, you would have trained your body to rest, relax and be in primal condition for a day of fun and endurance.

I wonder if sleep could be adopted as a hobby. I know most of us could use more sleep everyday.

 

  1. Take it easy

This will seem to contradict the first point. As much as it is important to jog often, it doesn’t have to be a daily activity. You will have to pace yourself. Listen to your body and give yourself frequent breaks. Maybe between the long runs, you could have days for sprinting very short distances. You might also push between the runs, a visit to the gym or a walk in the park.

The point is that don’t try to be gazelle, cheetah, and elephant all rolled into one within 79 days. Take it easy.  Do the best you can, and avoid injury.

 

  1. Tell a friend

It’s great to win. It’s even greater to win among friends. Anyone who will participate will gain something because with Be More Race, everyone is a winner. Build a local team by inviting friends to join the race. And this is the best time to gel with your team members. Plan to do weekly runs together. The more the merrier.

Well, now that you have basic tools, it’s time for you to put them to use. Wishing you great preparations as we are all looking forward to that great race, which is among Malawi’s greatest races. Remember, it is 79 days to go.

See you soon!

 

 

Read It Again: Mount Transfiguration

A view from a mountain
A view from a mountain

 

This natural world is amazing. When you see the photos of the natural wonders of the world, and if you are privileged to go and visit them, you get to know earth is an incredibly beautiful part of the universe. Yet despite all these splendid displays, there’s a yearning for something more. Something better.

The Bible provides for another avenue of awe – an introduction into the spiritual world. And for our story today, Jesus invites three of his trusted disciples to ascend a high mountain. What a great outing! I cannot imagine a better day to spend with our Lord than to go out in the wild and hike. I would be watching how He would be placing His feet, how He would breathe. We would discuss the flowers, trees, insects, birds and anything of interest.

He would know where the best brooks would be. And if the water was not as fresh, I would know a water transforming miracle would be within reach. And on a day like this, there would be no pesky flies getting in our way. Snakes, spiders, centipedes would keep their distance. There would be no fear of injury or death, seeing that the One with the keys to hell and death is in our midst. This would be a hike with the Holy One who said He was Resurrection Himself.

What a special hike it must have been for Peter, James and John. Peter was later to refer to it (2 Peter 1: 16 – 18). This is one hike you would not want to come to an end. But it did. They reached the top and settled in for a private praise and worship session. Our Lord, in His tradition, must have shared great insights from the Scriptures. He must have taught them about prophets, God and His death. The first two topics must have been very thrilling to the disciples, but the last one must have been a horrible subject. Peter, in particular, did not want to hear about Jesus facing death, and hanging on the Cross. Humans, up until this day, do not see victory through suffering. But then, how can you have victory without a fight? How do you become a victor without facing your challenges?

Then something better than a natural hike takes place. As Jesus begins to pray, He transforms before them into one exceedingly beautiful celestial form. They break into the Heavenly dimension and witnessed the Father grant authority to Jesus. This was the first time for mankind to witness a heavenly occasion. Jesus was being made the mouthpiece of God. Mankind would now have to listen to Jesus, and understand Him. And the disciples were privileged to see people that had crossed the river of death. There was Moses and Elijah, speaking to Jesus about His decease.  And a heavenly cloud shrouded them all.

But read it again. The face of Jesus did shine as the sun, his raiment was white as the light. That is power, endless power of Life. That is divine. That’s the same description like the Burning Bush that Moses saw, only that this time the same Glory was on a human face. That’s the same Light that struck Paul down on the way to Damascus. The same Light that said was Jesus, when Paul asked for Its Name. To witness this, to behold such beauty was, is and will always be better than the plumage of the most exotic bird, or the sight of cascading water falling into a picture-perfect pool of the most crystal clear waters. This is better than any adventure ever devised by mankind.

Peter, James and John, as earthly witnesses had a single experience, and it lasted them a lifetime. Moses and Elijah, as heavenly witnesses had prior experience with the Pillar of Fire, but never anything like this.

Now, that’s what we are all yearning for. Just to behold the Lord’s beauty, in its celestial form, is better than anything life can give. I’m searching for my Mount Transfiguration hike, and I hope to witness it in its strength one of these days.

 

 

Be More Race – 100 Days to Go!

Be More Race
Be More Race

Malawi’s flagship road race is back!!

Standard Bank’s Be More Race returns in June in the city of its birth, Lilongwe. Finer details are still being worked on, but the most important news is the excitement of the second edition taking place in Malawi’s Administrative Capital.

Malawi is part of Africa’s largest banking family by assets that the Standard Bank group is.

I’m excited to cover the event as it falls under outdoors and adventure, two key attributes of this blog. It also includes family, running and walking. Last year, the turnout was around 1500, and this year, numbers are expected to increase. I will do my little part to motivate others to join the race. I intend to participate for the fun part of it, and will be sharing my experiences along key phases of the race.

Be More Race is more than just running the distance. It offers several categories to accommodate children, casual runners and competitive athletes.

The Be More Race takes the format of a half marathon, which starts from Standard Bank’s imposing Head Office compound in the heart of Lilongwe’s City Center. For those with a keen eye, Lilongwe is a city that is green with trees and well manicured gardens as you drive around it.

Be More Race is fun. It has a category for casual runners, which covers the first 5 km. This is best suitable for families that want to develop an outdoors lifestyle. The children love it, and get to see athletes in action. At the finish line, there are games for the little ones, to keep on engaging their young minds.

Be More Race is five-star entertainment. All participants are treated to live modern music performances. Sumptuous food bites are served along with drinks.

Be More Race is tough. The duelling distance of 21 km under the blazing African sun requires ruggedness, persistence and a resolute mind. Those that set their mind to finish the entire course are made out of tough – nothing else.

Be More Race is very competitive. The race is open to professional athletes that gun for the top positions. There is an award and a podium moment for the first three athletes (3 Men and 3 Women). Runners pour out their souls as they fight to be the very best. After all, such an accolade will last for an entire year, and it is worth fighting for.

Be More Race is a prestigious occasion. Last year, the Guest of Honour, was the State Vice President Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima and accompanying him was the Minister of Labour,Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Honourable Francis Lazalo Kasaila. Both the opening and closing ceremonies were graced by dignitaries from all walks of life and different levels of society. Most even attempted to cover some respectable distance.

Be More Race is one of the biggest corporate racing event in Malawi. The private sector, customers, leaders of Government, and diplomatic corps converge together to be part of this rallying call. Others choose to be partners by providing specific services and products.

Be More Race is forward looking. It is simply the one of best, toughest, yet all-inclusive and family friendly events in Malawi. While being fun all the way. Keep the date. Be More!

Read It Again: Heavenly Comfort

Heavenly Comfort
Heavenly Comfort

 

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything was smooth, and there was no single problem in our lives? I have often heard others say that life would be boring. I’m not sure I share similar sentiments. I do not like having problems. And I know a lot of people who do not like having any trouble.

Things get complicated however, when we put God in the midst of our problems. Most people expect that by virtue of being the Children of God, they will get exempted from earthly troubles. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Bible in the Book of Corinthians says God comforts us in all our tribulation. The Bible does not say that God will avert all troubles from us. No. It does not say that we will never know how to spell the word problems because we will be floating on the clouds of Angels, surrounded by Heavenly Anthems and Blessings.

Let me quote the entire verse. 2 Corinthians 1: 3 – 4 

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

What is that comfort then? Well, I would say it is the knowledge that God is not oblivious to our pain. It is the power of knowing that God is the Father of mercies, and that even in the darkest moments He is not very far from us. It is truly comforting to know that God is in control. But it does not stop there. The Bible then says that we should in turn comfort others in the same manner God comforts us.

So read it again. Find meaning in your problems by offering words of comfort to others as you get rest assured God, who is full of mercy, loves and comforts you. It will take the sting of your troubles away. And once you get to this level, you will bless God as Paul did in the passage we just shared above.

Child of God, be comforted from above.

First Taste of Snow in the UK in February 2002

One English Winter and My First Snowball

PREAMBLE

The Winter Olympics are here where top athletes are competing in winter games. It’s great to see Africa represented from several countries. I wish them well as we build experience and gain exposure. And it is my hope that one day the Malawian flag will fly on the podium. Why not?

The sight of snow on the ice tracks took me back in time. It reminded me of my first and only trip to the UK in February 2002.

The year is 2002 and I am working for an IT company in Malawi ICL (International Computer Limited). George Nnensa is the MD (Managing Director) and it has been a year since winning a government contract to supply the original IFMIS (Integrated Financial Management Information System). It is a giant leap for Malawi Government and the people of Malawi. As a local consultant, I was then required to go for professional training in the UK for a financial management system called CODA Financials.

There is a catch though. There are two sets of courses with a one week gap in between. I had to choose either the first course or the second one. I opted to go for both and promised to arrange for a self-sustenance break. I turned to my family for help. My dad and Uncle Gustave gave me two contacts in the UK. And the trip was on. This would be my first time out of Africa and my first time to go to Europe.

THE FLIGHT OUT OF AFRICA

My first flight was from Malawi to Kenya. During the flight, the Captain introduced Kilimanjaro Mountain with a gorgeous snow-cap. The landing in Nairobi, the Capital City of Kenya was rather rough and abrupt. The Captain was brutally efficient as if he had a military background. He just dropped the plane down from the skies, and then hit the tarmac hard. The next flight was on KLM, and the facilities were much improved. I think the aircraft had just been released and had personal TV screens in front of every passenger seat. We experienced violent turbulence when flying over Sahara Desert. My next-seat fellow passenger got really scared. Who would blame him? Who would want to tumble out of the sky and crash into the hot sands of the desert?

We landed in Netherlands with the smoothest touch downs I have ever experienced in my life. These guys were on top of their game. The plane gently kissed the tarmac and the landing gear sort of blended with the ground in a grand pacified union, like chocolate scooping soft vanilla ice cream. This was at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, which at the time was among the top ten list of the best airports in the world. For the first time, I did not have to ask for directions. Everything was well displayed along the well-light, properly ventilated corridors.

 

AN ITSY BITSY TEENIE WEENIE TASTE OF SUB-ZERO TEMP

It was here that we were required to hop into a smaller plane that would fly us to Bradford, UK. We stepped out of the terminal building to the elements. Whoa! I was hit by an invisible icy wrap. What has looked so serene behind the weatherproof glasses was a giant cold room. The cold easily penetrated my summer clothes from Malawi, past my tropical skin and viscously attacked my bones.

I had never experienced winter before. But here were other passengers calmly queuing outside the plane waiting for their turn to be served. I shivered uncontrollably as I approached the plane officials for help. Any help. The hostess took one look at me and asked me to jump the queue and board the plane immediately. She didn’t even take a look at my boarding pass. Rescue first, formalities later. God bless her beautiful soul.

The hostess explained to everyone what was happening, and I got a truckload of sympathetic “Awww!” and “Sorry!”. When everyone was on-board we couldn’t take off. The plane was too cold. It had accumulated a layer of snow and perhaps ice around its shell. I was told a layer of ice on the wings can cause problems later on. It had to be defrosted. Defrosted? Isn’t that what we were doing back home when preparing chicken kept in the freezer?

We eventually got airborne and was advised to buy my winter clothes as soon as we landed. We touched down in Bradford, checked out and bought proper winter clothing.

 

ACROSS THE UK IN THREE WEEKS

Within the three weeks in the UK, I stayed two weeks in Harrogate, one week in Nottingham, and two days in London. I had landed in Bradford. I took a bus (pronounced BU as in BOOt, and S as in octopuS) to Manchester. Jumped on a tube (train) to Harrogate. Or something like that. There was a bus and a train involved. The cities remained as mentioned – Bradford, Manchester and Harrogate.

After the first week in Harrogate, I jumped on a bus and spent a week in Nottingham and back to Harrogate. At the end of the third week, I was back on the bus and went to Nottingham, and then proceeded to London. I got to see Leeds, Sheffield, Leicester, Luton and other small towns in between.

 

OF SNOW AND SNOWBALLS

The first few days were terrible for me. The rooms were always cold despite having heating units. The central heating systems were not effective enough for me. Everyone was covered in layers of thermal wear. One had to be in gloves at all times, especially when venturing outside.

Then the unexpected happened. I started feeling less cold, and at one time I managed to go for my evening walks in relatively light clothing. Gloves remained important but not essential anymore. Eventually I lost them. And suddenly the central heating unit was too high for me. The rooms were getting to be warm. I was adjusting to this land of snow and ice.

I got to see, touch and play with snow for the first time, just before turning 25. It was white, fluffy, and malleable, if I could call it that. My hosts at the Coda-Financials had lots of fun seeing me getting wide-eyed at heaps of snow. They couldn’t believe that I had not seen snow in real life before. And that the closest thing to having ice on the ground, was the hailstones that sometimes accompanied rains in the tropics. After a little encouragement, I went outside the training compound and “played” a little bit with snow.

Three weeks later I returned to Malawi to continue with my professional work, supporting a critical national financial management system for the Government of Malawi. But somewhere inside me, was a child that had loved the touch and feel of snow. It may never say on my CV, but the highlight of the trip was not the modern transportation system in Europe and the UK, the fancy cars, the modern structures, the rows of five-star hotels in London, the food or the language, no. The highlight of the entire trip was to stand outside and get to throw my first snowball across the front office garden in Harrogate, while reflecting on the intricate query searches embedded in the Coda-Financials enterprise solution.

One day, Malawi will do more than read about snowballs and ice. We will have a winter athlete that will represent us in the Winter Olympics Games. We will have someone stand on the podium, with a gold medal. It’s my dream and you better believe it.

 

Chronicles of the Kilimanjaro Adventure: #10

This is my last post on the series of the chronicles of the Kilimanjaro Adventure which I took in August of 2016. In my previous post, I left off where Ulomi, the Managing Director of Professional Kilimanjaro Adventure, had dropped me at the Kilimanjaro International Airport.

LESSONS FROM KILIMANJARO

I have never felt so alive. I had set an impossible goal and had managed to achieve it. All my life I have struggled to finish strong. Here, for the first time, I had managed to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro Mountain. Yes, it was tough. Yes, I needed help along the way. Yes, I needed the guide to lead the way. But in the end, what counted was that victory was mine.

I related my experience to my Christianity. We all need help from above. The Holy Spirit is our guide. All we have to do is follow Him in the Way He has appointed.

But I also related this to one’s professional life. If you have an ambition go for it. You may not seem like you are ready for it, but go for it. Do not give up even if the going gets tough.

And I saw a lesson in leadership. To be a leader one must learn to follow. The greatest man that ever walked on earth was our Lord Jesus Christ. He has one of the biggest following in the world. Yet, while He was here, He said He only did what the Father showed Him. He learnt to follow God. The Son of Man was God expressed in flesh. On the mountain I had to follow the guide to reach the summit. In turn, now I am also able to guide others. Who do you follow? Don’t just be a soul drifting on the river of life having no purpose in life.

I learnt that it is good to be kind to others. Ulomi showed me love. He had a business to run but he took personal interest to go beyond what was expected of him. His young brother Hilary was always present, encouraging me to keep on going. Kelvin was my Rosetta Stone, always translating for me the beautiful Swahili to English and vice versa. The porters were dedicated and the guides friendly. All this was coming from hearts that really cared for me and for each other. I made friends at the Church in Moshi. I saw love wherever I turned. It was gladly offered, and I gladly received it. And I also offered mine in abundance.

More importantly, I discovered something about myself. I knew I was underrating myself. I needed to push to attain higher goals in life, whatever that may be. My background did not matter. The past was just only that, the past. The future has all the possibilities so long as I am able to face the challenges today. I was coming back home ready to tackle all the obstacles that were lying on my pathway.

Another lesson that I learnt was that slow is fast if one is steady. There are many ways to get to the top of Kilimanjaro Mountain. The one I settled for was using a 7 day route. This trail is best suited for rookies. It takes time to get to the top, but it also gives you time to adjust and prepare for the ascent. In the end, no matter what the pace was, I reached the summit and the rest is history. So don’t always fly at opportunities at breakneck speed. Easy does it. Just be steady.

These lessons could go on forever but let’s stop here for now.

My beloved wife, Cathy (third from left) and family (names on the next photo) at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe, Malawi.
My beloved wife, Cathy (third from left) and family (names on the next photo) at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe, Malawi.

WELCOME PARTY

I returned home to the best welcome ever. Cathy, my wife, had organised a party to meet me at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe, the Capital City of Malawi. My three sons, Pempho, Uchi and Kuwala, were there. Aunt Hendrina and my two cousins, Vanessa and Wati were there. My sister Zikomo and my cousin Mada, with her twin sons were also there. Sabina, a sister from church who was staying with us at the time was there. And my mum, who had travelled from Blantyre was also there.

Cathy presented a bouquet of flowers. We hugged and kissed. This was a hero’s return. I felt so humbled.

We returned home and I took a bath with my favorite soap. I threw myself on the bed to rest for a few minutes while Cathy and the ladies were doing the last touch ups before serving lunch and it felt strange. All the time I was sleeping on the thin mattress in the tent on the mountain, I kept missing my bed back home. Now that I was back, the comfort was overwhelming. My body had adjusted to the tent life. Somehow, I was missing the thin mattress and small tent on the mountain. Talk about twisted perception.

A Surprise Welcoming Party at Kamuzu International Airport. From left to right, Zikomo, Mada, Mum, myself carrying Kuwala, Pempho, Wati, Uchi, Aunt Hendrina, Wandu, Vanessa and Sabina.
A Surprise Welcoming Party at Kamuzu International Airport. From left to right, Zikomo, Mada, Mum, myself carrying Kuwala, Pempho, Wati, Uchi, Aunt Hendrina, Wandu, Vanessa and Sabina.

I was treated to lunch. I was served my favorite food. There were smiles all over. My boys could not contain their joy. Who could hold back? We were all so happy.

In the evening we had a welcome back home party. Cathy and Aunt Hendrina had arranged for t-shirts for everyone who supported the hike. So everyone who came for the party was wearing the special t-shirt. It said “Ndimakonda Mountain Hiking” meaning “I love mountain hiking”. My name was cleverly built into it. Kondaine, my first name, says “love me”. And the short form Konda, says love. So it was saying “NdimaKONDA mountain hiking”. It has since inspired the name of my blog on adventure, https://Ndimakonda.com.

My family and friends were at this party. And still many more could not come. Dr Joshua Valeta, an associate professor at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources was the Master of Ceremonies. He happens to be a Minister of the Gospel at our local church in Lilongwe. He was very smooth on this occasion. My best buddy CK (Chikondi Kachinjika) – the Head of Finance at Malawi Parliament – was there with his lovely wife, and family friend, Isabel. How I wish I could recognise them all here. But let them know in their hearts that I hold them special to this day.

All I could say was thank you to Cathy, my family and friends. To well-wishers. To neighbors. This was beyond my wildest dreams.

NEWSPAPER COVERAGE

Cathy arranged for a reporter to cover my story. The summit was reported in the daily newspaper of the Nation, a respectable national paper in Malawi. It was reported by a renown sports journalist Clement Chinoko.

I was mentioned again, fleetingly, in another news article a few days after the initial article by the same reporter.

Later on my dad covered my story in his weekly column in Malawi News, the oldest newspaper in the country. As a father, he quickly declared that I was the first Malawian to summit Kilimanjaro. This was not true but he won’t have it any other way. Being a hiker himself, and having inspired the passion in me while I was still young, he was very happy to pass on the baton to me. Hence the excitement.

The rest of the talk was on social media. Facebook and Whatsapp helped spread the news and continues to this day.

AWARD

I was given an award by Ulaya Classics, a prestigious bodybuilding event that took place at the magnificent Bingu Wa Mutharika International Conference right in the heart of Lilongwe City Centre. The guest of honour was the State Vice President Dr Saulos Chilima. It was such an honour.

Receiving an award presented by The Vice State President of the Republic of Malawi, Dr. Saulos Chilima at Ulaya Classics Bodybuilding Gala.
Receiving an award presented by The Vice State President of the Republic of Malawi, Dr. Saulos Chilima at Ulaya Classics Bodybuilding Gala.

TALKS

I was privileged to give a few talks. The first talk was a testimony at the Church in Moshi. I spoke briefly before the summit attempt, and after the summit. The talk was well received.

Upon my return back home, I gave a short testimony at church. Our pastor, Pastor Wilton Mkandawire invited me back for a special talk on another Sunday. I delivered a one hour plus talk, to date my longest and perhaps most inspired talk on the subject. I’m forever grateful to the pastor and the saints at Area 18 Church for the privilege to speak before them.

Lastly, I was invited to give a talk at the social event for Mountain Club of Malawi. This was before fellow hikers, the majority being expatriates with extensive hiking experience. This was a beautiful way to wrap up my experience on Kilimanjaro Mountain.

I thank God for creating such a beautiful world and for putting in us the hunger to explore it. Kilimanjaro Mountain opened my eyes to such beauty.

Thank you for coming along with me. I hope you enjoyed the story and learned something of value.

Read it again: I am Alpha and Omega

Kilimanjaro, the alpha and omega of all mountains in Africa. Just as an example of that expression.
Kilimanjaro, the alpha and omega of all mountains in Africa. Just as an example of that expression.

Here comes our weekly reflection on the Word of God. As stated before the Bible contains Scriptures that act like seed. Once planted in our hearts, as we meditate on the meaning of these wonderful words, something changes within us.

One such Scripture is found in the Book of Revelation, my personal favourite, where our Lord Jesus Christ declared Himself, more than once that He is the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8; Revelation 21:6 and Revelation 22:13). He says it three times, in case you missed it. Those are greek characters standing for the first letter of the alphabet and the last letter. In other words, He is saying He is the Beginning and He is the end. He is everything.

What exactly does that mean? He is not saying He knows the Beginning and He knows the End, which He does. But He is the Beginning itself. And He is the End. That is one outstanding statement to make.

What if there was a mountain that was the alpha and omega? (Notice the use of small letters in this case.) Wouldn’t it have it all? Couldn’t we say Kilimanjaro is the alpha and omega of Africa? Standing at 5,895 metres above the mean sea level, it sure is the alpha being the largest and and omega, being the tallest mountain in Africa. It has it all. Everest Mountain dwarfs Kilimanjaro by over 2,000 m so it could claim to be the alpha and omega of all the mountains on land. The New Jerusalem lands on the mightiest mountain ever. That will be bigger and taller than mount Everest. It will claim rulership over the other mountains. You get the idea?

So read it again.

  1. Is He King of Kings? (Revelation 19:16) Yes, He is.
  2. Has He conquered death and defeated the devil? (Revelation 1:18) Sure.
  3. Is He the High Priest over the Living Oracles of God? (Hebrews 10:21) Oh yes.
  4. Is He the Prophet of the prophets? In other words, is He the Living Word itself, the Son of Man? (Revelation 1:1; John 1:1 – 3, 14). A big resounding yes.
  5. Is He Omniscient? Meaning He knows all things? Of course. How could the Eternal One not know? He spans Eternity mind you.
  6. Is He Omnipresent? Meaning He is everywhere? Knowing everything, He really is everywhere for He hears our prayers from any corner of the world.
  7. Is He Omnipotent? Meaning He is all powerful? What do you think? Who can defeat Him when He conquered death itself?
  8. He is above all. He is mighty. He is the Best of the Best. He is the Chief of the Chiefest. He is above Heaven and bigger than the universe.

My heart is filled with joy just to think of our Lord Jesus in this way. Now, I bow my knee and worship Him as the Alpha and Omega. So what are you afraid of? If He calls you a son or daughter, and reigns in your heart, you can overcome anything through His precious Name. Does the Scripture say “I can do ALL things through Christ, who (which) strengthens me?” For He is truly the Beginning and End of everything.

Amen!