One Summer Break at Lake Malawi National Park

Lately, sweet memories from the past have been engulfing my mind. Vivid moments spent in the wild are making a strong recall. Whatever may be happening to me, I’m enjoying the recollections with silent pleasure.

The year is 1992 or maybe 1993. I’m inclined to think it is the former. A young supple mind is at its zenith absorbing everything wildlife. There’s so much to learn; there’s even much more to do. Whales, sharks, bears, lions, elephants, antelopes, giraffes, rhinos, buffaloes, leopards, cheetahs, tigers, crocodiles, birds, snakes, fish, worms, beetles, ants and much, much more.

The Wildlife Club at our school – Mulunguzi Secondary School in Zomba district – has been invited to join other clubs from across the country for a holiday trip at the world famous Lake Malawi National Park. It’s one of the few places in the world where a conservation site is established over a fresh water body.

Lake Malawi National Park is one of the five national parks in Malawi, after Nyika in the North, Kasungu in the Central Region, Liwonde and Lengwe in the South. It is home to mbuna, cichlids endemic to Lake Malawi. These colorful guys are one of the most gorgeous ornamental fish from a fresh water body. They come in red, yellow, blue brown and other fantastic colours. The shapes are equally incredible.

Our young minds were swept away by carefully choreographed presentations that were fun, informative and interactive. I wanted to catch all the poachers and destroyers of nature and cast them into the Lake of Fire. Every story of extinction or critical threat on a species left me teary. Nothing has changed much since then.

In fact, I’m only able to handle the story of extinction with dignity, though very painful, simply because I believe in the afterlife. The knowledge that the world will one day be restored to its former glory is a balm to the heart. So I’m comforted that one glorious day in the future I will see the dodo, the mammoth and other ancient animals that disappeared on the face of the earth long time ago.

Then came snorkeling sessions. We spent hours in the water staring down into the magical world of the mbuna. The fish were friendly and were not scared of our presence. We were told that they are territorial and will spend their entire life around an underground rock or reef. No visiting cousins, no time to play an aquatic tourist.

We had a boat ride and went to Bird Island off the coast of Monkey Bay. This is where the waters are crystal clear, and the stars sparkle on the gentle lake. The calming effect was beyond what words could describe.

It was during this trip that I made a life long friendship with Tikhala Njolomole. She’s like a big sister to me. I can remember a few more names though I have not met any of them since that time. I doubt very much if they could even remember our meeting. Today Tikhala is a Bwana (boss) at one of the energy companies in Malawi. I last saw her last year and next time we meet I’ll ask her if she remembers of this summer trip.

Lake Malawi National Park offers aquatic beauty unparalleled anywhere else in Malawi, and it is world famous for its cichlids and crystal clear waters. Pay it a visit one day and you will fall in love with it, just like I did.

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.

Table Mountain And the Smart Taurs

Table Mountain is one of the most famous tourist attraction in Cape Town, South Africa. It has the signature flat tabletop when viewed from its profile, and when low flying clouds descend on its plateau, the resulting looks are called a table cloth. Table Mountain is not the tallest mountain in South Africa. That honour goes to the Drakensberg, which is among the top 10 tallest mountains in Africa. However, Table Mountain has both the looks and the location. It has earned a glamourous status.

Back in 2012, Mark Mlambala, a friend in Cape Town arranged a hike up Table Mountain as a birthday present to me. Mark, who is an outdoors enthusiast, quickly assembled a team of friends. There was Gerald Abraham, who I had grown up with in Nkolokosa, a high density neighbourhood in Blantyre, Malawi. He was now trying his luck in the vibrant film industry in Cape Town. Grecia Fulumame was also there. He too was once a resident of Blantyre City before he went to Cape Town and established a business in the transport industry. He had a private shuttle service offering luxury rides from the airport to areas of interest around the city.

Table Mountain has well developed trails with multiple access from different parts of the city. We opted for the route overlooking Cape Town’s Water Front, next to where the Cable Car starts its ascent to the top of the mountain. Being that this was my first time to climb any mountain outside Malawi, the excitement was through the roof. There was also some concern beneath the thin veneer of courage. My recent experience with a big mountain had been physically taxing and I expected nothing less. Nevertheless, it is not everyday that one has an opportunity to go up this world famous bastion right at the bottom of Africa.

Apart from the mountains of Lesotho, I don’t recall ever seeing so much exposed rocks and stones on a mountain as much as is on Table Mountain. It is basically made of Legos blocks sculptured from stones of all sizes. You get to see rows of craftily arranged cascading layers receding to the sky. The trail itself was cut in stone. And all this is then smoothed out with a carpet of low lying vegetation popularly called fynbos. The ecosystem is world famous for being only endemic to this region. One step on the path, and one is drawn into a fantastic world of swirling ruggedness and silky delicateness. The balance between the two worlds has perhaps not been achieved in many places around the globe.

At the turn of last century someone introduced a wild population of goats. They thrived and dominated the area, and soon started posing a threat to the fynbos species. A tough decision was then reached to remove the goats permanently. It looks like they were probably exterminated. Whatever method was used, the goats were completely removed from Table Mountain. It was therefore, a surprise for our party to spot a she-goat with her baby goat. They were very quiet and hardly made any movement.  So despite being not very far from the trail, they blended into the terrain and went unnoticed by the steady stream of hikers going up and down the mountain.

We quickly figured out that there must have been a third goat around as a daddy. We searched everywhere but we were not successful in locating it. I wanted to alert the officials about their presence, but the idea of the extermination team pouncing on the kid choked my throat. In the end, I foolishly rationed that a single goat won’t eat all the fynbos. There was still time before the population could explode again and become a threat. At that point – in the way future -something will need to be done.

What I found very fascinating was the fact that the goats had learnt to shush their mouths. Now I know goats love bleating, so how did they figure out to control the urge to melodiously express the glee of eating fresh grass in the morning? And importantly, how did the she-goat teach her kid to hold its peace? How I wished I spoke goat, and got to have a small chat with the mother. Anyway, there was a hike to have, so we proceeded with our adventure.

There was so much to learn on this particular hike. At one point we met an old man who had had a knee surgery but he still insisted on having his weekly hiking. And he had been doing it for aeons. And on our way up, we were overtaken by a group mountain runners speeding up the trail. Before we had reached the top, the group returned still running, and still energetic. And when we reached the summit, we found someone proposing to their beloved! He went down on one knee, held out his hand with a beautiful ring on it, and cameramen were busy doing their job. She said yes, and we all cheered.

The view from the top is simply amazing. You get to see where the land meets the ocean, Robben Island and beyond. Of all the international destinations, it is safe to assume this is the one spot that has been visited by a lot of Malawians with a passion for mountains.

As I reminisce with fond memories the birthday present of 2012 from my brother Mark, I have a side thought with an incessant itch. How did the mountain goat figure out to teach its baby to remain quiet in the face of imminent extermination?

I can only conclude that the wonders of nature are indeed without end. Praise be to God.

Weekend at Fort Mangochi

Mangochi Forest Reserve
Mangochi Forest Reserve

Mountain Club of Malawi (MCM) recently sent out an invitation to its membership for a weekend of hiking in the Mangochi Forest Reserve and camping at Fort Mangochi. This is one area rich in colonial history about trade, migration, battles and slave routes.

So at midnight on Friday last week, I sneaked out of bed and headed out of town. Coming from Lilongwe I took the Salima Road, which would later join the road to Mangochi and then towards Namwera. My rendezvous was Skull Rock Estate in Majuni. I got there very early and found out that Maggie O’toole, the president of MCM, and Poly Boynton, another hardcore MCM member, had already arrived the night before having cycled all the way from Blantyre, covering a distance of 140 km.

Our guide was Jailos Sinto, who has local knowledge about this area. We were expecting over 20 members. We were all set by 10 on Saturday morning and ventured into the bush. Normally, by this time of the year the trail would have been maintained by a team of locals. But this year, the project got derailed somewhat. As such there was tall grass everywhere. Parts of the path was so overgrown the leading guide had to clear it with a slasher.

The traffic jam that would follow gave a chance to armies of red ants to have a go at us. I was the first victim and this continued for a good part of the day. Just when we were about to theorize that the ants preferred local flesh, the barrier was breached and everyone became a candidate of the merciless stinging bites.

These red ants were much bigger and more vicious than the ones I had encountered on Easter Monday on Dedza Mountain. These ones were after causing maximum damage and inflicting intense pain. I politely tried to disengage them but when it became obvious this was a war, a few heads rolled.

On the way to the fort, we skirted past the Skull Rock hill, a rocky affair with three huge boulders for a summit. One of these has a profile of a skull. Going round the hill reveals a much dramatic view. The skull boasts of two asymmetrical sockets fiercely staring down into the valley below. Professor Eric Borgstein, a prominent surgeon at Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, joked that dinosaurs in the prehistoric era gorged out the sockets off the rocky face. Now, we know how this outstanding feature was formed. Brian Lewis, husband to Maggie, and a crusader for managing dairy cows for over 7000 smallholder farmers, suggested that the block of stone was probably soft, and got sculpted by forces of nature. I’m inclined to go for Eric’s theory, after all he’s the master of sculpting of the human body!

Some of us had been worried that it might rain on this day, given the trend of recent rainfall in the country. Instead, it was very hot and very humid. Others minded the heat and others the humidity. I belonged to the latter group. With an aerial assault from the skull’s stare, red ants on the ground and the humidity wrapping an invisible steaming blanket around our struggling bodies, the situation invoked a deep respect for nature from everyone. This was a challenge worth undertaking.

Mangochi Forest Reserve miraculously stands intact. It was refreshing to walk for miles on end in a thick forest, surrounded by nothing else but forest sounds, wild blossoms and supreme greenery. The rolling hills gave an illusion of an endless pleasure ground like one could be lost forever wandering from one spot to the next oblivious of the passage of time. The natural beauty far outweighed the challenges we were encountering on the way.

Fort Mangochi

We reached the ruins of Fort Mangochi just after midday. It was such a welcome sight after walking in the endless bush. The ruins still have an intact thick perimeter wall made from masonry stones and mortar. The wall is one meter thick and has rectangular openings from outside, which widen away as a recessing wedge in the inside of the wall. This was designed to allow two soldiers to man the hole and fire at the enemy with a much wider horizontal scope without being exposed to the opposing fire.

Inside the square compound are the remains of buildings made from burnt red bricks standing in neat rows. The ground, though covered in grass, is even and firm as if it is a modern construction site. The walls are perfectly aligned to the four cardinal points – with the main entrance facing East. Outside the perimeter wall were remnants of what are houses for officers. These were added to the fort much later in its evolution.

We camped inside the stone wall perimeter. Everyone was expected to find themselves a spot. Some opted to stay close to where the camp fire would be. Others went to the suburbs where the grass was receding. And others chose to be buried in thick grass. One adventurous member even found time to beat a path from his tent to the campfire.

A Walk to the Rainforest

We pitched our tents, ate our individual lunches, rested a while and then set off for the rainforest. I had forgotten to bring along a cup. So instead I took my midday tea in a breakfast bowl. No sweat there as that is exactly the spirit of camping. Anything can be turned into a versatile instrument. My lunch consisted of shredded tuna and a cookie. The creativity failed to make an impression on the team but it got the job done anyway.

On the northern side of the camp, there’s a next ridge with a rainforest. We were aiming to summit it before sunset and return in time for a communal dinner around the campfire. Once we cleared our top flat ridge we came across an overgrown path full of protruding roots, vines and nettles. I lost count of yelps, ows, and ouches from young and old, lady or gentleman. Red ants couldn’t resist joining in the torture spree. The guide tried his best to hack a passage through the thick grass as fast as he could but he couldn’t stop a jam from building up and grinding the team to a halt.

And when things couldn’t get any better, the terrain started rising up sharply. I tanked. I sat down to catch a breath, and someone joked that I looked like one of the ancient wise ones – a sage. I brought up the rear and matched on into the rainforest. This section looks dark and ominous. It just feels like its a place a leopard would be comfortable to wander around. But once inside the canopy that blocks out the sun, the ambience is totally different. It’s an air conditioned chamber with humid control. It was totally refreshing, and the air divine. I don’t recall being attacked by a single red ant inside this forest cove, if there’s ever such a thing.

Our next stop was where people camp within the rainforest, and we decided to end it there. We were not going to proceed to the summit in the interest of time. Well, mostly that. But there was also the small matter that most of us by this time were totally thrashed. So instead we branched off to this ledge that stands above the cover of the rainforest. And talk about view. We could see the eastern leg of Lake Malawi glistening in the sun like a precious piece of glass. And then Shire River, the only outlet of this magnificent water body, snaked across the land like a ribbon before emptying itself in Lake Malombe, before proceeding its journey to Zambezi River, and then eventually hitting Indian Ocean. Shire River, being the longest and biggest river in Malawi is around 402 meters long. From where we were standing, we only saw a small chunk as it came out of the lake.

We returned to our camp inside Fort Mangochi and started our campfire.

Sumptuous Dinner and A Rousing Talk by the Campfire

As the open flames crackled above the burning firewood, a group of self-made chefs gathered around the fire and started preparing dinner. Yaseen Mukadam, our treasurer and also a long time member of MCM, was the rice grandmaster. He was cooking up a big dish from our famous Kilombero rice, the most aromatic long grain rice in Malawi. Carl Bruessow, an avid hiker, author, historian and champion of the replanting effort for Mulanje Cedar, was preparing mushroom entree. Others were making an assorted dish, and a special platter for vegetarians. When it was time to serve, it was so difficult not to put a small hill on one’s plate. Vegetarians were served first. The rest come after them, and wiped out whatever was being served.

Afterwards, some washed down the meal with a glass of wine. Some of us, a glass of water did the trick. Then came a surprise. Brownies, served with whipped cream! Aahh! Such good times.

We had an AGM – Annual General Meeting, led by Maggie, the president. She kept it succinct and informative. We received two reports and then we elected new leaders. Maggie and the rest of the officers were unanimously re-elected into office without being opposed. This committee is truly dedicated and strives to bring out the best for the club. We wish them another successful tenure in office.

Then it was time to settle down and have a talk from Carl Bruessow, who also happens to be the current president of Malawi Society, the custodians of colonial history artifacts and knowledge, which happily assists in the preservation of this rich heritage. After being taunted for a power presentation, Carl held out slides of photos and maps in his hand and delivered a moving oration. He told us about how the Yaos migrated from the coastal regions of Mozambique to this very spot. The Yaos loved mountains, and were attracted by the rolling hills in the area, and its plenty sources of water. The Yaos were tradesmen who had been dealing with Arabs, trading in the precious commodity, salt, in exchange for honey and other goodies from the interior of Africa.

Unfortunately, the trade turned its ugly head and stooped as low as in the sale of human souls and ivory. Slavery, in this region, started as a way to get rid of unwanted characters in the society. But soon became a huge human trafficking undertaking. At its zenith, the trade route passing through this area could have more than 20,000 souls per month. Until authorities in Britain said enough was enough, and started a campaign to abolish slave trade.

This led to three major battles that took place in different campaigns, led by different British officers. It involved British soldiers, Indian Sikhs, irregulars from the Ngonis, regulars from Zanzibar and more Ngonis. Irregulars would be the equivalent of modern day mercenaries, who came from the Dedza area. If I heard the narration very well, I think there was also a presence of some Yaos from Zomba, especially during the last battle that flushed out the Yao chief together with most of his 25,000 subjects. The headquarters of the chieftaincy was then later turned into Fort Mangochi, comprising of the thick stone perimeter wall and the structures inside it.

We learnt a lot about the local tribes, their historical behaviour and influence. And personally, I have never seen such delivery, with flair and decorum. This will be a night to remember for a long, long time.

I collapsed into my tent for an early night and drifted into a peaceful sleep. I stopped feeling the clods from the collapsed grass, and after a while the tiny thin polythene sheet for a mattress got comfy. I woke up fresh the following morning. Lost interest in having a cereal, and took instead a bowl of hot soup and got ready for the hike back to Skull Rock Estate.

This was one wonderful weekend, and I hope to return one day. Next time, I will want to reach the summit of the ridge where the rainforest resides.

 

PARTICIPANTS’ DETAILS:

Maggie O’Toole

Brian Lewis

Yaseen Mukadam

Carl Bruessow

Gill Knox

Chinga Miteche

Ngamise Gumbo

Pedram Kaya

Polly Boynton

Lloyd Archer

Adrian Thomas

Eric Borgstein

Sophie Borgstein

Marc Henrion

Nisha Schumann

Stephanie Darling

Kate Gooding

Kristina Cuisinier

Olivia Butters

Olivia’s friend

Rob Stewart

Sarah (friend of Rob)

Kondaine Kaliwo (me)

 

Joined for the day:

Cameron Caswell

Stefan Witek-MacManus

Stella

 

Dedza Mountain, An Adventure for the Child In Me

Having concluded my Q1 (January – March) with a successful visit to Bunda Hill on Easter Saturday, I thought I could finish the Easter break and start Q2 (April – June) with a visit to one of my favourite mountains in Malawi. Dedza Mountain was a natural choice, being only about 100 km from Lilongwe, my home ground, and being the second highest mountain in Malawi, standing a proud 2,000 m amsl tall (read it as the height of the mountain at 2,000 metres above mean sea level). Dedza Mountain has lost its mature coniferous trees in the forestry reserve areas due to legal but thorough log harvesting, and with it, most of its former beauty. Nevertheless, it still maintains sections where the trail from the bottom to the plateau is covered in dense foliage composed of indigenous trees and thick undergrowth.

 

There are two popular approaches when viewing the mountain from Dedza Town, one starting from south east, and the other from south west. My preference has always been the one from south east, which begins from the Forestry Office, and has a more direct trail to the top. The other one follows the road to the towers at the peak facing the town. This second trail snakes across the mountain as the road goes back and forth, infolding in many places as it traverses the rather steep contour of the mountain.

In the usual manner, my host was Blessings Chingaipe, the plantation manager for Dedza Mountain Forest and a very good friend. This day’s hike would see me only carry a two litre water bottle, and a walking stick. I wanted to see how I would fair without getting energy boosts from energy bars. This was exactly how I had started the year, when Nkhoma Hill, the cat’s ears’ hill in Lilongwe opened the door to outdoor adventure for 2018. The hidden purpose was to cut down my dependence on sugar whenever a physically strenuous activity was in play. The playful side of the matter was simply to add some garnish to the awesome dish called hiking. Having been on this mountain a few times, a variation to the hiking theme keeps each expedition fresh.

 

Again, this was a solitary adventure which would allow me to imprint the trail in my mind as I would navigate the path with multiple branches without a guide. Surprisingly, for someone who enjoys trekking in the bush, my sense of path details is completely terrible. I can only remember the big features, but the details easily fade away. In order to reinforce the little permanent markers on the trail, I need to train constantly to track my way without assistance. After all, others expect you to know the way, taking comfort in the number of visits to different mountains across the country.

As soon as the hike started, I noticed blackjack lining up both sides of the trail, ready to hitch hike to the top. The path was overrun with grass, as if it had not been used for a while. Being that the rainy season this year has decided to extend its period, the growth was very impressive. Such a state of the trail increases the possibility of crisscrossing the highways of snakes, with fair advantage being with the other camp. It immediately reminded me of the time when I was very young in Blantyre, the only designated commercial city in Malawi. The big boys had taken my friends and I into a forest near our neighborhood for a foraging adventure. We were hunting for guavas and other wild fruit that were a delicacy among us. Suddenly, Fred, who was the oldest boy, froze in his tracks and signaled us to stop. We picked the cue and stopped in our tracks.

I could not make anything other than a thick rope hanging directly in front of us straddling across our path. Then someone whispered, “snake”. Oh my goodness. It was one long snake, and others identified it as being venomous. It was my first time seeing such a long snake in the wild, and have not seen its kind since. Everyone was briefly mortified but after Fred chased it away, we bolted forward foolishly determined to resume our search for super sweet wild fruit. I was sure, without the sharp eyes of Fred, someone would have adorned the live coils for a venomous crown, with an accompanying hissing sound for a royal requiem.

 

So with that in mind, I kept my eyes open, pushed away any crippling fears, relaxed and proceeded with my hike. The trail was virtually empty except for a pair of loggers that had taken down a young supple tree near the edge of the trail. Despite the duo parking a sharp panga knife, which had sliced through the tree with a single stroke, the conservationist in me erupted into a concerned public lecture. In the end, we all agreed the need to preserve trees for future generations, and that for immediate firewood demands, it was best to harvest pruned branches laying around the forest.

The yellow on the flowers on this mountain was much brighter than the one I had seen on Bunda Hill, two days prior to this hike. Perhaps it could be that there was plenty of resources from decaying leaves and grass, and with a steady supply of water for most of the year, the plants could indulge a bit more than their counterparts on the nearly desert hill in Lilongwe. Some sections of the trail got swampy, and there was a significant presence of birds hovering near the trail, as if to say, this part of the mountain had been visited less by humans. At some point, I heard deep throaty grunts, and images of a leopard came into my mind. I wondered if it could be put off were I to confront it with the walking stick waving it frantically like a magic wand? Well, I thought those sounds better be coming from some huge monkey, or some strange bird. As much as I find the big cats fascinating, a lone encounter on a lonely path was not exactly something to look forward to.

Soon I was lost in the natural beauty all around me. Everything was green with endless variations of the colour of life. And the patterns and sizes of leaves were captivating. Others were small, while others big. And some were single affairs, while others were arranged in rows. Fibonacci patterns were in abundance, boldly challenging the mind to count, sequence and discover the beauty in mathematics expressed in nature. The mountain air was so fresh, it felt like walking in a luxurious air chamber supplied with platinum grade imported air. You know our love for imported stuff with a hint of exotic origins. Yet all this was homegrown, supplied for free, and open to anyone who would join the hike on this day.

 

The walk in paradise was rudely interrupted by red ants that had abandoned their orderliness. Instead of cutting across the trail in an organized rank and file, they were all over the grass in a chaotic fashion. There was no alternative path, and I decided to walk past their blockade. I immediately knew I was in trouble, and dashed to a safe distance before examining the damage. I managed to dislodge the ants that had quickly crawled up my boots and had started attacking my socks in an attempt to reach my lower limbs. Having thoroughly combed through the hiking bottom I resumed the hike. I had barely covered 10 metres up the path, when I felt a sharp sting right on the centre of my lower back. C’mon! How did it manage to get up there so fast within the short encounter we had just had? Before I could recover, there was another sting on the right flank of my belly, and then on the opposite side. Aha! I had not dislodged them from my backpack.

It was time for another thorough examination. Again, I remembered such attacks when we were young. And how it often led to complete disrobing in order to rid oneself of the onslaught from these fiery soldiers. I had no intention of disrobing, despite the fact that the mountain was virtually empty. Having examined every inch of the fabric, I resumed the hike without further incidents from the little but powerful guys. Adding insult to injury my no-energy-bar-with-me experiment was finally catching up with me. The steep portions were daunting to negotiate. But somehow I loved it. I knew there was plenty of energy stored as fat. I could actually see the store house around my belly. No, brain. Don’t play any tricks on me. Get the energy you converted from sugars to fat, back to the monosaccharides useful for cell function. After all there was nothing here to nibble on. The berries I had seen had not been touched by any insect or bird. And a friend of mine once told me that that is an indication to steer clear of such. If it was edible, he reasoned, the animals would have had a go at them first.

 

Well, before I knew it I was at the top. I had two choices, either to turn right and proceed to the main peak, or turn left and go to the Towers. I turned left. Instinctively, I knew the path to the summit would have overgrown and I had had enough drama for one day. The peaks on Dedza do not disappoint. The views are incredibly amazing. So after resting, and enjoying small sips from the water bottle, I opted to descend using the road to the Towers. I had lost appetite for a bushy trail. After all the red ants had made a strong point, and I got the message. I would not be interfering again with their foraging. When I finally reached the bottom, I had completed 10 km of walking.

Dedza rekindled my childhood memories, of snakes, predators, red ants, birds and wild fruits. Thank you Lord for affording us such moments to escape into precious flashbacks of a time long gone.

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?

 

Mr Shark, you really don’t go to sleep? Like ever?

Nature is calling
Nature is calling

As a young mind, nature provides a pavilion from which the insatiable curiosity can be quenched by facts, bizarre, queer, funny, shocking, grizzly, lovely and beautiful, all observed from the world around us. But one that has stood the test of time in my mind is that sharks never go to sleep. Could that be true? Like never taking a wink, or say a power nap in between a snack? So do sharks dream at all? Perhaps that is all done while swimming round the globe, terrorizing pockets of seals and other shark delicacies from different areas in the vast expanse of the oceans.

Since the shark, in this case I’m thinking of the great white, is not exactly a partner with which to engage an academic discussion. I’ve seen a shark in an oceanarium once, the savage stare says it all. You cannot tame this beast, let alone have a conversation with. And since I’m also not a specialist in marine biology, I have let this problem go unresolved. It is an itch I can’t reach to scratch – oh, the torture. That is until yesterday. It occurred to me that there are other areas in life that must be repeated constantly, without taking a break, for the rest of one’s life. Just like the shark that has to be constantly on the move, without having a shut-eye.

I connected this to hiking. These last two months have seen me focus on my career and other areas that required my attention, bound to a desk. I haven’t been able to visit any hill in the months of February and March. I can feel something is wrong. Something is not in its place. I feel like a huge yawning hole has suddenly appeared in my life. It’s like shark has taken a nap, has stopped moving, starving itself of the essential oxygen and is now spiraling down to the bottom of the ocean. Yes, I’m told the shark has no waving gills, and therefore has to remain in motion to force the water past its body, in the process harvesting the molecule that keeps fish and mammals alive. I need to return to the hills otherwise, I feel like I will suffocate down in the valley.

This is a blessing. To know that it is not enough to do one good act once. We must do it again, and again. It’s true for food. We have to eat constantly. It’s true for our spiritual lives. We have to engage God daily. It’s true for our career. We have to work everyday. It’s true for adventure. We have to go back to nature and engage it constantly. We are not far removed from what is essential, what is lovely and what is good. It’s a beautiful mechanism.

And all it took for me to realize that is the tale about sharks never going to sleep. I’ll return to the mountains and breathe that fresh air once again. And I know, this is something I will do to the last day on earth. I’m looking forward to that.

By the way, I will never feel sorry for sharks anymore. If you are an apex predator, on top of your game, then constancy will be the currency. Others call it keeping the momentum.

What’s your game? What do you need to keep on doing in order to have a fulfilled life? Do it well. Do it all the time. Don’t stop. Just like Mr Shark on the move, all the time!

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.

 

National Bank of Malawi, City Centre Wellness Club Members on Dedza Mountain

My first Corporate Hiking Event with NBM City Centre Wellness Club

BACKGROUND

Early last year (2017), I was approached by Mark Phanga of National Bank of Malawi to see if I could help with organising a hiking event for their City Centre Wellness Club. Mark was working as a senior manager within the Wholesale Banking Division, where he continues to work to this day. The City Centre Wellness Club comprises of staff from the City Centre Service Centre and the Wholesale Banking Division.

I eagerly accepted the invitation and got to work. I was given a working committee and my key contact was Constance Nkosi. Constance poured her heart into the project, which yielded great results in the end. Out of the pool of possible mountains we chose Dedza Mountain largely because it offers a well-balanced trail. It is the second highest mountain in Malawi standing at just over 2,000 metres above the mean sea level. Yet it has parts that are not difficult and a few areas that guarantee sweating. It has a well maintained trail to the peak which is accessible throughout the year. At that time, it also offered shade for most of the way.

We settled for a date and got the estimated numbers interested to join the hike. Due to other circumstances, we shifted the date which affected the number that would participate.

A week before the hike, I was given an opportunity to meet the members and discuss the important points for each member to consider. I was introduced to the team by the Service Centre Manager, Charles Sawasawa (now managing the Lilongwe Service Centre).  We went through everything from safety, attire, the correct mental attitude to benefits of hiking. It was emphasized that for one to enjoy the hike it was best to observe the appropriate attire, to stay away from drink, to be well rested, and be properly hydrated on the day of the hike. These are basics for a successful hike.

 

National Bank of Malawi (NBM), City Centre. Day of the hike.
National Bank of Malawi (NBM), City Centre. Day of the hike.

 

On 4 June 2017, the day for the hike arrived and everyone was ready. My technical team was composed of Captain Perry Mmanga and Peter Mvuma.

Perry, with his military training and extensive outdoors experience, was going to be our chief tracking officer responsible for security and safety. Peter, with his background in medical training was going to be our chief nursing officer responsible for first-aid, and general health of the entire team. We hired six porters to help with carrying food and water.

RIDE TO DEDZA

We arrived at the Service Centre at 6:00 am. Almost everyone was there. We were expecting about 30 people to turn up. We loaded all our provisions in the private bus that was hired for the day. A few calls later and it was apparent that others would not make it. When we got a respectable number we left for Bunda Turn-off, the exit route from Lilongwe City heading towards Dedza.

We picked a few struggling members on the way and started for Dedza. The crowd was lively. One of the porters who had shown up in a three piece suit had to get a change of clothes along the way. This entertained the members without measure.

We took a roll call in the bus, confirmed the numbers and deposited it with our chief tracking officer. We checked again if anyone had any medical pre-conditions, and if clearance had been obtained from their physicians. And then settled for the ride.

Shadreck, a member of the Wellness Club, was our appointed photographer, and media guru. He was also the self-appointed DJ, packing a bluetooth speaker all the way to the summit and back.

 

City Centre Wellness Club Members on the way to Dedza. Constance (left) and Shadreck (front) taking a break from coordinating the event.
City Centre Wellness Club Members on the way to Dedza. Constance (left) and Shadreck (front) taking a break from coordinating the event.

 

DEDZA MOUNTAIN IN VIEW

Dedza, which is 86 km away from Lilongwe, is about an hour’s ride. Just before entrance into Dedza Town there is a great view of the mountain. Somehow the optical illusion makes the mountain seem small. This is the best place to build confidence of the hiking members. So when the mountain was introduced from this spot, spontaneously some members jokingly said they would run up the trail in a matter of minutes. This was good for morale.

We packed the bus at the Forestry Plantation Manager’s residence. Blessings Chingaipe, the manager, has been my gracious host each time I’m in Dedza for hiking.

We divided the load among the porters, gave a few instructions and started off. I would go in front to set the pace, Perry and Peter would bring the rear. We emphasized on cleanliness. Whatever we brought up the mountain we would have to bring back with us. Littering destroys the natural beauty of the mountain. Immediately others were not impressed with the pace. This is all too familiar territory. I knew they would get to appreciate this in about 30 minutes.

 

 

After 5 minutes walk, the trail starts sloping up. One feels engaging with the mountain. The members handled the transition very well. Soon the hiking session was in earnest. The mountain was covered in green. The members were greeted by chirruping insects. Birds added high notes here and there. Here was a walk into paradise.

We took frequent rests to allow members to sip their water. At designated places we would stop for an energy snack. Anything from groundnuts to chocolate helped restore sugar levels in the bloodstream. That, plus water make up the fuel to see us all the way through to the plateau.

 

On the way to the top
On the way to the top

 

Dedza has some gorgeous boulders, some as big as a multi story building. Most of these are hedged by exquisite greenery. The part of the trail we were on gave the team occasional glimpses of these natural beaus to whet its appetite for nature.

Sometimes this trail is transversed by army ants. These tiny soldiers have a nasty bite, swamping their prey. They wouldn’t kill a human but in worst cases they will force you to disrobe, a very embarrassing situation. This was often the case when we were young and had erroneously wandered into their territory. On this day we were fortunate enough not to have such an incident.

 

Taking a Water Break. Shad (front) doing his thing.
Taking a Water Break. Shad (front) doing his thing.

 

THE TOWERS

The first peak to reach was the Towers’ peak. It offers a fantastic view of Dedza Town below. From here one can trace the National Road that passes through the town connecting between Blantyre City in the Southern Region and Lilongwe City in the Central Region.

When were got to the Towers those that had challenged to run up the mountain avoided repeating the subject. Rather we all settled in for lunch. Normally, lunch on a hike is a simple affair. But on this occasion, lunch was a grand display of pleasure. Not too opulent, nevertheless it was sumptuous enough to make everyone forget about the two particularly challenging sections just before emerging on the plateau.

We dined and we wined. No. Not the actual wine. Maybe I should say we dined and we juiced. Aha! Now I’m making up words. In short, we had a lovely picnic. Some members wanted to return to the base afraid of the next stage of the hike. But after resting them for an hour, having fully digested the good provisions under the barrage of never ending jokes, they all declared ready to continue with the hike.

 

So far so good. From right to left, Perry, Peter and myself
So far so good. From right to left, Perry, Peter and myself

 

At that point I had already arranged with my technical team to split the team. We were glad that everyone would attempt to walk to the summit about an hour away. This next stage is not as difficult as the first segment.

We took off, with Peter ahead, and  with Perry and I bringing up the rear. I was comfortable that we could all go at a good pace. We sent back most of the porters to base and only retained the ones required to carry our water. We roped in a new porter who knew three places where one could find mountain water sources should ours ran out.

 

THE SUMMIT

The highest peak on Dedza is surrounded by a natural rockery. It is not treacherous but after walking for some hours it was enough to melt the heart of some bankers. My group, which came up last, declared it mission impossible. “How would you say it is impossible when it was your first time here? I asked.

After some motivational exchange and a little bit of encouragement, we went up the rockery and found ourselves on the peak. Some respected individuals broke down into tears of joy. Aha! I always knew bankers had a soft heart hidden in layers of banking decorum. With a proper business proposal, that big bank loan is yours to have.

As part of the outing package, I delivered a short motivational talk at the summit based on the hiking experience. Hiking has many benefits and offers many lessons in life.

Once rested, and after taking photos at the summit, we set off for the base camp. One small group ventured out on an alternative route and discovered the power of sticking together. We had two injuries, one with a minor dislocation of the knee, and the other with a skinned leg. Peter ably stabilized both conditions. Perry performed the last head count, and when all were accounted for, we returned back to Lilongwe.

This was a day to remember.

FREE ADVERTORIAL

National Bank of Malawi is the oldest, largest and leading commercial bank in Malawi, offering a wide range of products and services. It has the largest national presence. Visit its website on www.natbank.co.mw/.

 

OUR PHOTO ALBUM AT THE SUMMIT

 

 

 

THE ACTIVE MEMBERS THAT WENT TO DEDZA MOUNTAIN ON 4 JUNE 2017

Members of the National Bank of Malawi (NBM) City Centre Wellness Club that hiked Dedza Mountain on 4 June 2017 were as follows:

  1. Mark Phanga
  2. Thoko Malwich
  3. Constance Nkosi
  4. Bruno Lumbe
  5. Maggie Mtupanyama
  6. Komiha Gatoma
  7. Justin Kaisale
  8. Robert Mpalika
  9. Shadreck Msangaambe
  10. Lytton Kadzokoya
  11. Elton Chipeta
  12. Evance Kaundeni
  13. Phillip Gama
  14. Hanna Kanyenge
  15. Chifundo Coroa

What fun. Let’s do this again!