This is a tribute to my father, George Gabriel Kaliwo, – Mr GG in short – for instilling in me a love for mountains and wildlife. He is a writer, an avid hiker, and an outdoors man among other things. I remember when I was young that my father went for a hike up Mulanje Mountain. He spent a night on the plateau with some foreign tourists who found it unusual that a local was spending a night on top of the mountain. As a young mind, I could not understand why it was strange that a local tourist (my father) would have similar passion to explore the world from the tallest point in Malawi. Anyway, I remember wishing I had been taken there with him; to stare at the blackest sky with brightest stars as far as the eye could see. He went up the mountain with a book to read. Now, I knew this was a serious case of class. It must be great reading from a book while perched on a vintage rock, sipping cool mountain water when at the same time thinking about the great philosophers, anthropologists, and great leaders of the world. I subscribed to it, totally.
Then I also recall that in the family album was a picture of my father when he was still in college. He packed a hard-core six-pack that was supporting a strong, sculptured chest. I was far from being physically impressive, and not much has changed since. He had a backpack strapped to his back and was going up Zomba Mountain with a couple of friends. I suppose the picture was taken sometime in the 1970s, perhaps around 1976 or 1977. If my mind is not playing tricks on me, he was topless cutting the perfect shape of a macho man. And right there, I fell in love with a life of outdoors, not in cities but out there in the wild. Moreover, I remember I kept asking him to take me up any of the mountains that surrounded our city. Finally, he obliged.
The closest small mountain or big hill to our house in Nkolokosa, a high density surburb in Blantyre city, was Soche. At that time, it had not fallen victim to wanton cutting down of trees. It was adorned in a rich canvass of natural trees and was always green throughout the year. It had some parts with tropical vegetation, more like a ribbon running down from the top of the hill to somewhere near the bottom. At its peak, it had a big boulder that was visible from miles away, with a little pen-like structure that looked like the silhouette of a man standing. If one could kick off an adventure, Soche was the perfect setting. Next to Soche was a much smaller hill that had lights installed by the political machinery of those days. The lights made up words wishing the state president of the Republic of Malawi a long life. These lights would be lit during The Independence week, and on some public days of national significance. We used to call the small hill, Long Live. This is where my father took me.
On one good Saturday, my father took my cousin Richard and I up the Long Live hill. It was tougher than I had imagined. It had tall thatching grass called tsekela that was towering way above us. It had many red-winged grasshoppers that were on top of our list of local delicacy. These are big bundles of gastronomical love, and they are very difficult to catch. I think in all our attempts, between my cousin and I, we only managed to have one hopper on that day. And I suspect that it was my father who caught it for us. We saw a series of rocks that were a perfect hiding place for rock hyrax. I tried my level best to catch site of these beautiful rodent-like creatures without a success. But that did not dampen our excitement, no, not one bit. We stayed near the top of the hill for as long as sunlight would allow us. We could see most of the city, the southern part of Blantyre city from the top of the hill. It was a day I will never forget.
Later on, an adventure among my friends in the neighbourhood took me to Soche Mountain. By that time, my love for the mountains had been sealed, and it remains boiling in me up to this day. I say thank you to my father for pointing me in the right direction. The rest, as they say is history. So to all fathers and mothers out there, please, get your wards to experience outdoor lifestyle while they are young. When they grow up, it shall not depart from them.