Well that sucked.
I learned the valuable lesson that mountains are meant to be seen, not to be climbed. Anything that requires you to invest a small fortune in equipment just to ensure you’ll survive is not worth the effort.
So we started out early Friday morning for Tupchila Hut on the plateau of Mt. Mulanje. We were sort of skeptical of our guides to begin with because they had tried to scam some of our group earlier by charging them 1600 Kwacha per night for a sleeping bag when the real rate was only 800. Roughly an hour into our hike most of us were completely exhausted and we couldn’t understand why as Dr. McCusker said we were taking the easy route up the mountain. When we asked our guides which trail we were taking we were told “skyline” aka the expert level trail. When I heard that I had 5 hours of expert-level climbing ahead of me my heart just sank.
Getting to the top of the mountain was the most physically demanding task I’ve ever completed. I could not eat enough pizza to make up for the calories that I burned this weekend. The trail was almost completely vertical with a degree of roughly 65-70. I sweat through my shirt within the first hour and my backpack actually got soaked with sweat as well. Very pleasant. There were certainly points of the trek where all I wanted to do was turn around and go back to the relative comfort of the CCAP, but I wouldn’t let myself quit. Besides I wouldn’t want to be the only person to have to turn around.
I did not get to reach the peak Sapitwa because I ended up getting sick Friday and Saturday and the guides deemed it too dangerous for me to try if I wasn’t at full awareness. So while the rest of the group reached Sapitwa I slept in the hut.
I should talk about the hut for a little bit. Sleeping in the hut was unquestionably the worst part of the experience. Picture 12 of us elbow to elbow in sleeping bags sprawled out on a dusty wooden floor. I don’t think I actually slept at night. I think it was more like staring at the ceiling intensely just waiting for the morning to come. No one enjoyed “sleeping” in the hut.
On a brighter note, when we got back to CCAP House this afternoon there was some sort of group of local Malawians roaming around the premises. We still don’t know what they were doing exactly but right before the left they asked us to take a picture with them. And not just a picture, but multiple pictures with different poses and people. It soon dawned on us that they just wanted pictures with us because we were white. I asked Jen why they wanted photos with us and she replied with “well why do you take pictures of them?” Touché. They were very pleasant though and after they were done snapping photos each one of them came up to us and thanked us warmly for taking pictures with them. In a weird way it was a pleasure to interact with people who were just excited to see you because you were something new to them.
O the small pleasures of life in Malawi.