Get ready for an unforgettable adventure as we embark on the thrilling journey of hiking up Mount Mulanje in Malawi. From the exciting atmosphere to the breathtaking views, join me as I share the moments that challenged us, rewarded us, and brought laughter to our hiking experience.
Igniting the adventurer within, our journey began with a burst of excitement as we arrived at Africa Wild Truck. Surrounded by fellow adventure enthusiasts, we quickly caught the spirit of exploration. It was a place where jokes were shared, friendships were formed, and we eagerly anticipated the challenges that lay ahead. Nestled in the picturesque Mulanje district of Malawi, Africa Wild Truck Camp and Lodge is a delightful eco-friendly retreat. It serves as the perfect starting point for your exhilarating hiking adventure to Mulanje Mountain and is a gateway to exploring its magnificent trails. Here, our mountain guide gave us a brief of the hike, preparing us for what lay ahead.
Embracing the call of the wild, we departed from the lively atmosphere of Africa Wild Truck and ventured deeper into the wilderness towards CCAP Hut. The hike itself was a test of strength and determination as we ascended 1200 meters to reach our first night’s destination.
About an hour into the hike, we had our first break at Dziwe Lankhalamba (The old man’s pool). Legend has it that in ancient times, ancestral spirits would often sunbathe on the rocks surrounding the pool. Whenever visitors approached the pool, these spirits would mysteriously disappear.
This rest was crucial for our hiking experience as it marked the beginning of a steep ascent with little level ground. Though we took numerous breaks along the way, the increasing altitude made it difficult to linger for too long as the cold set in. It was fascinating how the body’s temperature shifted from hot while hiking to an immediate chill upon stopping up there.
Undoubtedly, this was the most challenging hike of our entire trip, but each step rewarded us with awe-inspiring vistas, knowing that a cosy hut awaited us at the end of the day. The sight of the hut became our beacon of anticipation. Furnished with mattresses, cooking facilities, fireplaces, and friendly hut guards who assisted with water collection and firewood, these huts provided a tranquil refuge surrounded by the beauty of nature.
We were fortunate to witness a spectacular sunset, even if clouds partially covered it. The sun’s reflection cast a captivating orange hue, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere that made us feel right at home.
We started day two on a lighter note; as much as we knew we were on top of the mountain, the hike was rather smooth, apart from a few places where our bodies felt the pressure to keep pushing. We passed by Lichenya Hut on our way. One of the most intriguing aspects of this hut is its unique feature of having an upstairs room, making it the largest structure on the mountain. Additionally, we encountered a minor setback during the trip as a pair of shoes began to deteriorate.
It was fascinating to discover that the Mountain Guards fulfilled their role as guardians and possessed handy skills. On this occasion, one of the guards transformed into a skilled cobbler and performed an exceptional repair job on the shoes. As we progressed on our journey, we came across some peach trees. Our guide speculated that these trees were likely brought by the individuals who constructed the huts. This fascinating discovery meant that there would be no need to carry fruits as snacks during the right season. Instead, one could venture behind the huts and enjoy a refreshing and nourishing snack straight from the trees.
It was around 2 pm that we reached our destination, Chisepo Hut, a cosy haven in the wilderness. After conquering the challenging ascent, reaching Chisepo Hut felt like discovering a hidden gem in the rugged landscape. The absence of electricity inside the hut created an atmosphere of tranquillity and a deep connection with the natural surroundings. We gathered around the fireplace, sharing stories and laughter, while the hut guards ensured we had everything we needed for a comfortable stay. Due to the anticipated Sapitwa hike the next day, we decided to have an early dinner that evening and head to bed as we knew it would be an early start.
It was midnight when our guide woke us up, and we were kindly presented with a hot plate of oatmeal, the perfect breakfast to fuel us for the day ahead. Ascending the thrilling heights of the summit, we embarked on a thrilling hike towards the peak, which boasted an impressive elevation of 3002 meters above sea level. As we made our way towards the top, the prospect of witnessing a spectacular sunrise served as a motivating force, urging us to persevere.
When the initial beams of sunlight adorned the sky with awe-inspiring hues, we realised it was a cherished moment that would forever be etched into our memory bank. For a moment, as the sun was rising, it felt surreal. Elevated beyond the clouds, the ground below us scarcely visible, the experience was truly unforgettable, an accomplishment engraved deeply within our hearts.
The descent to Chisepo Hut was a thrilling adventure, filled with the captivating allure of nature and the awe-inspiring grandeur of Sapitwa. It was truly staggering to witness Zomba Mountain, the second-largest peak in Malawi, from a bird’s-eye view. From a distance, it appeared as a miniature object jutting out from the Earth’s surface, accentuating the vastness of the landscape. While our ascent to the summit deprived us of witnessing the landscape in the wee hours, the descent presented an entirely different experience. We questioned ourselves, ‘how did we make it to the summit with the terrain we were looking down on?’ It was a surreal moment.
The sight of Chisepo Hut from a distance was a sight of hope, and we couldn’t wait to get to the hut. We were welcomed with hot water for a much-needed bath and a warm meal. Inside the hut, we relied on the warmth of the fireplace and the camaraderie of fellow hikers to create a cosy and welcoming atmosphere. The hut guards continued to ensure our comfort, assisting with the wood collection and providing valuable guidance. I remember taking a long nap after we had lunch. We needed the rest. We had just conquered the highest peak in Malawi.
The anticipation grew with each step, leading us to Thuchila Hut. It was a very smooth hike, and we inhaled in the beauty of the mountain. We came across a pool with fresh water, and although we were tempted to have a swim, the water was freezing. Instead, we enjoyed a much-needed break and appreciated the mountain in all its glory. We arrived at Chisepo hut just in time for lunch.
As the sun began to set in the late afternoon, we marvelled at the stunning sunset from a hill shaped like an elephant’s back, a great experience. Laughter echoed through the surroundings as we shared hiking jokes, adding an extra layer of joy to the magical experience.
I once read a quote that stuck with me and seemed so appropriate after this trip:
“Everything must come to an end, no matter how good or how bad it may be. Whether you’re having a good time or a hard time, time still flies at the same pace, regardless of how you perceive it either. Whether you had a good or a bad day, it still ends, and a new day begins”.
And thus arrived our final day of hiking on Mount Mulanje. The journey on this day unfolded with relative ease as we navigated the trails with a sense of familiarity. However, the descent proved to be an adventure in certain sections as our feet struggled to maintain a firm grip on the terrain beneath us.
The ladies decided to gift themselves with souvenirs from the mountain and spent time picking flowers endemic to the Mountain. These flowers, Everlasting, possess a unique quality, appearing dried even when freshly picked, allowing them to be preserved for extended periods and can be kept for years.
Within a few hours, we reached the base of the mountain. Relaxing in nature’s embrace, the final part of our expedition brought us to Likhubula Forest Lodge, an exquisite treasure tucked away and nestled in the heart of nature. Here, we enjoyed moments of relaxation and reflection, surrounded by the soothing sounds of the forest. It remains a remarkable feat that amazes me to this day as I ponder how we accomplished such an extraordinary journey.
In a nutshell, Mulanje Mountain is a great destination for those that love a challenge. For individuals who may doubt their ability to conquer Sapitwa, there are alternative options available, such as embarking on day hikes or two-day excursions. Each hut along the way offers its own unique attractions, providing a delightful incentive for exploration.
We can’t thank our guide and the team enough for the experience they gave us. Their exceptional dedication and evident passion for their work were truly commendable, and we are forever indebted to them for creating such a remarkable adventure.