Katja Lachmann


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Living in Mulanje in this fantastic place where you always have a mountain in front of your "house" is of course something that catches your interest in knowing more about it. I was not sure if I really want to climb up the mountain or better just watch it as I am usually not such a hiking person.

Anyway, as my experience told me so often when I was not sure about doing something that I better should do it, I decided to hike up the mountain. Thus I went to the Tourist Information about Mt. Mulanje to find out if I could do it my own or if I will have to take a guide. I have never had a guide leading me anywhere thus it was a new thing for me. I was explained the many ways you can go and I decided, in case I am in favor to go, I will stay up on the mountain for one night. I was explained the Boma Path that lead directly beside the Mulanje View Motel up to the Lychena Plateau (I think that was it called). I could stay there at two different huts, one called the C.C.A.P. Hut and another one which name I already forgot. But it might have been called Lychena hut. Then I could go down the mountain in Likhubula and take a mini-bus or truck back to Mulanje.

I did not decide immediately, but went back to do some shopping as I was told I can come back to the Tourist Information until 5 p.m. Thus I tried to change money at the nearby bank that was not possible. I was told there is another bank, the National Bank of Malawi, where I can change money until 4 p.m. Later back in the Motel I talked to the staff telling I am still not sure about doing the hike or not and was told the bank will be open until 5 p.m. I believed in 4 p.m. and after washing clothes, what took me about 1,5 hour, I went to the bank. I decided then already that I will take the challenge to hike the mountain.

Arriving at the bank it was closed. It was written "Opening hours 8 a.m. - 3 p.m". 'THANK YOU' I thought and tried to withdrawel money at the cash dispenser. Unfortunately, they have not got any service like that yet. Thus I went without money to the Tourist Information trying to arrange at least that I can start in the morning. Arriving there, everything was closed. It was about 4 p.m. and it was closed, although I was told it to be open until 5 p.m. from a Dutch girl working at the Tourist Information.

As it was closed I decided to get up early the next morning. I prepared everything in the morning for leaving to the mountain around noon, packing backpack, asking if I could leave my stuff like tent etc. in the Motel in case I get a guide and went to the bank. Changing money was a very fast process and without complications. Then I went as always by foot to the Tourist Information and arranged that I will take a guide for two days. We made an appointment for the guide picking me up at the Motel at 12 p.m. I did some shopping, went back to the Motel, was bothered by a guy sitting on the bridge telling me I should come over to his side as he wants to talk with me - but I told him strictly to have no time what did not really please him. In the hotel I immediately start packing my tent, arranging the last things of my stuff, eating some small dry bread and two bananas and already the guide was there. During packing my tent I had about 5-6 people from the staff watching me being very interested how it could be that I could live in such small house that you can pack...;)

Starting with the guide, we went up the tea plantations, I still with my backpack, but very soon I changed my mind. I was so untrained and in bad hiking condition that I happily took the offer of my guide to carry my backpack. I felt lighter then, but not for long. As steeper it became and concerning his speed of walk I started to breath very hard. I really searched for air pumping into my body and I was not able to find all of it at the right moment. Anyway, we made some little breaks and I asked him to walk far slower as I am just not used to hike. It was fine with him and we walked slower, going through the forest, meeting a father and his son carrying long branches on their heads, getting closer and closer to the mountain. Well, of course we were already walking up the mountain, but comparing to what came later it was just nothing. After about 1,5 hours we started to CLIMB the mountain. I mean, I was not even prepared to hike the mountain, but to CLIMB the mountain was really not foreseen in my program. Anyway, I was already on my way and did not want to go back. There was only one decision: UP THE MOUNTAIN. My guide, jumping like a feather with my backpack from one stone to the other, putting his hands here and there, really it seemed so easy for him. I began to breath harder and harder and my legs began to shake. As higher we came the steeper it became. We had partly an incline of 70-80% and I am not joking at all. We had to crawl up the mountain, climbing without any security belts, just hoping to find enough to hold yourself on. Climbing, climbing, climbing...Sometimes the guide even had to give his hand as I was not able to climb parts of it alone. Imagine you have that artifical walls where you can learn climbing on and it is 70-80% steep. Then imagine you to climb without security belts...I stopped thinking, as everything would be allright. That is what I thought and that is how it came in the end. Being up the on the plateau after hiking and climbing for 2000 m there was everything flat. I was happy, I got life back in my body, my face got color again that it lost during climbing totally, my smile came back...but we were not there yet. It was still 2 hours walk - at least - to the hut we were supposed to stay in. Up and down, up and down, I really could not do it long anymore. I did not complain, I just asked me to concentrate to rise my legs properly. They were without energy and I was more than stumpling along the paths we went. We arrived at around 5 p.m.

Arriving at the hut - instead of having some nice food, sitting down, having a hot shower - a discussing started between the porter and my guide. I brought a receipt that proved I have payed down at the Tourist Information for staying in the C.C.A.P. hut for one night. As the porter has never seen this kind of receipt he did not want to accept. At the end I had to pay again, to be able to stay there. I payed and we planned to go to the Tourist Office the next day asking the money back.

Entering the hut it was very cold. There were already an English girl and her Australian husband starting to prepare their dinner. I was asking for hot water and after 30 minutes I was shown were to take a bath. It was a wooden hut, without door where just a bowl with a bit hot water inside stand in the right corner. Thus I went and took a shower with a cup to put the water over my body. After that nice shower, I really liked the warm water on my already frozen body, I entered the hut again and brought out the food that I took to the hut. When I came out with my white bread and peanut butter, what I was already eating for about two weeks as I was not able to cook, the couple told me to prepare pasta and chips for themselves. I could not believe it, really! I could not believe it! It might have been a lack of understanding between the local person that arranged the hut place and guide for me down in Mulanje, but I understood I am not able to cook up there. I was frustraded, sitting with my cold white bread, peanut butter, bananas and having no chance to escape them watching the chips they prepared. I was at the end offered three chips and I was more than grateful. Later on the started cooking nice pasta, fantastic smelling and looking sauce and I was just stopping to think, trying to enjoy my white bread with peanut butter. AH! I also got a can of Sardines, but when eating the first half fish I found inside, being enough for one bread, I searched the second one. There was no second one. No, of course I was not frustrated but excepting the situation. I even had nothing hot to drink as I wanted to sleep and I was just offered coffee. Coffee makes me awake, but not able to sleep. Later, when they were enjoying their pasta, I gave the two guides and the porter my whole package of cookies. I thought they might be happy about it and they definitely were!

Going to bed at 9 p.m. I had to dress up with an undertrouser, trouser, raintrouser, three long-arm shirts, a sweatshirt, a waistcoat, a rain jacket, my hut, a scarf ... creeping in my sleeping back and putting a blanket around it. It was more than cold, colder than staying in tent down the mountain during the two nights before. Anyway, somewhen I felt asleep and woke up at 5:30 a.m. in the morning.

As there was no reason anymore to stay in bed, I went to the toilet, that was a toilet seat in a wooden hut in the ground and afterwards started to prepare breakfast: bananas, white bread and peanut butter. I was offered a hot tea from the porter and you should have seen my happy eyes! As I was so happy, I again wanted to give some happiness back. Thus I gave them two of the three small milk breads I have brought up the mountain prepared with peanut butter and some cacao cookies I had still in my back. Oh were they happy!!!

At around 7:30 a.m. we left the hut, starting straigth to hike up a mountain and feeling again my breath everywhere but not in my body. Anyway, afterwards in only went down, down, and down and I really enjoyed that hike. Arriving in Likhubula I got the money back for paying the hut twice and then we went by mini-bus to Mulanje. As we arrived already at 1 p.m. I decided to pack my backpack and to leave immediately to Blantyre. I did, I arrived and I had no strength left.