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Going up was harder than I had imagined

 

 

Moses and friends

 

 

Finishing the last drop of my water arriving at Chisepo hut from Sapitwa Peak

 

 

Lewis enjoying his cup of tea and the fire inside Chisepo hut.

 

 

Chisepo Hut seen on the way from Sapitwa Peak

 

 

Mist at Sapitwa Peak

 

 

Beautiful flowers

 

 

There was so much to admire on the floral side

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
 

Sapitwa

 

If there is one place in Malawi that has been mysterious for centuries and the cause of many myths and tales, then Sapitwa, the highest peak of Mulanje mountain is the one.


Sapitwa in the vernacular is something like “where no man goes”.  But obviously with time and many centuries later this has changed and the only place for the “where no man goes” remains the Sapitwa Peak.


The mythical Sapitwa is described as a dwelling place for various spirits including gods and goddesses. Mulanje Mountain is also known as the “Island in the Sky” and the place of mizimu (spirits) in various tales.

 

So many different tales, stories, myths have been told about Sapitwa ranging from ancestral spirits somehow providing free meals to some allegedly covering those who trek to forbidden areas without following rules leading to some disappearing forever without a trace.

 

 

Mulanje Massif or the island in the sky


Growing up and hearing all these stories made me pause on a number of times I was keen on going there. I always had questions like “What if I do not come back?” “What if I find the food?” Should I eat the food and finish it all as the stories tell us? My head was busy and full of unanswered questions.

 

Despite all these stories, the unanswered questions and advices from most of my friends that I should NOT GO!  I got my courage and made up my mind to try it. Few friends had promised to accompany me but I was not surprised to see only one brave one, Lewis Mbaula showing up and the rest had decided not to take the chance while others opted for the Lake of Stars.

 

Some of the items we took along were; sleeping bags, a key to the stores of the hut ( One of the benefits of being a member of the mountain club, you have access to the hut’s stores) warm clothes, a small pack of medical aid, enough water, snacks, noodles, fresh tomatoes and onions. Lewis and I Started off from Blantyre at about 6 am and by 7am we had arrived at the Likhubula Forestry Offices.

 

Due to the limited time we had on our hands, Lewis and I decided to only spend one night on the mountain. We wanted to get to Chisepo hut (6 hours), spend a night. Early the following mornings go up to Sapitwa and all the way back to Likhubula. We wanted to do a hike of about 18 hours in less than 14 hours.

 

Most of the officers at the Forestry advised that we spend a minimum of two nights, get enough rest, because we did not look that fit and Sapitwa was not so easy to do it within that time frame. I looked at Lewis and we both were not convinced and still settled for the night. We arranged a porter by the name Gulani and from the look on his face, I started getting worried. Nevertheless, we started our trip taking the Chapaluka route. This was a preferable route because it has a lot of water supply and was more scenic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gulani and Lewis battling the steep and hard places but also enjoying the gentle walks on the flat areas.

 

With time it started getting tough and we both could only look at each other's eyes and without saying a word we would just laugh. We knew there was no room to discuss this with Gulani's presence after we were so confident and cocky on how fit we were before we started off.


After the long walk, the sweating soon paid off with a beautiful view of the Dziwe la Nkhalamba pool.

 

 

Dziwe la Nkhalamba


The place is amazingly beautiful and peaceful; unfortunately we had no time to swim.

 

 

Waterfall and pool

 

Along the way we talked and asked Gulani about all the stories we hear about the mountain. He explained to us about the spirits being present on the mountain but confirmed not all the stories being true. “Yes, some people have gone missing here without a trace but anyway don’t worry I have always done this so many times and I do come back”, he explained. At this time Lewis started laughing and he said “man this is it”.  I looked at Lewis and felt this guy is silly, and soon found myself bursting with laughter as well.


We saw lots of monkeys, beautiful flowers, lovely views, a snake, lots of lovely birds and few leopard droppings.

 

Six hours later we arrived at Chisepo Hut. This is the nearest hut to Sapitwa.  We could just glimpse Sapitwa on the far side of the clouds that covered it. We met two other visitors from Germany who were on the mountain for the first time. We all had lovely stories to share.  The hut was very nice - big and with good views over to Thuchila hut on one side and the rocky, mountainous route to Sapitwa on the other.

 

 

Arriving at Chisepo hut


We bedded down very early. We knew what we were up against the next morning. Gulani and I started off for Sapitwa peak at about 5:30am. Lewis had a terrible ear problem due to the height differences so agreed to stay and rest because we still had the six hours to do heading back.

 

The route was steep and not an easy climb at all; no refill for water and hardly any vegetation to be holding on to for support on the steep sections. Most of the route is marked but still I could see how easily one could get lost up there. This was the moment I appreciated one of the mountain rules that states that ‘Never climb a peak alone’. If faced with bad weather, it would be very dangerous. Mountain Club’s guidelines must be followed to have a safe and memorable trip.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Battling with the steep slopes

 

Within three hours we were on the summit and enjoying the views. I had done it. It was a cloudy day so could not manage to take brilliant pictures and only managed a few. While there, few friends arrived and we had a lot of fun for the few minutes we stayed up there. It was very cold and I was told temperatures do drop to 0°C at times. I still could manage to take my shirt off in the cold in celebration -elated, just like a professional footballer! What a big rocky world around me!

 

 

Sapitwa peak


On the way down I had time to admire and photograph the beautiful wild flowers, wonderful in their diversity. Within an hour and half I was at Chisepo again, tired but feeling very proud.

 

 

 

One happy family united back at Chisepo, before our trip heading down to Likhubula. The other group stayed for another night.

 

Lewis was feeling much better. We rested for an hour, had our lunch before the return trip. We knew it would not be so easy. Lewis was cruising and pulling me until the last thirty minutes, which we both found very tough. As for Gulani, he left the talking to us. He had no energy left to spare.

 

The officers could not believe their eyes when they saw us arriving. One of them asked, “how far did you go”? Gulani replied, “mmmmm, mpaka m’mwamba” meaning all the way to the peak. It was just such a wonderful experience, peaceful, away from all the noise in the cities and also good sport.


Try it and you will fall in love with it.


As the saying goes “Tidziyamba ndife a Malawi” am sure an example was surely set here.

 

 

 

From the look of the picture above, we were all tired and could not care less what angle the picture was taken. Gulani took the photo and never bothered as well.

 

The message on the board says "Thank you for visiting Mt. Mulanje, Muyende bwino (travel safely)"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
   
 
 
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