Hiking Mount Mulanje

Hiking Mount Mulanje

There is no denying it. Mount Mulanje is MAGNIFICENT!

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I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to hike for 2 days in Mount Mulanje (otherwise known as Mulanje Massif). The unrivaled beauty of the mountain scenery takes your breath away. Then you turn a corner and it happens all over again.

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I wish I had the vocabulary to more accurately describe the beauty of Mulanje. It literally has views for days.

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Water was a huge part of this hike for me. Hiking in the heat meant we drank a lot of it so it was wonderful to have a river of stunningly fresh water close to us throughout the hike. The ice cold water was such a welcome relief for our hot, tired bodies. It was also most useful for soaking any injuries (scratches, bumps and bruises) sustained along the way. Day one of our hike literally followed water the entire way from Likhubula to Chembe Hut.

There are sections when you look around you for a rope because it really is that steep that there surely has to be a rope. Nope. Not in Malawi. No safety regulations here. Dig deep, grab onto whatever rocks and plants you can and keep soldiering on!

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As far as I know, you aren’t allowed to hike Mulanje without a guide. This makes a lot of sense when you’re on your hike – it’s tough! The mountain is steep. And rocky. Sometimes slippery. Sometimes hazy. Always beautiful.

Our guide, Lewis, was very knowledgeable and he made our hiking experience so much more interesting. Our porters, White and Kennedy, were powerhouses. They cruised up the mountains carrying ridiculously heavy packs with glowing personalities and zero complaints – heroes!

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You might not think to take money with you on a hike but it’s pretty handy. Tipping is expected for the caretakers of the huts who keep them tidy and warm up water for you if you’d like a hot splash bath. Trust me, you want a hot splash bath after a day of hiking in the heat. You’ll more than likely also want to tip your guide and porters at the end of the hike – they really are wonderful and deserve every cent.

Just because you have a porter carrying your things, doesn’t mean it will be easy to pack. 15kgs goes quickly (especially if you’re planning to sip on GnTs at the top). Our porters were phenominal but our packing skills were lacking. Here are some of the packing tips we picked up on our trip.

Chembe hut is not a 5 star luxury cabin but it is a welcomed resting spot. The hut was pretty full on the night we stayed there but a lot of the hikers chose to sleep outside (total madness). I think there were technically beds in the hut but they looked a lot more like shelves. There weren’t enough mattresses for everyone but we made a plan with some sharing on the floor and others on the shelf beds.

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There is some sort of magic that happens after a hike that makes food taste delicious, no matter what it is! That being said, I do still have a feeling that I was hiking with a team of Masterchefs because our food was incredible! Equally amazing were the hot bath/shower/splash baths that Witness (Chembe Hut’s caretaker) made for us. Effectively it was a cast iron tub of warm water inside a wooden hut – magical! It’s also very handy for warming up before bed. You may not think you’re going to be cold at night because the evenings don’t seem too bad. You would be wrong to think that. 4 or 5 hours after sunset the temperature plummets and you freeze!

Day two of our hike was along the skyline route back to Likhubula. This time we hiked most of the way below the old (and now broken) cable way. This route was significantly steeper than the waterfall route and took it’s toll on the knees in a big way. Totally worth it for the views!

This experience was fantastic. I can only hope to return to this part of the warm heart of Africa one day.

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**Regrettably the population of Mulanje is largely uneducated, allowing the claws of witchcraft to scratch their way in. Recently there has been a second bout of vampire rumours that have slipped in over the Mozambiquan border (the first being in 2002). Tragically these rumours are widely believed and have resulted in 7 (last I heard) deaths in the Mulanje area since September 2017. Some embassies have put a ban on their citizens travelling in this area which is such a shame. While I won’t go as far as guaranteeing everyone’s safety, I can comfortably say that I never felt threatened or scared at any point during my stay in Mulanje. I found the people of Mulanje to be nothing but friendly and I sincerely hope that the rumours are speedily quashed.**

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