Sunday Morning~ Easter on Mulanje
April 16, 2017
It was two years ago today that George and I met on the train platform in Berkeley, California. In a way it feels like we’ve been together forever, but saying that seems to take away from our past lives and doesn’t seem right, but we’re making up for lost time. We’re celebrating our anniversary and Easter with friends on the top of Mt Mulanje, in the same hut where we celebrated my 60th birthday in September. It was hot and dry then and the landscape was desert. Now it’s lush and green and wildflowers are in bloom everywhere. The rains are ordinarily finished by now but we had a downpour when we got to the first hut on Friday and steady rain yesterday when we got here to Chinzama Hut, where the sign on the door says “YOU ARE ALL MOST WELCOME”. But there is no space between the ALL and MOST. We’ve been so lucky to have made it to shelter before it started raining and so far all our clothes have stayed dry. I was hoping to have a little Easter sunrise service this morning, but we are in a thick cloud and can barely see off the porch of this hut. It looks more like the coast of Maine out there than Sub Saharan Africa. We slept way later than usual on our thin vinyl mattress on the floor of this cedar refuge. The hiking across the plateau, supper by the fire, wine, and whiskey may have contributed to the long slumber. We slept eleven hours. We tried to stay up last night to play cards but it was so hard to see in the dim candlelight we packed it in by eight and got up at seven. George has a fire going and the water is heating for tea. We’ll leave after breakfast and head back to Tuchila Hut and stay there tonight, hopefully just the four of us. When we got there Friday, thinking we’d have the place to ourselves, we found five adults and nine children occupying the place and using all the blankets and most of the mattresses. We claimed a side room which fortunately fit the four of us with our packs, and we made the best of it for the night but it was a little noisy and less than serene. Trying to cook on the small fireplace all sharing the same pots and plates was a challenge. Then around seven p.m. two young women showed up having hiked the last hour in the dark, unable to make it to the hut they were heading for and we had to make room for them too. It was cramped. We left early yesterday morning for the three and a half hour hike to this place and we have it all to ourselves. Very nice. Nothing against camping with nine kids and a dog, but been there done that.
We are blissfully disconnected from the outside world and part of me doesn’t want to hear what’s going on. I just want to plan new adventures and talk about past ones. This is the first time up Mulanje for our friends, Peter and Caroline, even though they have lived here longer than us. When we met them in October we were talking about the mountain and they said they had been wanting to climb it, but were waiting to find people their own age to go with. (Most of our expat colleagues are thirty or more years our juniors, and make us feel very unfit when engaging in a strenuous activity.) So with the four day weekend for Easter and the rains (we thought) behind us, we decided this was the time. Caroline got cold feet after a huge deluge of rain last week in Blantyre. Sheets of rain flooded the roads everywhere and she panicked at the thought of climbing a steep mountain in that. It took a little cajoling, and I’m not sure what I said that convinced her it would be okay, but we were back on after a little cheerleading. Peter said, “I knew you’d convince her. I didn’t even try.” So I was praying we wouldn’t get swept off the trail in a deluge after assuring her, with absolutely nothing to base it on, we wouldn’t. So far so good. We hired the same guide we used last time and took three porters for our gear. I’m telling you, I never want to hike again without a porter. It’s not that we couldn’t have made it up here with our packs, but it would have been so much less fun. And we’d be in pain. And we wouldn’t have carried the four liters of wine. When we arrived at the hut, the packs were already here, firewood stacked next to the fireplace, and a kettle of water was ready to boil for tea. The big basin was full of water from the nearby stream, and at four thirty the caretaker came to tell us our warm bucket baths were ready. Life doesn’t get better than this. And it’s nice to be able to do this with another couple, our generation, with similar interests. Peter is a gastroenterologist working at Queens and teaching at the college of medicine. They are originally from Zimbabwe but have lived in UK for many years. After he retired from the Health Service in UK they decided to come back to Africa to work for a while and have been in Malawi a little over two years. They have a nice big comfortable car, so getting to the base of the mountain was pure luxury compared to last time on the minibus. We really are going a bit soft but it feels so grown up.
I’m in charge of breakfast, so I’ll get my raisin bread on the fire. I’m baking it in a rather thin pot so it’ll be tricky to keep it from burning. Not like my nice cast iron. They are so impressed with my cooking I hate to have a flop here, so I must pay attention. The porters managed to get the dozen eggs I brought up here intact, not even a crack (they are so worth their $6/ day) so I’m making a basil and cheese omelet to go with the raisin bread. And sausage, just because it’s Easter.
This will be late as I’ll post it when we get down off the mountain tomorrow.
Much love to everyone. Now more than ever. Happy Easter.