Sunday Morning ~ Mulanje
Pafupi ndi apo wafika ~ Nearby is the place which you have reached.
~ Chewa proverb
Thursday afternoon we received an email that the restricted travel in Mulanje district was lifted and we were free to climb the mountain. We were on the mountain by Friday afternoon. I had desperately wanted to bring Jordan and Paulina up there and we were just able to squeeze it in before they go back to Poland this week. The plan was to get up to the plateau by dark on Friday, climb Sapitwa, the highest peak, on Saturday, then come down today. We packed up our gear, called the guide, and hit the road. I was so excited to show them the spectacular beauty of that place.
When we were packing, George asked if I was bringing my rain gear. “Nah,” I said. “It hasn’t rained in over a week. I think the rains have finished. There aren’t even any clouds around.” He said, “Really? You never know up there.” But I told him that friends had just done it and they said it was crystal clear. Beautiful weather on the mountain. So we loaded up two big backpacks with food and sleeping bags, and headed off. We picked up Sampson, our trusted guide and told him we wanted to climb Sapitwa. It is a strenuous hike up to the plateau, and Sapitwa (whose name literally means “don’t go there”) is an additional three hours up from there. We can’t do it in one day, so planned to sleep at the hut just at the base of the Sapitwa trail. It would take us six hours to reach the hut and we happily set off, sweating and puffing up the very steep trail. I’d say an hour into it we got cooled off when the heavens opened up and we were deluged with rain. That meant hiking on slippery, steep mud with a river running down it. Wasn’t easy. I imagined a mutiny and a very big I told you so in my future. But we slogged along, thankful we had porters to carry the heavy stuff and I kept thinking oh, this will let up and by the time we get to the hut all our stuff will be dry! Hah! We couldn’t see any views at all, in fact I could barely open my eyes wider than a squint for the rain running in to them, and it didn’t let up until we were almost there six hours later. The upside was we didn’t have to take our boots off to cross the rivers. That was a treat.
I couldn’t wait to get in that hut and get dry by a fire. There were four other people in there, who’d tried to summit Sapitwa and getting caught in the rain on slippery rocks. They had to hunker down under a rocky overhang for two hours waiting. They never made it to the top and couldn’t see a thing. Every thread we had brought with us was soaked. Sleeping bags, soaked. Change of clothes, soaked. It was getting dark and we were getting cold. We crowded around the fireplace and tried to get some clothes dry enough to be able to sleep. We warmed up, drank the mulled wine I’d brought, laid out some mattresses and some of the blankets they keep at the hut and were able to sleep way better than I thought we would in soggy clothes. It rained more during the night and when I heard that on the tin roof I whispered to George, “I don’t think we should try Sapitwa.” He said, “No. I already decided I wasn’t.” In the morning it wasn’t raining but all the surrounding peaks were socked in the clouds and everyone agreed to bag the idea. Sampson thought we made the right decision.
So we did a three hour hike across the plateau to a different hut, dried out all our gear, and waited for a view of the spectacular sunset …which was completely obscured by clouds. Saw nothing. I was disappointed again. I wanted to show the place off! The show was cancelled. We went back in the hut, closed the door, and ate a nice meal of pasta and pesto, chocolate cheesecake with macadamia nut crust, and hot chocolate with brandy. We chatted by the fire, happy to be dry but I was pouting. Then we slept like the dead. I went to sleep thinking , oh well, it’ll be clear by morning and we’ll have a gorgeous view all the way down. Today we descended in thick clouds with almost no view. I don’t mind hiking when the weather isn’t perfect. I like the ethereal feel of being shrouded by clouds with a peak occasionally peeking through. But when I want to show off a place I know is majestically spectacular and have an image in my mind of how my guests will LOVE it, picturing the satisfied smile on my face that says, “See! Didn’t I tell you this hike would be worth it?” I am so bummed out! It’s always beautiful up there, no matter what, but still, it’s a physical challenge even when conditions are perfect, and when the view is just a big white puffball, I can’t help but be a little disappointed. They were certainly appreciative, but still. And I had really wanted to summit Saptiwa before I leave and that was probably my last chance. When we got to the bottom, Sampson said he was grateful no one got hurt. I’d never heard him say that before. Ok, so I am too, but still…
The proverb’s meaning is: “There must be a limit to one’s ambition, one must one day accept that one has gone far enough.” So we reached the place nearby. It’ll have be good enough.
Love to all,