We’ve had requests for photos, so here they are. But first, a little bit on what we were up to today!
We woke up late expecting to take it easy. With a modest goal of reading over our notebooks and talking through the week’s activities, we started the day with a leisurely breakfast and tinkered around on the ukulele until 9, when Daniel called with a revised plan. He suggested we spend the day on Mulanje Massif. At roughly 10,000 feet, Mulanje is Malawi’s tallest mountain, or piri. Daniel picked us up at 10 and we piled into his car for the hour long journey to the mountain. Daniel blasted Malawian reggae as we drove southeast from Blantyre through the rolling hills and endless tea plantations of the Thyolo District and into the town of Mulanje. The temperature dropped noticeably as we ascended toward the mountain.
Mulanje is extremely impressive, with several major peaks arranged in a neat row that also defines the border of Malawi and Mozambique. The true altitude of the formation was concealed by clouds until we approached its base. When the mountain came into full view, we could see spires of exposed rock rising dramatically from the dense jungle beneath the summit. Verdant slopes are broken up by vast waterfalls. This is a completely different world from the hot streets of Blantyre. We began our exploration with a short hike to a waterfall near the base of the mountain. I regretted wearing flip flops as we navigated the steep, muddy terrain. After a few hundred vertical feet we passed by several locals who were descending with huge bags of coffee balanced on their heads. I’m pretty sure one of them was wearing flip flops too… Continuing on, the members of our party issued alerts of weird spiders, ants and millipedes along the trial, we concluded that watching a documentary about stinging insects last night was a bad idea. The mountain fauna were large and brightly colored. In light of the previous night's documentary, we had to assume that each creature was more deadly than the last. Nevertheless, we pressed on and the breathtaking views from our destination were well worth the effort.
We hiked down to get lunch in preparation for our next hike. The restaurant at the base of the mountain had pretty great curry, although the best thing about it was their pet monkey, who was roughly a week old according to Daniel. He was very friendly, but despite his clear enthusiasm for meeting new people he could hardly stay awake for over a minute. We finished our lunch, bid him farewell and set out for the other side of the mountain. Arriving at an unassuming trailhead on the north end, we hired a guide named Lucious to show us the way to a swimming area about 2,200 feet up the side of Mulanje. We ascended on foot and after an hour of hiking we reached our destination. This spot was amazing: a natural pool bordered by smooth rock ledges, fed by a giant waterfall and surrounded by imposing rocky peaks a mile overhead. We hung out there for the afternoon, flipping, twisting and diving off the rocky overhangs into the water. The pictures don’t do it justice.
|Daniel shows us a wash basin that AFES constructed last week.|
|This family raises hares and doves to sell at the market|
|Finding time to dry firewood between frequent deluges|
|A well near the center of Kumponda|
|Collecting water samples|
|Mother and daughter retrieving water|
|Here come the kids|
|At the schoolroom|
|They love high fiving|
|Daniel gets some help at the borehole|
The next three photos are a series. We named the girl in the white dress Sassy Sally for obvious reasons.
|Taking water samples at the Lunzu River|
|The kid in the red pants is called Vincent and he followed me quietly for fifteen minutes before dropping a joke in perfect English|
|This little guy was all tuckered out|
|The shopping mall in Mulanje town|
|Swimming pool. Note the enormous peak in the background.|
|Alice, Krissy and Daniel|
|Sunset on Mulanje|
|Our trusty ride outside of the apartment|
|Art shot for Gabby|