Day 8: Conquering Mulanje Mastiff

Day 8: Saturday 25th August

Susan Macfarlane

Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s up the mountain we go….everyone was gung ho at 8am when we left our comfy lodge to conquer Mt Mulanje. There was talk of doing the extra 45mins to the rock pools for a swim after reaching the cabin, and the all night partying that was going to happen, but all over-reaching plans fell by the wayside after the first hour of the trek when we hit the first incline (and it’s nothing like setting the treadmill incline to 5!). Unfortunately Maddy’s dream of climbing was also unfulfilled as she had to head back down feeling unwell.  Our illustrious leader Madeline escorted her back to base camp and we missed both of them up at the hut. However, this did mean 2 fewer people fighting for beds.

The walk took us through gorgeous countryside that changed often during the 6 hour stroll – scrub, forest and exposed rocks as well as very pretty wildflowers. Often though we had to remind ourselves to stop swearing and complaining about how much our legs were burning, and just stop and enjoy the spectacular vistas.

Hot and sore and hungry – that was how we all felt on arrival between 1:30 and 3pm. This quickly changed to cold and sore and less hungry. Only 6 crazy people braved the tin bucket filled with fresh mountain water to wash in. It was bloody freezing. Then a couple of girls found out that if they battered their eyelashes at the porters, they’d heat the water for them! The camp was authentic rustic – no Internet, lights or electricity. Huts with a hole in the ground for toilets – strangely enough, everyone preferred using nature – with some funny moments!

We had a roaring fire in the fireplace which was a great idea until we realized that the chimney must’ve been partially blocked. We didn’t care about the smoke though as it was so cold – below 10 and none of us had enough clothes or blankets or mattresses. Mulanje Mastiff is 3001m above sea level. Our camp was just over 2000.

A couple of naps, some surgery on a cut performed with a tampon, a cup of tea and a delicious dinner later, and judging by the rise in decibel level in our rustic hut, everyone was feeling much more human.

Alcohol cooling in a bucket of spring water, one candle and 4 rolls of loo paper. What more could we want?

Answer: the energy to drink and not having to go outside in subzero temperatures to pee!

Everyone was in bed (but possibly not able to actually get to sleep because of the discomfort and cold) by 9:30. The mountain defeated our will to party.

This hike was nothing like we expected but was amazingly magical and a major sense of accomplishment.

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