Malawi

Our two-week trip to Malawi – my first and only vacation outside of Zambia in my two-year service – encompassed many ups and downs. Literally. Samuel and I went from the heights of Mount Mulanje to the steamy lowlands of Lake Malawi, experiencing two very different parts of the country, both topographically and culturally.

We began with a six-day backpacking trip along the Mulanje Massif. It was my first time seeing real mountains in two years! And my first time backpacking in two years! The gorgeous views and super-steep trails (I recall seeing exactly two switchbacks on the whole trip) both took my breath away. Because we went in the rainy season, we didn’t make it up the tallest peak, Sapitwa (the steep, sheer rock on the way up was scary-slippery, and the top was covered by rain clouds anyway), and we hiked the last day in a downpour. But there was a major upside: every night, we had entire mountain huts to ourselves. Think the New Zealand hut system, only nicer and with attendants who start fires and heat bath water for you!!

So this portion of the trip followed a perfect pattern: hike our butts off for four or five hours each morning, then have the rest of the day to read, write, swim in mountain streams, do yoga, and just relax.

After Mount Mulanje, traveling by minibus through the rest of crowded southern Malawi was quite the change. We made it to beautiful Cape Maclear, where we met up with two other PCV friends, Ryeon and Matt, as well as Ryeon’s friend Leah, visiting from America. There we took a beautiful – though very choppy – kayak trip (my first kayaking in two years!) during which Matt and Samuel flipped and flooded their kayak several times. Luckily a very nice local fisherman went to help bail them out – and make sure they were still alive. We also snorkeled, lounged, and took in some beautiful sunsets. I also unknowingly drank water directly from the lake for almost two days – and lived to tell the tale. :+)

The journey back to Zambia proved more interesting than we’d anticipated, as heavy flooding had completely washed away a road along the way, leaving us to cross a swollen river on foot, then walk two hours in the rain until we found transport in the back of an insanely crowded (even for Africa) pick-up truck. (There were 43 of us, plus a lot of bags.) But we did it. Made it from Cape Maclear all the way to Chipata, in eastern Zambia, in one crazy day.

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