I had no idea today was a malawian holiday so all offices are closed and I have some spare time at the computer. I just this week got back from accompanying a group of high school age students from Kamuzu Academe on a 4 day backpack trip to Mulanje mountain. We rode 12 hours on a bus that could have been driving around that partridge family (get happy) just yesterrday. It went at between 40 and 80 km the whole way and 30 km from the mountain, just when it’s dark shadow was materializing from the distance dusky light there was a pop and hiss and that was the end of it. After pouring 3 gallons in the radiator, inspecting the oil splattered on the inside of the engine compartment, and nearly dislocating my arm trying to kick start it we gave up and sat into the night until other transport arrive.
The mountain itself was spectacular!!! Not only are you constantly surround by the layers and shades of greys and greens caused by the various distances of huge mountains on top of the plateau but there are really nice huts where you either tent of book a bed. You can sit inside by the fire and cook or get the porters/guides to boil bath water. No big animals other than some spectacular birds, but there tons of unique vegetation. It also rained. So light at first you couldn't tell it from the sweat already literally dripping off of your face, but the mist turned to sprinkles, which made way for thick, fatty, cold, stinging drops of rain that dazed me rather than spurred my pace. I can only say it was as dramatic as you would imagine the first rains after 5 months of dry to be.
There is defiantly alot to be done there by way of management and my mind was going nuts the whole time with ideas proving to me I hadn’t forgotten everything I went to school for. Their biggest problems are encroachment of the village on the park boundary and super eye sore fire breaks mostly constructed to try and deal with poaching. In addition Mexican pine was originally planted in plantations on top of the mountain for sale and is now being removed but revegetation of the plantation and burned areas is non-existent. They also are encouraging the purchase of Mulanje cedar products as a type sustainable harvest but they really don’t have the management or outplanting program to support it. I’m also pretty suspicious of the miles of homogonous fern covered hilltops. I could stand being hired as their conservation restoration ecologist for a couple of years.
My sitemate gave me a pair of pants that were too big for her but they were too small for me. The people in my village will tell you this is because I am very fat. It is meant as a sincere compliment, as I am rich enough to buy food that would make me fat or to eat enough to put on weight, but never fails to give me a bit of a complex every time. Over dinner that night I asked Manasi if she had ever even tried on a pair of pants. She said that she hadn’t so I offered to let her try on this small pair. She was in my house giggling the whole time and after I finally convinced her to come and let me see in the candle light and she was slightly bend at the knees and waist as she crossed her arms over her crotch with a hand on either thigh. You could tell that she was terribly embarrassed to show off the space between her legs even though she was fully dressed. I then convinced her to got show her parents and as we walked to the house I wondered if I shouldn’t have asked if she could put them on first, but it all ended well with lots of laughing. I let her keep them. Could have been the most important thing i did all week.