Monday, 19 March 2012

Michiru Mountain, Blantyre

Blantyre, Malawi’s centre of finance and commerce is a bustling city. Known as the commercial city of Malawi it is always busy to the point that your thoughts are drowned by the hooting of vehicles, whistling of trains, roaring of trucks and not to mention the daily commotion of trading areas.

But I thought to myself, where is the nearest place you can feel miles away from the commotion and babble but still stay as close to Blantyre as possible? I looked around Blantyre and the answer was staring at me. It was obvious. Blantyre lies in a hilly area and is surrounded by mountains, Soche, Ndirande, Chiradzulu and Michiru Mountain. So it was just a matter of which Mountain. The choice was made when my friends wanted to go hiking and we chose one of the closest mountains to the heart of Blantyre, Michiru Mountain. The mountain stands at 1205 meters / 3953 feet and offers views of Blantyre.

So we took a bus early in the morning that took us from Blantyre to Chilomoni, one of the large residential areas of Blantyre. And we took the bus all the way to its very last stop, and when we looked up, we were at the foot of the mountain. For the very first part of the hike the roads and paths were wide and clear, this is because the Roman Catholics use the mountain during Easter for ''The Way Of The Cross. A series of orange crosses in the area mark the various stations at which they stop and have prayers, and at the top of that particular area of the mountain lies a large cross that can be seen from Blantyre. But after that the paths become narrow and they divert in all sorts of directions, so you will need a guide or someone who knows the area pretty well.

Already, barely minutes into our journey, the stunning views started appearing. Just one glance and we knew the view was going to get even better the higher we went. But getting up in certain areas was a little harder than we thought.

Because of the steepness of certain areas, you needed good grip; use both hands and probably a hand from someone above. But when we got to a ridge at the top it was worth it. We were surrounded by a forest of pine trees and thick, lush grass, and everything was drowned in thick cloud. It started to rain, but it was just showers nothing heavy. It was like a Movie scene. There were beautiful and bizarre flowers, the smell of pine trees, and there was nothing you could hear besides the drizzle and yourself breathing.

But as we moved further and further away from the Chilomoni section of the mountain, the clouds disappeared and the perfect view of Blantyre came into sight. You can also see areas such as Zomba, Mulanje as well as the Shire valley. And when we reached the top you could see everything but hear nothing, everything was on mute. And you could see the whole mountain chain, snaking its way into the distance.

On our hike we saw mushrooms of all colours, shapes and sizes. These are only found in the mountain areas, rarely seen in and around the cities. And clearly most, if not all are not edible, but traditional healers use some for medicinal and spiritual reasons. 

We had climbed the mountain at it southern part and travelled up north along it. On our descent the silence was broken by the screeching of monkeys and the sound of waterfalls. The river carved its way between a part of the mountain. On one side a was steep, rocky mountain side, and the other a near vertical cliff. Caves are scattered all over the mountain, so its best to be cautious as well as have a guide. The mountain also has a conservation area for forestry, farming and a nature reserve so it’s worthwhile to have a look.

Eventually we made our way to the foot of the mountain and the area looked like the savannah in the rainy season. Everything was bright green and from the bottom the whole mountain could be seen. We took a moment to take it all in, for we saw how far we hiked and we realised we were kilometres away from Blantyre. We didn’t take a bus back home, we walked, but all in all it was worth it.