October 13th – Day Nineteen
An early start again today so we could head off early on a walk to a viewpoint over the plateau. Most of the group decided to come along so we set off at 6am for what was hoped to be a four hour return trip. The walk was nice and it was good to walk in the early morning but the walk was rather boring in the end. We walked up and saw an uninspiring view from the Emperor Viewpoint with the morning haze rendering the far distance a blue smudge with the closer areas just looking washed out. We came back a slightly different way past another view, the Queens Viewpoint, and wandered down a different path for a while passing through a pine wood and around a lake and eventually met the path we had walked up by an area that had been recently cleared and then the top burnt to charcoal. The stumps and newly growing ferns contrasted nicely for a nice photo. We had one other major stop at Williams Waterfall (which on the way up had prompted a photo of Will pretending to fall over by the sign which read “William Falls”). Helen pointed out a group of butterflies so I spent the time slowly getting close trying to get a good photograph. The rest of the walk was uneventful and we found ourselves back at camp in time to make lunch.
The burnt earth left after trees are felled and the ground prepared for a new planting
In the afternoon a group of five went down the mountain on foot to the Zomba town to have a look at the local market which Lonely Planet tells us is the largest in Malawi. Keryn, Will, Maria, Roger and Tina followed the guide on what was promised to be a thirty minute journey and turned into an hour and a half slog down step tracks and at one point even through a forest fire. They had been walking for a while when they started coming across smoking ground. This turned into small patches of burning scrub and then after a wind change they found themselves in a area where the fire was getting a few feet tall around them. The guide helpfully told them to go “Quickly, Quickly!” and they ran along the path with flames tickling their legs on either side. They escaped onto the road and then continued, adventure over. Once in the town they wandered the market, had drinks at a local stall which was owned by a friend of the guide and also watched some friendly men playing the local game which involves a long piece of wood with eight divots in four rows. There are lots of beans which the men move between the divots and in twenty minutes the rules apparently became no clearer. They can’t remember the name of the game other than it starts with “B”.
Those left at camp either spent the afternoon relaxing or wandered up to the le Meridian hotel to charge equipment, download photos and in my case write up some of this blog. The hotel is very nice though we were all rather puzzled as to why it existed in this location. We sat around, had a few expensive drinks (comparative to the prices we’d been paying up till now) and I wrote and archived photos for a couple of hours. Jacques had arranged for us to go back down to the stream for photos around 4pm so shortly before that a few of us made our way back to camp.
Helen and Jacques had been making desert since 3pm and by the time we had arrived Joe had kicked them out of the kitchen. We waited a while and then around 5pm a group got together and we went down to continue taking photos. A group of local kids followed us and Jacques employed them to carry some of his gear. We had another hour or so of shooting little waterfalls and flowing water before heading back to camp, John arranging for one of the kids to carry his bag back up the hill, a decision the young man shortly regretted as John’s bag of camera gear weighed quite a bit. Back at camp the kids were paid with caps and biscuits which seemed to keep them happy.
A tiny waterfall shot at our second water workshop
Everyone eventually was back at camp and after dinner we had a talk about the days ahead. Things got a little confused but in the end all was sorted and we all prepared ourselves for a 4.30am wake up call the next day so we could get into Lilongwe in time for Jacques to have his tooth repaired once and for all. Desert was consumed; a concoction of mixed fruit, brandy soaked banana, chocolate custard and marshmallows and then it was the usual sitting around drinking tea and coffee before most retired for an early night.