Zomba Plateau

Many injuries and a broken camera lens — but worth the 27km hike

Canadian White Pine trees overlooking the dam

I hiked a mountain. Not a very large one, but a challenging hike it was!

Noreen’s brother Gerard, Noreen and I drove from Lilongwe to Zomba on Friday the 22nd of August. It was a peaceful drive and a true road trip: We stopped at interesting places along the way including a gas station to buy beer, a few farmers market-stands to buy food, and a pottery art house where I purchased yet another piece of African Art.

Noreen and Gerard dropped me off in Zomba, where they only visited for a short while before heading North to Liwonde National Park. I stayed at this lovely hostel called Pakachere. The staff were friendly, the food decent, and the accommodations amazing! I planned my Saturday almost immediately after checking in: a hike up the Zomba Plateau to Malumbe Peak, standing as the highest peak of the plateau at 2085 meters.

Isaac, my tour guide

I woke up early Saturday morning to eat a large breakfast and waited for my ride to the base. We started our hike at 10am, climbing to the first peak (Mulunguzi Peak) to walk along the mountain’s ridge. We climbed higher and higher for 14 kilometers until we finally reached Malumbe Peak. The view from every place was incredible. You could see the Shire River, Liwonde National Park, Williams Trout Farm, the Mulunguzi Dam, and the entire plateau and lowlands.

What got me the most on the journey was the smell. When the English colonized Malawi in the early 1900’s they imported seeds from the rest of its monarchy and the rest of the world. There were Australian Eucalyptis and Brazilian Pine among the mix. What stood out the most though were the Canadian Pine needles and cones littering the floor and perfuming the air in a smell that reminded me undeniably of home and the cottage. There were also Canadian maple trees everywhere! It was an amazing sight.

We began our decent on the other side of the mountain to view William’s falls and a trout farm (trout were also imported in the early 1900’s to Malawi for European settler’s to enjoy their favourite fish).

I learned that Malawi used to be called Nyasaland (the land of many lakes) and was renamed Malawi by the first president 50 years ago, meaning The Flame/Fire. The colours of Malawi’s flag are Red – to symbolize the blood shed during the fight for independence, green to represent the beautiful nature and environment, and black to represent the people.

Me, sitting at the highest peak with 6 inches of space behind me before the big drop

Zomba, the former capital of Malawi, was filled with colonial houses and old historic buildings. The geology there was cool (made me think of my dad and brother – both are geologists and would have loved it!) and I also had the pleasure of walking and seeing in person the sight (and site) where Tolkien was allegedly inspired to write The Hobbit and the Lord of The Rings Trilogy. At the highest peak, you could see the Shire river striking out on the horizon which was the furthest point you could see from the mountain top because of the fog.

It was an exceptionally hot day. I learned that it was the hottest day so far in August, and that I picked the most advanced route for my first time doing something like this. I would do that! But, I completed it in record walking time: 5 hours and 15 minutes.

I was proud of myself, but exhausted! I went to bed by 7:30, woke up grabbed a mini bus from Zomba to Liwonde, where I met Noreen and Gerard and then we began our journey back to Lilongwe.