Sunday, 2 April 2017

Malawi – No time for Zumba in Zomba

March 19-20

Hello everyone!

March seems to be the time of year for school sports competitions to be held in Malawi. Lilongwe doesn’t have too many international schools, which often means our children travel down to the other large city of Blantyre in order to participate in national tournaments. Hannah and I being two of the sportier members of the teaching staff resulted in us being asked to travel down to Malawi’s second city to help.

A view of Zomba from its eponymous plateau

Blantyre's CBD
Blantyre is a four to five hour drive southeast of Lilongwe along Malawi’s main artery: the M1. It’s single lane throughout and used by all sorts of vehicles, meaning it is an intense drive requiring full focus and one which doesn’t allow you to often take in the spectacular scenery.

A rare motorway which people and cyclists freely use

Known as the commercial capital of the country, waking up in Blantyre on a Saturday morning also gave us the opportunity to access some of Malawi’s jewels which are not possible to get to from Lilongwe over the course of a weekend. We plan to visit Majete, Mulanje and Liwonde in the future but all require more time to truly appreciate them.

So much to see in the south!

The most accessible attraction from Blantyre is thus the Zomba Plateau, situated high above Malawi’s previous capital city of the same name. The capital was moved from Zomba to Lilongwe in 1975.

Southern Malawi, with Zomba Town in the foreground

A windy, cliff-edged drive with a sheer drop on one side will take you up from the town to the plateau. Some of the drops are over 1000m, which results in some stunning views.

Hiking is the main activity up here (not Zumba, unfortunately), with the reward being some lovely views stretching across the Shire Valley to Lake Malawi (to the north) and Mount Mulanje, Malawi’s highest peak at 3,002 metres (to the southeast).

Hiking up through the thicket of the Zomba Plateau

The blue either side of the dark rock is Lake Malawi 

We’re clearly not the only people who has sampled these delightful views, as proven by the signs erected at Emperor’s View...

I'm glad he physically visited!
...and nearby Queen’s View.

Sounds better than Queen Mother's View...

Whilst in this area of the plateau, we sampled some of the local fruit grown high above the town. The plateau is known for gooseberries and raspberries, of which we were able to acquire plenty of the former. Delicious, too.

An internet picture of Zomba's gooseberries - we devoured
ours before thinking about taking a photo of them

We took a more direct route to get to the various viewpoints, heading through long grass. We traipsed through this to reach the Chagwa Dam, a pleasant spot. Our guide stated that it’s very deep.

Not the well-worn route

Chagwa Dam

The pleasant viewpoints are not just restricted to distant horizons. The plateau has a couple of small waterfalls which gush and rush down from the peaks of the plateau.

Mandala Falls, Zomba Plateau

After a long afternoon hiking in the heat, it was a great way to cool off, particularly as the shower in our campsite wasn’t working…

Hiking on Zomba Plateau

We weren’t alone in the campsite, with white baboons hurtling around the Trout Farm campsite.

Any plan to see more beautiful panoramas were scotched by a downpour during the night and early morning the following day. This also meant that the people selling buckets of vividly pink raspberries – who we’d driven past the previous day, thinking that we would buy them all on the Sunday – were understandably hiding in their homes rather than selling when very few people were driving by. Or hiding in the mist! We managed to get plenty of granadillas, though: passion fruit to you and me. 

Rather than feasting on raspberries, we instead had breakfast at Casa Rossa, a beautiful spot owned by an Italian couple. With a lovely view

Casa Rossa: lovely spot with an amazing mozzarella
and tomato omelette

Zomba Plateau is a pretty little place which I imagine we would visit fairly often if we lived in Blantyre. Beautiful flora and lovely hiking are just over an hour away from Malawi's second city. Very different to the vistas of Nyika, the views across the Shire Valley are certainly worth your time.

Love you all


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