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Blantyre 3 Peaks Hike - or Part Thereof...

Blantyre-3-Peaks-Hike-or-Part-Thereof-

I developed the love for hiking on my 6 year travels, where I also kick started my career in Tourism. I left Blantyre (my home town) in 2009 and returned in 2015. In that time, I lived in Cape Town for three years (and hiked Table Mountain, Devils Peak and Lion’s head). I then moved to Lilongwe and eventually Ntchisi mountain for another three years. In Ntchisi completely fell in love with the woods – I did not really have a choice! and hiked all the time, with family, clients, sometimes alone, to think and clear my head. It was this time I lived in Ntchisi that I travelled south to take on my fist Mount Mulanje Challenge in 2013. Anyway, fast forward to 2015, I moved back to Blantyre for pastures new, and that is when I first heard of the Blantyre 3 Peaks Walk.

 

The Orbis All Inclusive Challenge

Blantyre Three Peaks Walk is an annual event when walkers set out to hike three mountains in Blantyre in a single day, while walking between them. ‘You have to be crazy!’ I thought. For the first few years of my return to Blantyre, the walk always happened during Ramadhan so I never joined.

This year at work, we were preparing for the Orbis All Inclusive Challenge. This is a 7 day expedition to Malawi including a ‘three peaks’ day trail run, a community 5km and a half marathon through the trails of Zomba Plateau. I work as Head of Ops for The Responsible Safari Company; the Malawi ground handler for Orbis Expeditions. As I had never done the 3 peaks walk, I got in touch with Gordon Benbow who organises the walk, so he could help me plan it. To say that this trail is hard, would be a lie, this is extremely TOUGH! And to think that our Orbis challengers will run the trail rather than walk, got me really worried. The expedition did not take place for obvious reasons - COVID 19!

The Mount Mulanje Grand Traverse

I recently completed a 5 day hiking challenge on Mulanje Mountain called the Grand Traverse. This is a hike that takes you across the full length on Mount Mulanje while summiting Sapitwa Peak in the process. We will discuss this properly in the next blog. For now, I want to talk about how I failed to complete the three peaks challenge – or maybe I did not fail, I made a decision?

While planning the grand traverse that was supposed to start on 24th June, one of the participants (Lulu) informed me that despite the pandemic, the three peaks walk was going to happen on 27th June. She participated in the challenge the previous year but did not complete the challenge so she really wanted to do it again this year. Fair enough, so we changed the grand traverse dates to 29th June to accommodate her plans. To my defence, she painted a rosy picture of the walk and talked me into doing it. She said it would be a great exercise to prepare for Mulanje – only two days later. So I prepared for the walk, registered my interest with Gordon. I also thought it would help me if I walked the trail. I thought to myself, ‘my effective planning for the All Inclusive expedition when the Corona Virus pandemic is over will be made easy after all.’ So here I was, about to sentence myself to this punishment.

 

The Blantyre Three Peaks Walk

View from the Chilomoni side of Michiru Mountain

I showed up at Blantyre Sports Club where the walk starts from at 4:45am that chilly Saturday morning. Paid my registration fees and registered for the walk. At the time, the list of participants was at 38, and rising! I looked around and thought ‘these people must be insane, but I am here too!’

At 5:00am we started walking. This was a power walk through the Blantyre CBD, towards Chilomoni. Lulu and I made sure we were at the very front for as long as possible. We saw one guy who started running from the word go – YES, he was gonna run the route. I was told that last year he completed the route in by 1pm. He was running all the way. The route passes through Chilomoni township and starts to ascend right where the Way of The Cross starts from. 5km in, the faster and fitter ones started passing us, or rather, passing me. A couple of times, Lulu waited for me to catch up until I told her to not wait for me anymore. I am a big sucker for views, and we had views in abundance from the Chilomoni side of Michiru mountain.

As soon as my friend had gone, I started to take it easy with no pressure. I pretended to take pictures, while resting, ha ha! I kept pushing myself that I should not be the last person in the pack. The last 2km before the summit of Michiru was a steep and had climb and very rocky, but I knew I was close. I counted at least 10 people behind me so I wasn’t doing so bad. I arrived at the peak at 7:15am. So far so good. One peak down, two to go. This was now 10km into the walk. Lulu was waiting for me there, what a team player! Took pics, hydrated and off we went. The descent was a little faster and we were literally running. This descent took a toll on me and I was in pain. Again, Lulu was faster so I let her go. I passed a couple of people on my way down, slow walkers and one that was really tired and did not want to do it anymore. A few other people were also hiking Michiru (from Paulendo Adventures).

 

The Sunrise was epic!

Opportunity Cost – Yes, Time to Choose

I was off Michiru mountain by 8:20am and there was breakfast waiting. An awesome feeling. Tea has never been tasty! A table nicely arranged, and lined with tea/coffee, tangerines, nuts, bananas was waiting for us. This was also the first point of check in for the day. The lovely lady manning this check in point was going to wait and make sure all have checked in before proceeding to the next refreshment point. I wish I was riding with her. I considered it. My feet were hurting at this point and the tea just disguised well. To be honest I felt like I could push on to finish the walk, but then again, I felt like if I completed the walk, I may not have been in shape to go for the Mulanje Grand Traverse two days later. A lot of planning effort had gone into the traverse so all of a sudden, this was not replaceable. I decided I was done!

It is not my fault that the trail from Michiru to Ndirande mountain passes through Chirimba market, 300 meters from my house. I arrived in Chirimba and that was it for me. I managed one peak. To put this into perspective, I did 20km, walked 30,265 steps and burnt 1,345 calories. I know! Sounds like I am trying to make myself feel better, in fact, I am. My focus was now on the Mulanje trip the next Monday so this is how I could look after myself to make sure I did not check out of the main event.

Lulu went on to complete the walk at around 6pm – very well done! I spoke to the organiser and they said out of the 65 walkers, only 35 completed it. I don’t feel that bad after all! Ha ha! Now I have challenged myself to participate and complete the walk in 2021. I also feel kind of ready to smoothly flesh out the logistics of the Orbis All Inclusive Challenge next year. For the record, I did not fail to complete the walk, I like to think I paused it for next year!

The Eagles Eye Malawi’ published with the authors permission. For Original content click here
 

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Mount Mulanje Grand Traverse
Islands of Malawi - Domwe
 

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Wednesday, 30 November 2022

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