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The Love of Mountains

The-Love-of-Mountains

Note: Below is a blog by our Guest Blogger; Bessie on her Mountain Experiences. She discusses how she dealt with society's perceptions, assumptions and how she conquered her fears.

Long before hiking mountains was a thing in most parts of Malawi, that is long before people made it out as the destination for the best hyped up photoshoots, I would often get asked questions as to why I love to go up in the mountains. People never seemed to understand why someone would get up, to climb a mountain, to be in what is considered a secluded wild place like the mountain. What fun is that? What exactly do you do when you get up there?; are just some of the question I often got asked? I always seem to be the odd one out with this adventurous hobby of mine. One time I decided to hike Zomba plateau, my aunt who resides in Zomba could not believe I went all the way to Zomba just to hike the mountain. I remember her saying, 'my dear, mapiri mumakwelawa mumaopsya nazo amuna tu zimenezi (You may end up scaring off potential men with this hobby of yours my dear). It made me seem odd and strange.

However much I tried to explain to people why I hike, they just didn't quiet understand. To them I was the weird loner girl who likes weird things like going up the mountains when supposedly normal people opt to go to places like the lake or parties or simply meet up with friends over coffee to hang out. Not that I don’t like these things myself, but for the most part, given an option, mountains will most probably be my first option. Fast forward to present day, it has become a norm for people to spend a day or a weekend up in the mountains. It is as if now people now have awakened to the beauty of the mountains, its serenity and peacefulness that seems to beckon us away from our busy life schedules is becoming more and more appealing. Hiking gives people a better way to unwind and relax while taking in the scenic views one only somehow gets to experience out there into the wild. Of course I may be a little biased here considering I am a mountain lover and I find that few things compare to the beautiful scenic views of the mountains. The other fact being that am not a very social being, I tend to be drawn towards activities with as few people as possible and what better place than the mountains right. The clean air, the serenity , the being one with nature. All this being a type of therapy I always think I need.

 

This reminds me of the time I hiked Mulanje mountain for the first time early on this year. I had always wanted to hike the highest point in Malawi, the Sapitwa up on Mulanje and if not also the highest point in the southern Africa. The beauty of this mountain cannot be done justice with just these words I am about to say. I believe it is a beauty one is meant to experience themselves to fully appreciate it. My experience up in the Mulanje Mountains, beats every mountain experience I have had so far. And yes I call it the Mulanje Mountains because I didn't realise that it was a series of mountains and not necessarily one huge rock.

We set out as a group of 14, even though am not much a group person, this was the best group I ever hiked with. Gave me some neat friendships and associations I am grateful to have to date. Herewith another one of the many benefits of hiking, you meet like minded people along the way, who make for the best company. It was supposed to be a 5 day hike as it is called The Mount Mulanje Grand Traverse. I opted to do 3 days, as I had other work commitments. The organiser, who is now my friend, Innocent Kaliati, organises this wonderful event every year where each day, the group conquers one peak out of selected four of the many peaks available. I say conquer as I always equate climbing a mountain to conquering one’s own challenges and fears.

Posing at Sapitwa. In the background are Makhumbo, Liness and Yankho

And so we set out on day one to conquer this mountain even though is some instances I would say it conquered and humbled us, ha ha! A story for another day. The beauty of the mountain experience is it teaches you to get in touch with yourself. What you are capable of and I guess what you are not capable of. For the most part I believe you have more to gain. With each step you make towards the mountain top, you gain resilience, tenacity, the strength and will to keep on. You have a goal, and the goal is to reach the mountain top, so you push. It is a form of experience that requires all of you, your mental, physical and spiritual strength to make it up there. As with group dynamics, we have some who are fast and some who are not so fast. Our group of 14 was not spared these dynamics either. Two of our group, members struck me particularly as somewhat the ninjas of this particular experience. One developed an illness that particularly made him one of the slowest and the other had a fear of heights. These are not quiet the ideals for a mountain experience like Mulanje Mountain in particular. Nevertheless, these two people kept on pushing with each step, even when at some points they were usually at the far end of the trail, they did not give up, and together with the rest of us, they made it to the mountain tops of each and every peak including the highest point at 3002m above sea level, that is the Sapitwa. Again proving my point that the mountains have a way of bringing out strength you never knew you had. Which is why I find myself equating the mountain experience to all my life experiences.

Standing at the Elephant Head view point on Mount Mulanje

Metaphorically speaking I would like to think that we each have mountains of our own to overcome and conquer. With each mountain that comes however, comes new levels of strength, new bonds of friendships or associations and of course beauties untold to see. As the year comes to an end, I look back on the mountains I have climbed and I look at the challenges I have also overcome, I therefore, descend the mountains of 2021, with renewed strength and zeal, a sense of awakening to who I have become and are becoming. I am ready for the next mountains to hike and overcome in the year 2022. It has been a good year to hike.

 

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

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Thursday, 09 February 2023

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