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Diary of a Volunteer





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Mulanje Massif II

Level 1: Journey to Luchenza!
First board the bus, then survive the Road to Thyolo More...More

Level 2: Ride the Matola!
Matola: vehicle can only move when un-safe More...More

Level 3: Ascent of Mulanje!
It's getting hot, and you're running late More...More

Bonus Level: Back to Base
Now run down again More...More

Word from sponsor
(Items most missed by volunteers) More...More


About to ascend Mulanje Massif!

After the exertions of producing the last newsletter - The Little Differences - I thought I would tell you of some exertions of another kind...

In goes the Kwacha; relax, a few deep breaths. Let's play! ...

(A whimsical interpretation of what is both a physically demanding and invigorating experience: climbing up Mulanje Massif)

Level 1: Journey to Luchenza

"It's cold, it's dark; the Mulanje bus is late. You must first board the bus, and then survive the Road To Thyolo. Good luck, brave adventurer!"

It was cold, and it was dark and yep! there was no sign of our bus. A bus going to everywhere else, yes, but not to Mulanje. (And weren't the graphics A M A Z I N G !)

We had no tickets either, and the other 'passengers' looked a mean bunch - definitely an 'elbows first, questions later' lot. What chance of a British queue? None. Better be careful!

The bus shows - an hour late; there's a mad dash! We're at the front; but there's a restless stirring: "Mutter, mutter, Azungu! Mutter, mutter!". Sensing trouble I scowled at 'Mr Meanest': "We were here first - back off!"

That did the trick: we were on, AND a seat for two. (Bonus points! Wonder what the sound track's like!)

This is it - the Thyolo road! Bumpy, narrow, and hoards of oncoming hazards - this is great! Health levels are still high - sit back, enjoy - autopilot!

There's some really evocative night-time village scenes (smooth and flicker-free); just like the movies. The 'passengers' were face front; heads showing - like a row of blackened cotton buds. They didn't muster. And the seats we sat in - boy! were they uncomfortable. (So real!)

Ah! Luchenza. And there's the guide, Mr. Brady: bump into him for the next level. What a place, though! Like a Wild-West town: a single street, a bar, a general store; and nothing much else pardner (not even tumbleweed).

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Level 2: Ride the Matola

"Still evening, now you must rest - for tomorrow you ride the Matola. Sleep well!"

We ate, we talked, we wondered - what dangers lay ahead? Mr. Brady knew, Of course, but was programmed not to tell!

A quick refresh, and morning. Egg sandwich icon collected (I bet it was tasty), luggage icon available; and lo and behold, our first lift - this was too easy!

We stocked up on provisions at the food stop - no surprises here - just Little Iwes trying to lighten the wallet. And then a wait. A wait for the Matola! (A definition scrolled by: motorised vehicle - any kind - that can only move once an un-safe number of passengers have boarded!) Hmm A bit dull this - just avoid the 'decoys to hell', I guess.

Here it is, at last (over 30 'minutes' later); full - but we are only six! (Any accident now, though, and definite End Of Game). Eee! Easy: a couple of spluttered stops, the only distraction.

"Route start" the driver barked! Squeeze out, and breathe out! (just a little bit cramped).

Four hundred metres to go - before the endurance level. But first, time to fend off some more Iwes (eeways) - littl'uns, desperate for your cash, desperate to transmogrify into mountain porters. A real test of the humour function, this: "I know the mountain best! I'm the strongest of all! I don't cost much!" - their voices would protest. You've to smile back: "I'm just as strong, but I'm much cheaper - maybe next time!". And keep on walking...

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Level 3: Ascent of Mulanje

"You have to reach Luchenya hut by tea. Can you make it? It's getting hot, and you're running late..."

By now, it was late. Soon it would be just us, the overbearing mid-day heat, and the Massif. As we climbed, the temperature was still low though, with a high water content in the air. And misty - no splendourous high-res. views for us this trip. Just endurance and pain.

Endurance and pain it was; made more so by the strangely increasing weight of my pack. That's a cruel trick to play. (Where are you little Iwes?) So, one minute there's this steep blood-pumping incline; next, we'd be on all fours grappling, grimacing. But mustn't stop!

I found it hard, but the 'maximum-effort-then -rest' mode was the right choice. That 'slow and easy' mode is an unending agony (unending until your energies are drained - then Game End). Others struggled. (Did I say game?)

Ordinarily, at this stage, you're greeted with views of Technicolor splendour - all of southern Malawi, visible. This game: denied - just head down, climb up!

Luchenya hut. At last. Managed to avoid the Psychological Trauma State (just), by ignoring false peak after false peak. (If I hadn't - bye, bye!). Shed boots, shed ruck-sack click the Blazing Fire icon! Eat food, rest - we've made it! Just time for a quick scan of the photographic scenes up there -nice touch!

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Bonus level: Back to base!

"Congratulations! You made it - but can you get back to base? Have to run...!"

Another quick refresh - morning. Energy levels restored to maximum. Now track to the local waterfall - genuine British-style drizzle (another nice touch!) - to collect Speed Shoes. And then back - quickly! A run down the mountain - no calamities here please - collect Beers at the Bottle Store (took longer than I thought) - run the Winding Road (all of twelve kilometers, in the rain! Urgh!). But Mr. Brady is with me - trying to get me to run too fast! My energy's low; lookin' pale, wasted; legs are flashing 'heavy'. This games gotta stop soon...

Game over!

"Bad luck - you ran out of energy!"

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Word from our Sponsor (Me)

A recent survey has shown that life in Malawi (for ex-pat volunteers) can be greatly improved by the purchase of some simple necessities not easily found in the country.

The survey - which took months to compile, and involved me - reveals that the following items cam dramatically improve quality of life:

  • vacuum-packed cheese
  • Licorice Allsorts
  • After-shave balm
  • Gillette Plus razor blades
  • Games software (any)
  • Essential Hip-Hop tapes

You now have the chance to help me directly, by sending an appropriate item to me (registered mail).


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