5 hours south of Cape Maclear was a place called Zomba, which I read had some good hiking, and I was keen to get some sort of exercise in after hanging out on the lake for the last 2 weeks. I stayed at a place called Casa Rossa, a surprisingly good Italian restaurant that also had rooms. I was the only person staying there at the moment. I did some hiking the next day up in the plateau, which was nice enjoyable, with good views over Zomba town. But being all alone I was a bit bored and headed on after two nights to Blantyre, the second largest city in Malawi.
First order of business, apply for my Mozambique visa. I needed a passport photo, copy of my bank account, and hotel bookings. I had read online that one hotel booking should be sufficient, so I went on hostelworld and booked some dorms, only having to put 10% down. After printing everything out I was on my way to the embassy, where I was told I could only get a 7 day visa with 4 days of hotel bookings. Well I wanted more than that obviously, so I had to go back to hostel and fire up my good ole friend Photoshop, and start working away to come up with three weeks of hotel bookings. This was a giant pain in the ass of course, but obviously much better than paying for real accommodation, as I didn’t know exactly where I was going yet. I went back and they were satisfied, I just had to go to the bank, to pay the $81, and come back with the receipt.
This also proved much harder to than I expected as I couldn’t change kwacha to dollars at any of the banks because I didn’t have my passport. So I had to do it with some guys on the street, which turned out ok, besides the horrible exchange rate I got. And it was back to the embassy a third time, where they told me it would take three days. Just enough time to get some hiking in!
Two hours away is the Mulanje massive, a fairly surprising string of granite peaks in SE Malawi. So the next morning I took the minibus there, and started walking towards the Forrestry Office, 10kms up the road. I was hoping to start my hike this afternoon, but considering there were no buses to the office, the actual trip would have to wait until the next morning. The walk on the road was very pleasant though! At some point not far away from the main town I met a guy on the road who was also I guide, and he took me on a shortcut, to get to the lodge. He was actually just hiding me from all the guides in town, who would all be offering me their services. I had read that the most fair thing to do was book one from the office, as they supposedly had some sort of rotation system in place. Well I decided on a 3 day, 2 night hike, at the set price of $25/day which is an insanely good days wage in Malawi. I asked if I could get a discount on the last day as it would only be a few hours walk down. He said no. And oddly enough my guide turned out to be the guide who brought me there to the office. Weird! I sensed some shady dealings at work.
So we left at 7am the next morning to start the hike up into the mountains. It was steep, but nothing too bad. The way it was discussed was that I’d be hiking for most of the day and then climbing the highest peak the next morning. But we arrived at the hut at noon, and it was windy, cool, and misty, and I would have absolutely nothing to do for the rest of the day. So I told him I wanted to keep hiking. So we did another three hours of hiking and ended up a different lodge, this one actually had some other people in it, thank god! Two British girls, on break from their medical clinic work, were also there for the night.
So it was nice having some people to talk to as we cooked up our dinners. A dehydrated meal of Kung Pao chicken for me, and a much more cumbersome meal of rice, beans, potatoes, peppers, and onions for them. That’s why they needed a porter! They also made me some extra porridge in the morning, how very British! They also informed that the guides are supposed to be a negotiated rate, and theirs was less than half of what mine cost. Hmm.
The next morning the guide and I set off to climb one of the nearby peaks, which was about a two hour round-trip affair, with really nice views all around. As we were hiking I decided I’d rather end the hiking this afternoon, rather than finish tomorrow morning, kind of annoyed that he and the guy in the office lied to me about the prices. Plus I was paying him a full days rate for only a 2 hour walk down the mountain the last day. Of course he got upset that I said I was doing 3 days and now was only doing 2. I told him that I knew he lied to me about the price and I should only be paying half of what I was paying, and that I didn’t like how he took me on the shortcut to keep me away from talking to any other guides in town. So in the end, it was a long, quickly paced, awkward walk down the mountain. I paid for my 2 days at $25 like I’d agreed, plus a few extra for the cancellation, and that was that. A motorcycle ride and minibus later I was back in Blantyre.
I picked up the visa the next morning and was off into a brand new country a few hours later: the Portuguese speaking country of Mozambique!