Malawi Part 2: The Landscape

One of the things I had expected when visiting Africa was large expanses of Savannah, not much in the way of greenery and dirt tracks going everywhere…

In hindsight that was a bit naive, and I had been suckered into the mainstream media stereotype of Africa. While I am sure areas of Africa are no doubt like the stereotype, otherwise what have I seen on the TV all these years, I can’t say that Malawi was very stereotypical of the mainstream medias message of Africa. Being at the end of the rainy season it was amazingly green and lush. The colours were incredible, beautiful and enchanting. The topography of Southern Malawi was anything but flat and the roads, well they aren’t great but, the majority aren’t dirt tracks.

Driving in Malawi

Driving in Malawi is a little bit like go karting with a real car. The roads are not always well maintained, especially around Limbe and Blantyre as there is so much traffic. So avoiding potholes is a skill learned quickly.

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Then there are the massive numbers of people walking at the side of the road to dodge. Plus the cyclists carrying large amounts of wood or other random objects. Then finally you have to dodge the other cars, trucks and minibuses which are trying to avoid everything you are too.

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So roads are not always just dirt tracks, however I should point out once you are off the main road they generally are. The image below was the road to the cottage we stayed at. Little blurry but this was the view on the drive up, given we weren’t sure if we were headed the right way at the time its probably a good job we were.

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Topography of the land

While there are amazing views which show the flatness and expanse of the land there are also some incredible mountains. Below is a view as we drove towards Zomba plateau.

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I was surprised at how many mountains where around our base in Manase, in fact Blantyre itself is not flat by any means.

I think another element of the landscape is the clouds which are phenomenal. Any cloudscape enthusiasts would have a field day here, and although I only managed to capture a few of the largest we saw it is incredible to see them in real life and the scale is simply staggering.

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During my time in Malawi I was lucky enough to do some hiking within the Mulanje national park. With our guide Robert we walked for a day up into the clouds and I was amazed at some of the views on offer. I think if I returned I would definitely like to spend more time in the Mulanje mountain area. With 49 peaks, 26 which are reachable without special equipment I think I could check off a few more.

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View HDR

I was surprised at how quickly the altitude affected me, even though I am accustomed to walking in the UK, somehow it was much more intense for longer. Not sure if starting at 1000m helped, but it knocked me back thinking it was affecting me that badly. Of course I was also ill, so I imagine that did not help either.

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Unfortunately we did not manage to summit, and while we had aimed for Chombe (at least I think that was the name) the summit was a good couple of hours more and we would have had to stay in one of the huts overnight which we did not have time to do. However from where we were stood at a sort of plateau it looked impressive.

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One of the final parts of the landscape I think is worth noting are the Tea estates. Most of Malawi is used, in that every inch of land generally has a crop growing on it (or at least thats how it feels sometimes), everywhere you look there is tall maize being grown. However where the maize ends near Mulanje the tea estates begin. The estates are enormous, I have never seen so much tea!

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The tea estates display a uniformity which is almost out of place in Malawi, where things do not seem so regimented. The plants (planted long ago) are in lovely rows, with rows of trees planted at regular intervals breaking the uniformity of the tea plants.

Malawi Part 1 – The People
Malawi Part 3 – The Wildlife