The island in the sky

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Africa » Malawi » Southern » Mount Mulanje
June 16th 2011
Published: August 18th 2011
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Africa seems to have an amazing ability to make you feel very small and insignificant (although some may point out this doesn't take much with me). The endless desert, the huge blue skies, the thunder as the rains come, or being in the shadow of an elephant are just a few, and it happened again as I sat at the foot of Sapitwa on the plateau of Mount Mulanje - a lump of granite, rounded and cracked by the rain and the wind, with a plateau that rises 1000m vertically out of the plain, dotted by over 20 peaks that rise up again to a height of 3000m.

As I sat in the light of the afternoon sun which was bathing the sunkissed and dry grass in a golden light, 10 peaks soared above and around me, the walking trails stretched as far as the eye could see, like a ribbon laid out on the golden ground. I was only metres from the huts, where the porters were busy playing boa and cooking their dinner, but I felt utterly, utterly, alone - just me, and the vast, silent mountains.

Earlier in the day, after an early rise, and a cup of tea brewed on the fire in the cold morning air, we'd hiked to a viewpoint, and I'd looked down on the plains 1000m below. A patchwork of tea fields, emerald green in the sun, the plain stretching all the way to the horizon, and down on the clouds hat hovered above it - a white blanket cloaking the hillsides. On some days, you can see nothing below but the clouds, as the peaks of Mulanje rise upwards through the mist until they resemble the island in the clouds by which they're known.

And while the days were good, with each bend in the path giving rise to yet another peak or valley, it was during the night where Mulanje's true beauty was revealed. As the night came, it covered the mountain in a cloak of complete stillness. To quote another blogger with a more lyrical tongue than mine; 'If the man on the moon was whispering, you would have been able to hear him clearly.' Whilst being so high above the plain, meant you could look across, and even down on the stars. as they appeared in the night. And with the night air filled with just the sound of the popping fire, and the distant crackle of the guide's radio, I fell asleep with the light of the flames dancing over my face, and the smell of cedar in air.

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