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Published: February 12th 2019
We drove past the impressive tea plantations of Thyolo on our way to the town of Mulanje which sits a the foot of the mountain with the same name. As we got closer the mountain became more and more impressive. Then it disappeared into the cloud and we never saw it again!
Mulanje itself is nothing much to write home about. It is really just two ramshackle settlements divided by a huge tea plantation. At the southern end we looked at a couple of accommodation options before deciding to give Limbani Lodge a go for about $9 for the night. It was pretty basic and tatty, but that's what you expect for the price. Imagine what the options we turned down were like. If you have ever watched the horror film Hostel,
you probably can. The lodge isn't actually where it appears on Google Maps. To find it you would have to look for Kokotowa Executive Lodge, and there was nothing executive about it, believe us! A few minutes walk back down the hill (and take a torch - it's very dark!) is the Mulanje Motel where, despite not wanting one of their rooms, we ate and it was surprisingly
good. We even went back there for breakfast.
At the northern end of town are understocked supermarkets and the wonderful Mulanje Arts and Crafts Cafe.
The latter demonstrates that it is possible to have a quality product in a very Malawian place with good food and good drinks. The view towards Mount Mulanje from the terrace was nice too, and the arts and crafts on display are fabulous. There is even a sculpture in the garden of a frog playing the piano. That's the kind of place it is!
There's nothing really to do in Mulanje so we tried to drive around the base of the mountain. At first it was a dirt road under construction and with the sky getting ever darker we were afraid we might have had to turn back or risk being stuck in a quagmire. Fortunately the road works soon gave way to a decent road surface and we set off on our way catching occasional glimpses of the mountains as the clouds parted from time to time. We drove all the way round to Phalombe then tried a side road to find an old fort we had read about. The road deteriorated so much that we
eventually gave up. Maybe with a jeep we could have gone a bit further, but definitely not with a saloon car. One pretty serious accident on this trip is enough, thank you very much.
The weather wasn't an awful lot better in the morning so we packed up and headed off to the Zomba Plateau. Just as we were leaving a man turned up at our room asking if we wanted a tour guide. A bit late for that, but even if he had found us the previous evening we had already decided that we were not going up the mountain in this weather.
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