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Likhubula Falls can rightly be called as the icing on the cake, when the cake is the three day trek to the summit of Mulanje Mountains - Mount Sapitwa. After a long day of difficult trek down on the never-ending mountain trail, the sight, smell and feel of its cold waters is an experience in itself. Read the story below to know how I discovered the place :)
My male pride was already swollen after we reached the Summit the previous afternoon, and I think I must have slept with a smile on my face despite all my body parts aching! The pride was soon to be busted…
Just like the previous day, we got up before the breaking of dawn and started before there was light. This meant getting up when it was rather cold, but it also meant that we would see the sunrise while we walked – which is quite something up in the mountains. So far I had resisted asking David at the start of the day what would be the trek like, but somehow we were now good friends (having discussed women, sex, HIV and fascination with female body hair) and so I was more frank with him. He said that it was along trek today as we would be walking all the way down to the base of the mountains, but the trek would primarily be either flat or downward, except the beginning. I was happy with this!
It was great weather when we started and I happily finished the trek-up right after we started from the hut. I was happy and was eagerly looking forward to the trek down, and it came soon after. It was amazing how soon we reached the spot, which we were struggling to reach just the previous day. The most tiring bit of the trek that I hated just the previous day was right there and I was extremely pleased to be walking down, rather than up. Surprisingly it took quite sometime for me to even walk down that patch, the knees hurt a little but it was great.
This is when I saw the huge mountain though which our trail was going and I killed my ego once again in the day and asked David how can we go down further if that giant mountain was in our way? He simply shrugged and mentioned that we will climb it first and then go down. I wanted to remind him about our conversation in the morning, but knew it was pointless. The trek had to be done! And it was really something, extremely beautiful, and rather precarious at the same time. I was afraid of slipping at all times, and barely managed to keep balance.
After about half an hour of trek up we reached the top of the mountain, and were rewarded by one of the most beautiful views so far! We could see far away on all sides, and could even see a valley of beautiful wild mountain flowers. This is where we stopped for breakfast – the last for the trek and munched on all the goodies. I had bought way too many chocolates and shared them all with David, while he shared the fried peanuts. We finished the boiled eggs, though the peanut butter and bread was still left. I wished I had bought some nutella also J
Post breakfast, the trek changed into more of a hike on an almost plateau. The vegetation changed and things became more monotonous. This is the part of the trek where I could witness the controversy surrounding the conservation work here. None of us were tired and so talked a lot, he told me all about the tree felling, Japanese MNCs and so on. I do not remember the details now, but I also understand he had just one side of the story, though his story was extremely compelling.
Now it was mainly downhill, but also very slippery. My shoes had serve me well on the rocks, but on sliding mud they were not all that great. I had never really been scared except this trek from this point onwards. I could see a steep fall into the river below even if I missed one step, and I was fairly close at doing that on multiple occasions. It still amazes me how I didn’t slip even once! I took help from the plants on the sides, and often they also came off fairly easily. Crossing the river on the rocks and then climbing up on just rocks was scary again, though this was the last time I was scared or felt challenged. I was actually really scared of slipping on the last ascent, and diligently followed David’s footsteps to save myself.
Once we were on top, the river became our constant companion! We crossed it twice, but always remained with it. This was the last bit of the trek, but it was quite long. We trekked like this for close to three hours, walking in the forest and walking down all the time. At this time it also started drizzling, which also made walking more difficult – we slipped more often! I also had to pack my camera and keep it inside. We kept walking, and I was soon looking forward to the paradise that we were about to reach soon.
The Paradise I am talking was the kind of place you read about in books, or see on adventure channels. It’s a huge waterfall in the middle of the forest where the water is cold, the pond is deep and solitude is not a luxury. Even before we reached there, I saw a part of it through the trees – I was both scared and excited to dive into it! Scared because it small pond after the waterfall is believed to be very deep, and excited because I love water! A few people had drowned here recently and so David crosschecked with me multiple times before he was comfortable about me jumping in. I didn’t tell him that I was scared myself, but what the hell!
I was already wearing my swimming trunks and so took off the rest of the clothing and jumped in. David was afraid of the cold water (it was very cold) so stayed out. This was also a perfect place for skinny-dipping, and if I had known him better I would have totally gone in butt naked! Anyway, seeing me swimming across the pond, David also couldn’t resist and decided to join me in the fun! It was quite cold, and apart from frozen balls, now my blood was also freezing, and so I came out in after about twenty minutes of swim. It was amazing how absolutely no one came here while we were at the pool…to me it was swimming in heaven’s lake.
We came out dried ourselves and trekked down to the base. After a customary visit to the forest department office, we were on the mud road that was to take us back to InfoMulanje. We waited for a jeep or van for a while, and then decided to take a bike-taxi – a human powered bicycle taxi! It was a fun ride through the tea plantations and small villages. We came across two street festivals, but it was already raining so we couldn’t stop at all. After about half an hour (though it seemed like eternity) we were back to where we started!
It was good to be amongst people, though I could have easily spent a few more days up in the mountains also. I invited David for lunch, and after a couple of beers and pizza he said good-bye and I headed back to Blantyre.
The return trip to Blantyre in the mini-bus was again quite nice and I had many interesting conversations with my co-passengers though none of them speak much English. It was a little funny for me as they saw me as a foreigner and had so many questions about my life, about India.
I was too tired for emotions, but I was just happy for the last three days.