Tag Archives: mount Kasungu

Climbing Mount Kasungu: Challenging but Worth It

By Kimberly Gregory

A view from above

A view from above

On Sunday we climbed Mount Kasungu. This was a very challenging experience. I usually consider myself as being someone who is pretty in shape therefore I figured that it would be a fairly easy activity however, I was wrong. We started by walking approximately 5km to get to Mount Kasungu. As we were walking towards it, I was thinking to myself “wow, that mountain is looking bigger and bigger every minute”. I was panicking a little bit but I thought to myself, “if everyone else can do it, so can I”. Once we arrived in front of Mount Kasungu we got introduced to our theme song for the trip, “Personality”. We danced and laughed; this surely calmed me down, temporarily at least. Then we started climbing.

The first 10 minutes were not so bad but then it started getting steeper and steeper.  After about 20 minutes of intense climbing, I needed to sit down to take a break. I felt dizzy and out of breath. I was very thankful that I was with a very caring group of people who were more than willing to take breaks once in a while and who were also very encouraging. To be honest, I think that this is what kept me going because it would be a lie to say that there wasn’t a few times when I thought, “maybe I should just go back down”.

This activity was not only challenging physically but also mentally. Every step I took, I watched where I put my feet to make sure that I was not stepping on any bugs or even worse, poisonous spiders or snakes. I would also take a few seconds to choose which rock I would step on and to determine whether or not it was stable enough to support my weight. I came extremely close to slipping and falling down many times. The only thing that saved me was being able to grasp on to the sturdy branches around me, as I was about to hit the ground. For these reasons, I would say that it was as much a physical workout as a mental one. (I thought that the way back down from the mountain would be easier however, it was also quite challenging. Luckily, one of the Malawian people held my hand for the steeper parts, which prevented me from falling.)

The view from the top of the mountain was absolutely breath taking. It made all the hard work worth it. I was happy that we had the opportunity to stay up there and enjoy the view for about a half an hour. We took many pictures, shared snacks, screamed and danced. All in all, it was a lot of fun. I even got the opportunity to see a family of monkeys. They were absolutely adorable and even though I have seen monkeys in real life before, it never seizes to amaze me to see them in their natural habitat.

I felt very accomplished when I finally arrived at the bottom of the mountain. Now, as we walk past Mount Kusungu everyday, I tell myself with pride, “I climbed that mountain”.

Walking, Climbing, Flying

By Annabelle Lafrechoux

Up on top

Up on top

On this Friday, we were invited to visit the market in the nearest town, Kasungu. We started the five kilometers walk thinking that it wouldn’t be that bad. Even though it wasn’t the hardest thing, it did take us over an hour to arrive at our destination. It was funny to see our guides slowing down their pace to fit ours. During this long walk, I spoke with one of our co-learners, Francis. I asked questions about pretty much everything (if you know me you can easily see Francis bombarded with questions). At some point he started inquiring about Canada. Trying to answer his questions, I realized that I could only offer superficial answers since I needed to generalize to keep my answers simple and because I realized that my knowledge about Canada is somewhat lacking.

Arriving at our destination, we explored the market which sells a lot of food produce, fabric, second hand clothing and much more. It was really interesting to see how the market was organized and what kind of items were on sale. While contemplating the walk back, I must admit that most of us were dreading it. Luckily we learned that our caravan was waiting for us at a nearby restaurant. It really made me think about how walking is not really our main transportation mode. We do walk everyday but the most of us don’t walk on long distances and that for the ones who do, it is more of a choice rather than a necessity.

On the following day, there was a second physical activity in store for us. We climbed Mount Kasungu. The ascension was hard, sweaty and breath taking. The mountain was quite steep and the altitude change could really be felt. Even the best of us had some difficulty going up. It took over an hour and a half to finally reach the top. The view was incredible, we could see for miles away in all directions. There was a moment of euphoria, of pride for having succeeded and reached the summit. There were butterflies chasing after each other, a nice breeze and a warm sun. After a while, we needed to contemplate the descent. Some were excited by it and some were fearful. To be honest, I’m not sure what I was feeling. I was scared of the difficulty but excited to try. It turned out to be less cardio but harder on the muscles. I enjoyed it, concentrated on the rocks and the rhythm. The angle of the mountain would go from forty five degrees to at least sixty degrees.  It was a really nice experience that I will remember for the rest of my life. It might seem exaggerated to some, but for someone like me who doesn’t go out and hike this was an achievement which I am proud of and that no one can take away from me.

Tionana so (see you later in Chichewa)

It’s the Climb

By Rebecca Clement

Making our way down - my moment of redemption

Making our way down – my moment of redemption

On the 1st of the month we climbed Mount. Kasungu.  I almost didn’t make it to the top.  I was under the impression that half of the group was going to turn around two-thirds of the way up when we would stop on a plateau for lunch.  Half way up the mountain I decided I would not be able to continue and declared I would be making my way down with the others.  My initial plan was to make it to the top but I was “lied to” about the difficulty of the climb by one of the men in the village.  This man turned out to be one of our guides up the mountain.  What he had told us was that the climb was not steep at all.  It turned out that it was extremely steep and extremely rigorous since it was not a simple incline but rough terrain all the way up.  We had to pick our way up like a bunch of mountain goats.  The whole way up, the other stragglers and myself would joke about never listening to our guide again, so even when he would say he couldn’t sing we would laugh and claim that he probably has the voice of an angel. In the end, I made it to the top but only because I was coerced by Dr. Stonebanks.  I’m glad I made it however and for the support I received.  The climb down was hard too but not as hard as the way up.  At least that time I was able to breath.  The muscles in my legs took a beating but they could handle it.

Non-verbal games with kids at the bottom of the mountain

Non-verbal games at the bottom of the mountain

As we waited at the bottom of the mountain for the others to complete their climb down, we were joined by children from a nearby village.  At first they were really shy and I think we were too tired to engage them so they just watched us from a distance.  Then their group went from five children to about twenty and it was hard to let them just stand there so we started speaking with them.  We exchanged a few words in Chichewa (pretty much the only ones we knew- Muli Bwanji: How are you, Ndili Bwino kya inu: I’m well and you, Dzina Lako Dani: What is your name, and Dzina Langa Dine: My name is) and it quickly became clear that they did not speak English.  We then started playing non-verbal games with them.  It was my first interaction with children outside of the Makupo village and through it, it became obvious to me how the poverty in Malawi has such a huge effect on the people, especially the children.

You Cannot Turn On a Nonexistent Light Switch

By Amy Simpson

View from the top of Mount Kasungu

View from the top of Mount Kasungu

On the fourth day we climbed to the top of Mount Kasungu. It proved to be much more difficult than I had anticipated. I had imagined that we were going to zigzag up the mountain but no, it was pretty much a straight and steep climb all the way. I am quite proud of myself for having made it all the way to the top because to be honest I was considering quitting at the half way point. I knew though that had I quit I would have been extremely disappointed in myself. The effort in the end was well worth it because the view from the top was spectacular. On the way up we even saw monkeys for the first time, amazing!

Then on the fifth day, Sunday, part of the group decided to attend a church service. That morning I debated whether or not I wanted to go and decided against it in the end. I didn’t feel comfortable going to church here just as I would not feel comfortable attending a church service back home, a matter of personal beliefs. Instead I spoke with Lukas, a young man who is finishing his high school and will be studying at a teachers college next year. Something got lost in translation along our first conversation the day before because I thought I was going to be helping him with his English but it turns out he wanted to help me out with my Chichewa. So in the end it turns out we helped each other with vocabulary in both languages.

On another note, every time I enter my room after the sun has gone down and it is dark, I always look to the right on the wall and feel for a light switch. There is no electricity here, I know that, and yet each time I go to turn on the nonexistent light switch.

One of the most enjoyable times of the day is at night when I go to brush my teeth. It is not the feeling of freshly brushed teeth that make this a wonderful time but the night sky under which I complete this task. At night I go out with a cup of water and my toothbrush (toothpaste included) and as I brush my teeth I look up at the night sky. I have never seen so many stars in the sky. I do not think that the beauty of the starry sky will ever diminish no matter how many times I see it here.

Day 3,4 and 5: Getting to know Makupo

By Louisa Niedermann


Top of Mount Kasungu

Top of Mount Kasungu

Day 3:

Every morning I wake up to the roosters crowing and I think how can I be in Africa. I am finally here and exploring a country I have only read about or seen on TV. This is an experience of learning and each day I am learning so many new things I had never even thought I would discover.

I think culture shock hit me for the first time today as we did a tour of the neighboring villages. As we were walking I was really excited to explore the other villages and see how they differ from Makupo. As we passed the villages the children ran to see us, they were covered with dirt.  The children seem excited to see these new people, who are they? What are they doing here? I saw the sadness in the eyes of the children and their stares hit me at the heart. All I wanted to do was cry, my eyes filled with tears, my body felt sad. It melted my heart seeing all these children, they look happy to see us but deep inside they were sad. After this feeling I was scared not knowing how my emotions were going to react to the rest of the trip; not knowing how this culture I was living in and learning about was going to hit me. I was scared of the unknown.

We continued our tour of the surrounding area by visiting the secondary school, elementary school and the school for the blind. As we toured all the schools, I could hear the faint sound of singing. When we got to the school for the blind we were graciously invited in to the classroom to watch the students while they sang. It was such a memorable moment to watch these students sing. The passion in the voices of the students was unbelievable; they put so much power into their voices. Some students even made their own noises, which made the song their own.  This was an experience I was so fortunate to see.

Day 4:

Each day we get welcomed by the women of the village “Mwadzuka Bwanji” (how did you sleep) and we have learned to respond with “Nwadzuka Bwino, kaya inu?.” (I slept well, and you?) Always after speaking one should say “Zikomo” which means thank you. I am slowly learning the language of Chichewa however, it is difficult and I do make mistakes. The women just laugh and the sounds of them laughing is an indescribable sound.

Today was a hot day and was the day we were going to walk into the town of Kasungu. The sun was beating hard on us even though it was early in the morning.  It took around and hour and a half.  I was thinking how hard this walk was, even though it was a straight walk, it was all-open, there was no shade so the sun beat straight down on us. I couldn’t imagine doing this walk twice or even three times a week.  I am starting to realize that their life is not about cars or transportation but a lot about walking.  Although I knew that most people walked everywhere, once you live it, it is a different experience.

Once we got to town, we carefully followed our leaders in order to not get lost. We explored the market and the leaders took us through the maze of the market, taking us through little pathways and through the different elements of the market. Without our leaders we would have never found our way through the different sections. I really enjoyed going to the market and can’t wait to go back to buy some fabric for Chichangis (skirts) and to make bags.

Day 5:

Today we climbed Mount Kasungu. We were going to walk there, which is around 12 km however, we decided not to which was a good decision. We hopped on the bus at 9 am. I was really excited to start the climb. As we got closer the knot in my stomach got bigger and so did the mountain.  We got out of the bus and started the climb. Only minutes after we started my breath got heavier and I felt the first drip of sweat on my forehead. The climb was a lot more difficult that I thought it was going to be. My body was aching after only a few knee bends and pulling on sticks with my arms; my body was so out of shape. I wasn’t the only one; everyone was struggling and we took breaks every so often. All the villagers who came with us, basically ran up the mountain; they made it seem so easy. We were all so out of breath and sweat was pouring off of us. The villagers just watched us; at times they were probably laughing at how much we were struggling. We finally reached the top and I could not believe it. The view was something I had never seen before and I knew I would have to cherish it because I will not see anything like it again. Climbing down was a lot easier at first, but then it got steeper. As it got steeper, I felt my legs giving out and I thought I was going to collapse at any moment. The heat was getting to my head and with every step my head was pounding; I just wanted to get to the bottom. I was really thirsty but I was out of water, my mind was spinning, I needed this climb to be over. We had finally made it to the bottom and all of us collapsed on the ground.  The pounding in my head got worse as I sat but local children were so fascinated by all of us “Azungu” (white person). As the children approached my mind wandered and I felt better.