As a kid I often dreamed of going on safari, seeing the ‘big five’, and experiencing a land so drastically different from my own. For a very long time, Africa has been high atop my long (and growing) list of places I’d like to visit; however, it always seemed like a longshot that I’d ever make it. That’s why, when a friend, Tom Pickering, told me he would be serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi for two years I jumped at the chance to visit. So Constance and I are here now, to see some of the landscapes, people, and wildlife of southern Africa. Since internet access is so spotty, the blog posts will be added several at a time, but I will try to limit individual posts to the events of a single day, to make it easier to follow. I hope that you will enjoy following us on our first African adventure! --- Quand j’étais petit, je rêvais de faire un safari, de voir les grands mammifères terrestres et de découvrir un monde drastiquement différent du mien. L’Afrique a longtemps occupée une des premières positions de ma longue (et toujours grandissante) liste de région du monde que je voudrais visiter, sans vraiment croire que j’aurais véritablement l’occasion d’y aller un jour. C’est pourquoi quand un de mes amis, Tom Pickering, m’a appris qu’il partait pour deux ans au Malawi pour faire du bénévolat pour le Peace Corps, j’ai sauté sur l’occasion. C’est ici, au Malawi, que Constance et moi nous trouvons présentement afin de découvrir les paysages, les gens et la faune du sud de l’Afrique. Étantdonné que j’ai accèsà internet de manière très sporadique, plusieurs entrées de blogs seront ajoutées en même temps. Je vais tout de même faire un effort pour raconter les anecdotes dans un ordre chronologique pour faciliter la lecture. J’espère que vous aimerez suivre les péripéties de notre première aventure africaine!

Climbing Mt. Chipata

Sunday, July 17 2011

This morning we had an early breakfast and head out to the nearby trading post, a cluster of mud and brick huts near Tom’s village, to meet Nico, a park guard at Nkhotakota Game Reserve. Nico agreed to accompany us to the top of Chipata peak, a mountain of about 1400 meters in the southwest of the park. Nico would guide us to the top, and would carry a machine gun as protection from any animals or poachers that might cause us trouble. Crosby, a local villager, and member of the village Natural Resources Committee with whom Tom works closely, also came along. Together, we hiked down a small dirt track, past several villages, until we arrived at the border of the park. We entered, and immediately the landscape turned from dusty, open cropland, to some of the most beautiful habitat I’ve seen so far in Africa. This was miombo woodland, an open forest type dominated by short trees with broad, flat crowns, rather reminiscent of Acacia. We walked uphill, up a narrow path, spotting scat from reedbuck, porcupine, and civet. We also stopped for a few minutes to observe a troop of baboons going about their business. The miombo was absolutely beautiful, and we walked through it for a couple of hours until reaching an open field, at which point the hike grew steeper. After crossing the field, we arrived at the edge of a tropical forest that capped the top of Chipata. It was amazing how quickly the habitat transformed – in literally one step we had entered a different world entirely. The climate instantly grew cool, and the rainforest trees almost completely blocked the sunlight. Above our heads, a troop of blue monkeys foraged in the treetops. After a delightful hour-long hike through this tiny patch of rainforest, we arrived at the peak of Chipata, and we enjoyed an incredible view of the surrounding landscape, including Nkhotakota Game Reserve and adjacent villages and farmland.

This evening, the chief’s wife, Catherine, showed Constance and I how to make nsima. While we seem to have gotten the main idea, she almost certainly made it look easy, and it remains to be seen how well our first batch will turn out when we return home…

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