Right after the scrumptious showcase of the Street Chef, we departed Blantyre into the tea estates of Thyolo, en-route Likhubula CCAP House in Mulanje.

The scenic views on the way to Mulanje are absolutely incredible and the challenge participants were blown away by them. As we arrived in Mulanje township, we could see the mountain clearly and Kate began explaining to the team which part of the mountain they would run through. I remember the looks of concern, confusion and defeat. There was muffled chatter and bits of “erm, how tall is this mountain?” “Not to worry everyone, you see the valley over there? That’s the part you’ll be running through, as you get closer you’ll see it’s not that steep” Kate said occasionally reassuring everyone.

We all snapped some photos of the sun hiding behind this magnificent sky high rock and braced ourselves for the 30 minute bumpy ride ahead. There is a lot of road construction going on between Chitakale in Mulanje town and Likhubula Forest Reserve, so the journey was a slow and quiet one.

Once we arrived at the lodge, rooms were allocated to each participant, my colleague Inno and I did a few final checks with everyone, making sure each participant had a mosquito net, beddings and a pillow. Fast forward to a candle lit dinner due to a power outage, the participants engaged in conversation and were briefed about the first part of their triathlon: The Mulanje Porter’s Race. This is an annual race that takes place in Mulanje since it’s launch in 1996. The race was originally created for Mulanje guides and porters and has now expanded to local and international runners and athletes. During the briefing, the participants found out they would be running with local athletes that have participated in the race and that they would encourage them throughout the track. It was meant to be enjoyed and was not a competition. Sweet don’t you think?

Race day, everyone was up by 5am, breakfast consumed and geared up in Garmin vests. It was a beautiful sight. The mist was low and the air crisp. Once the starting station had been set up, we handed out numbers to each participant, did a final head count and got ready to run, well that excludes me. I was taking photos (that’s my excuse throughout the challenge). Camera men and women were lined up throughout the track, goPros were mounted on heads and the participants were off to the Likhubula valley soon as the gun was fired.

Back at the station, it was a quiet morning, we listened to a bit of music and waited nervously for every bit of communication from the rescue team situated across the entire trail. Minutes turned into hours and all we received was good news. That, however, did not mean we were comfortable. We sat and shared a good amount of chatter between the breaks of silence. Before we knew it, 4 hours had passed and the first participants were passing the final checkpoint.  

The moral support provided by spectators from the community and the participants themselves as the rest of the team descended from the hilltop was amazing. As exhausted as everyone was, they received each team member with a pat on the back, cheering and a cup full of water.

Once the entire race was over, participants headed back to their cottages to get refreshed for lunch. There were a few injuries, nothing our medic Sam couldn’t fix. He ensured everyone was treated according to their needs and everyone was happy.

Stay tuned for the next update on the Orbis Challenge.

 

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