Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bunda! Bunda! Bunda!

So I went hiking for the first time since being in Malawi. Kinda sad that it’s taken this long but I’m pretty sure I made up for it when I not only hiked up and down this incredibly steep, what seemed greater than 90 degree angle, rocks, rocks and more rocks mountain once…..but three times. Crazy you say? I would have to agree.
A dear friend of mine Lisa who is a fabulous teacher and inspiration is training with her good friend Jessica to hike Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain (volcano) in Africa, and the tallest free standing mountain in the world. It will be a seven day hike with five days up and two days down. The amount of hiking ranges from three hours to a whopping nineteen hour hike where they not only summit but descend on the same day. Kili is an inactive volcano in the north-eastern part of Tanzania and is 15,092 feet in height. While hiking Kili Lisa and friends will pass through five different ranges of ecological zones and once reaching the top of the mountain they will freeze their butts off at a wonderful 0 to -15 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point not only their hind quarters will be frozen but also their water supply and any kind of chocolate candy bar they have brought to celebrate their victory of reaching the top. They will summit and in their frozenness, admire and awe at God’s amazing creation of Africa…. hopefully there are no clouds, because they will be above them, and then descend back down the mountain with hopes to make it with both knees still attached to the rest of their body. I’m starting to think I should have signed up for this trip. So in great preparation for their wonderful adventure they’ve decided to train. Training includes swimming in the morning, running after school, and hiking ridiculously steep mountains not only once but three times.
Although I will not be joining them on their expedition I have stumbled into their training program from time to time after training with the volleyball boys or for moral support in swimming with Lisa in the mornings. This last training, a hike up Bunda, was a doozey!! Hiking is always fun for me as I love the mountains. Our family has been blessed to have a cabin that we ventured up to each summer to spend time together in God’s beautiful creation. My most favorite memories have happened up at Dinky, climbing rocks with my dad, going on hikes to random swimming holes, and jumping into freakishly freezing water so that my mom could justify not taking a bath!! She liked to rough it in the mountains and was never a stinky person anyway. We all did the same. So when Lisa said she was going on a hike I thought, “Oh how fun, I’d love to go!” So I invited myself and Saturday morning packed my bag, our lunch of P&J’s, and we were off.
Bunda. Bunda, pronounced boo-n-da. Is a little mountain right outside of town only about 20 minutes away. Like most of the “mountains” close to Lilongwe, it’s out in the middle of nowhere and is like a lone earth tumor just sticking out of the ground with no other hills or mountains attached to it. The thing is stinkin steep and majority of it is granite, or the African form of granite, and in the direction of straight up. The most interesting part about Bunda is what you find at the top. Lots of praying people. Bunda is known for its praying people that gather into different groups to pray, sing, maybe speak in tongues…. It’s a little different feel when you finally reach the top of a mountain just looking forward to the serenity and quiet majestic view of the valley below to have the sound of loud shouting prayers, singing, and repetitive noises. It makes me wonder why and what…mostly what. But Jesus would pray on the top of mountains, and I personally find mountains to be one of my favorite places to meet with God, so I guess it makes sense.
The hike itself was wonderfully exhausting but beautiful as well. On arrival, once out of the car, there were a group of children and family members of the neighboring small village who came to greet us and ask to watch the car. That happens a lot when going to the market, or I guess in this case Bunda Mountain. In order to make money the kids say, “Madam. Watchman?” Which means, will you pay me to keep your car safe? These little boys were cute and instead of saying “watchman?” They said “bodyguard?” I had to smile when I pictured them bodyguarding our car, but later I realized what they meant. As we started up the steep incline they walked with us….sometimes they even skipped or ran, which seemed rather cruel as the three of us were huffing and puffing with our backpacks and hiking gear. But these little boys were barefoot and carefree, just content as to be walking along guiding us up the right paths and every now and then asking us in Chichewa if we were tired! They were cute. They were also our flower coordinators as at one point one of the boys, Gift, picked us some beautiful purple flowers and smiled proudly to give them to us. I accepted mine with a big ZIKOMO (thank you) and pushed the stem into my ponytail. As we continued our hike we were adorned with more and more flowers, each one of them going into my ponytail, and with a big ZIKOMO. By the time we had hiked up and down the mountain twice I had an entire bouquet of purple and orange beautiful flowers in my hair and a very stylish flower sword, which I later found could also be worn as a flower belt. Let’s just say we were the prettiest three hikers on the mountain and I now have an idea for a cute hairstyle the day prince charming decides to ride up on his horse and marry me.
By the end of the day we were pooped. Hurting knees and slightly sunburned we decided at the end of two that if we could climb it a third time we definitely deserved some ice cream. So, on our third round we stood at the top of the mountain, one last time admiring God’s beauty. We could see the flat land of fields ready and planted for the maize, I’m sure with hopes that the rains would grow a decent crop this year. There were a few mountains that sprouted up here and there and mountain ranges on both sides in the far distance. You could see smoke stacks from people burning and past the group of trees there were little village settlements all scattered throughout the valley. It was truly beautiful and it was a clear day which made it even more spectacular. Eventually the clouds started to loom, and the thunder could be heard in the distance. We decided it was time to go. As we walked slowly down the hill with pain in most all parts of our bodies we were passed up by mamas barefoot and with babies on their backs, some of them practically running down the hill. I’m going to guess that they pray on the top of Bunda daily and are very used to the climb both up and down. There’s nothing like being shown up by a barefoot mama with her baby tied to her back. I was ready to climb onto one of their backs. We finally made it to the bottom tired and ready for ice cream. It was a great hike.
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So after writing this email, researching a little about Kilimanjaro, hiking another mountain two days later with Lisa, and thinking, “When will I ever have this opportunity again?”….I’ve booked a plane ticket to Tanzania and in about two weeks I’ll be at the base of the largest mountain in Africa. I’m hiking Kilimanjaro! Eeeek!!! To see what I’ll be seeing and doing check these websites out: http://www.mountkilimanjaroguide.com/kilimanjaro-photos.html


Please also....UP YOUR PRAYER SUPPORT!!!!!

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