When Malawi commemorated International Mountain Day (IMD) for the first time in 2019, there were only 14 hikers. With a Covid-19 break in 2020, 137 hikers and nature enthusiasts scaled up the Zomba Mountain in this year’s event.
From 5:45am, the hikers began the trek from the Gymkhana Club and it was at 8:50am that the first group made it to Nawimbe Peak, pegged at 1 800 metres above sea level.
They went up the Potato Path, meeting women with basketfuls of peach fruit to show how important the mountain is for some households. And at other points, they saw burnt down tree stumps to show the wild bushfires that are disfiguring the mountain’s natural beauty.
However, there were plenty of interesting features such as springs and wild animals, including monkeys and birds along the way.
It was a hike that brought together hikers from different groups to raise awareness of mountains, especially in tourism going by the theme this year.
Chairperson for the hike, Austin Mndolo from the Malawi Defence Force (MDF) mountain battalion, was elated at the turn out. He said this is evidence that hiking and the love for mountains is growing.
“The increase is just great. We thank all the companies and organisations that partnered with us in the event. Certainly next year we will be either in the North or Centre,” said Mndolo.
2021 IMD publicist Kondwani Chamwala said the hike was not only for nature appreciation, but also a time to spread messages against depletion of the environment in hills and mountains.
“We were raising awareness against acts that deplete the environment. Mountains are the source of our water, not to mention other biodiversity. We need to protect them,” said Chamwala.
Director of forestry Clement Chilima said mountains are great forestry reserves which should be protected. “Mountains are important for socio-economic development. The commemoration has shown that there is so much goodwill to protect mountains,” he added.