We do not seem to take good care of our national assets, sorry to say. I recently visited Nyika National Park in Rumphi and found it troubling that some locals seemed not to know how to get there. We asked for directions from the staff of a filling station. As it turned out, all but one were unable to give us the directions.
What made it necessary for us to seek directions was that there was not any signpost about the park at Rumphi Boma, or anywhere along the route (except at the entrance to the park). If local travellers can hardly find their way to Nyika, it is anybody’s guess how a foreigner wanting to visit the tourist gem would fare.
And yet we want this park, and others, to be heavily patronised by foreign visitors to boost our tourism revenue.
I would humbly request the incoming government to put Nyika and other tourist centres on its priority list of things needing urgent attention. Some construction work is underway on part of the route to Nyika, to have it paved. If I am not wrong, the paved road is meant to connect Rumphi to Hewe.
A good part of the road is still unpaved. It is only 52 kilometres from Rumphi to Nyika National Park entrance, but it takes more than an hour to drive there because of the unpaved section of the road.
From the entrance to Chelinda Camp, the sole accommodation facility in the Park, it is another 60 kilometres, but because of the condition of the road, it takes two hours to get there. Thankfully, there is an airstrip in the park, but this would only cater for affluent tourists—those able to charter small aircraft from Mzuzu or Lilongwe.
The backpacker tourist would travel to Nyika by road. It is such tourists that would comprise the majority of the fun-seekers that we must cater for. It is imperative, therefore, that we seriously consider paving the entire 112-kilometre route from Rumphi Boma to Chelinda Camp, and provide adequate signage to guide the visitors.
Several years ago, I wrote about the Chongoni Rock Paintings in Dedza, which are another national asset. Chongoni Rock Paintings comprise the highest concentration of rock paintings in Central Africa. The area hosting the painting sites, 127 in all, has been adopted by Unesco as a world heritage.
According to a number of scholars that have studied our rock paintings, they (the paintings) can be classified into two categories—the earlier ones painted using red pigment by the Akafula inhabitants, and those by the Chewa settlers, which were depicted in white pigment.
Whereas the red paintings depict basic designs, the white ones show designs of animal forms (referred to as zoomorphic designs by the experts) as well as designs of human forms (referred to as anthropomorphic designs). Not surprising, many of these designs depict gulewamkulu characters (the great mystical dance of the Chewa people). Chinamwali (girls’initiation ceremony) is also a favourite theme.
This national assset could also generate much income from tourism if the government decided to work on improving access to the sites. Many of the travellers on the M1 hardly notice that they are passing in the vicinity of such a great asset between Dedza town and Linthipe 3, because there is not any elaborate signage to announce the national treasure to the road user.
Another place of interest which has been neglected is Kaphirintiwa at Dzalanyama in Lilongwe district. According to the Chewa creation myth, when God first created man and animals, they descended from heaven and landed on Kaphirintiwa when rock was still molten. They, therefore, left their footmarks on the rock, which has since solidified but the footmarks are still visible. This site can surely be developed into a tourist site and can attract heavy patronage.
We need to search within our local resources to develop the sites I have discussed in this article, and others. Let government do what it can, or should do and let others also come in to give a hand. I have in mind organisations such as the Chewa Foundation, who understandbly would be financially challenged to initiate such mammoth projects, but can write proposals to seek funding from well-wishers and, in so doing, help government in its quest to develop our national sites to some acceptable level.
Individuals, too, may do whatever they can to contribute to this national cause. Malawi is our country and we should be proud of it.