The plateau is a convenient distance from Blantyre for a day trip but feels like another world. Myles is always reminded of Jurassic Park as we turn a corner and see the massif with its sheer walls launching itself out of the surrounding plain, with mountain peaks reaching to 2,000 metres. Even without the dinosaurs, after two weeks of non-stop work and a heavy preaching schedule for Myles, we were ready Monday 22nd for a short break from Blantyre.
This was our third trip to the plateau (see our first here) and this time we were determined to reach the far corner and see Chingwe’s Hole which is billed as the highlight of any visit. With our friendly guide, Bonface, our trusty little x-trail struggled along some of the roughest and rockiest roads it has been on; proving a tribute to Japanese engineering. In the end, however, it was the encroaching bush on either side of the ever narrowing road that made us stop after we gained a score of deep new scratches down both sides of the impractical metallic-blue paintwork.
The resulting hike, although long and hot, was beautiful – with that deep silence you can almost hear. Unfortunately, Chingwe’s Hole was a bit of a disappointment. A vertical shaft maybe 10 ft across, it is supposed to reach a depth of 1500 feet before turning and draining out the side of the cliff edge of the plateau. However, with the shaft entrance clogged with bush it was difficult to tell whether the depth was fact or myth.
The guide books say that people used to throw dead lepers down the hole, presumably as a rudimentary form of public health; while people afflicted with madness were supposedly thrown off the neighbouring cliff – it was unclear whether this was before or after death! Either way, a younger Myles would have loved to abseil down the hole in search of bones to test the story.
However, if Chingwe’s Hole wasn’t as spectacular as it was billed, the view from that neighbouring cliff, out over the sweeping maize-green plain towards Blantyre was more spectacular than billed and well worth the trek. And, just maybe, worth those painful scratches in the bodywork!