How did I wind up in this situation… did I not plan correctly? I did things correctly. It has been 5 days and there are still no clothes. Not even a phone call telling me my bags have arrived.
As the scene unfolds… I am sitting in a shower huddled over with a bar of soap scrubbing a white t-shirt as carefully as I can to get all the dirt and ash stains out. On the right hand side of me is a bucket of boiling water that was generously made by fire… due to the fact that hot water was unavailable. How I came to this position seemed baffling to me; but I was here at the base of Mount Mulanje with only a set of clothes and some climbing shoes (thank god those made it)!
The previous days were frustrating to say the least. I had tried to get my bags from the airport; where I was told that it would not be possible because they could not find them. However; they did say that it should be, “Ok,” and that they would keep in touch and call me. I half expected to be handed a red-solo cup with a piece of string attached to it by this point. It was time for me to go. Our team only had 15 or 16 days lefts to explore three new areas and I hadn’t touched rock in a while. I was over it. Resigned to the fact that there was nothing I could do I left with Melissa and we headed the four hours to Blantyre. I was not that happy– but four hours and one speeding ticket later we managed to pull into the lodge where the rest of the team was waiting. Scott casually opens up a beer for me…
“You get your bags?”
“Yep.” damn indeed… oh well.
“What are you going to do?”
“Not sure… see what happens… and what comes…”
After being teased a little while for my incredible luck in traveling we all said good night. It was going to be a busy morning the next day so we needed to get some rest. It would be the first day on the mountain! Or well… bouldering the mountain.
As dawn approached I awoke… having not slept super-amazing due to a mosquito buzzing around my ears all night (yes I had a bug net I was just too stupid to make sure there were no bugs in it) I rose early to check my emails and see if I could figure something out about clothes; it’s not worth going into detail about how I managed to get clothing… but it is important to mention that I have amazing sponsors. They rallied and shipped me what I needed to make it through the trip and it was a hassle.
Having done all that I could do to make sure that I had some form of control over my situation I packed up my stuff and headed out with the team. We drove to our destination and promptly decided that our original plan was not going to be possible anymore. We found something better… giant blocks that were beautifully set down in perfect formation at the base. As with all exploration things are always subject to change. This was no exception.
We climbed for three or four days in this area. The exploration yielded deep water soloing boulders right outside of our rooms we were staying in; giant granite blocks that could take bolts, big walls, highballs, compression, crimps, seams, and crags that potentially could keep an intuitive mind busy for decades. We could have spent so much time in this area finding aesthetic lines; but it was time to move on and Melissa and I had a long drive back to Lilongwe to go see if my bags had arrived from Adidas yet (which they had)! So after a fond farewell to our guides we started on a long journey back to Lilongwe to get my baggage and then head back down south to Mangochi. I was feeling hopeful that I would be able to get a new change of clothes… it had been a little while since I had worn anything new.
Mel and I learned some interesting lessons about life and how different places can be as we traveled that day. A few speeding tickets later and a better appreciation for not being able to talk your way out of them dawned on us. This was the reality of where we were at. The system, no matter how confusing, will always win. This lesson was something that would apply to the rest of our trip.
Getting my clothes out of customs was a nightmare. It turns out had I not looked like I was disheveled and smelling like I had been living in one set of clothes for the last week and a half; the customs official may not have done a quick override and process my clothes very quickly. Technically it should have taken another few days, but hey I looked that pathetic. Armed with clothes and gear Melissa and I made the long drive down south to Mangochi. I was hoping that my adventure was going to mellow out a little bit; but with every step forward comes a step back. Something I never wanted to go through my head started to creep through a few hours later:
Is that the empty light? Are we seriously running out of gas? No freaking way… we are at least another hour from where we need to be in the middle of nowhere… In Africa… at NIGHT! Ugh… this is going to be a long trip…