Malape Pillars: A Gem Hidden Within Machinga


I have always heard of pillars in a shape of a castle that are in Machinga, I always used to see pictures and would be awestruck. But not once did the pictures prepare me for the beauty I would see once my eyes set on the pillars. I fell in love. I saw the Malape Pillars.

Sunday, 24th of November, the Paulendo Adventures team set off from Chichiri Shopping Mall at 9:45am for Machinga. A total of 30 people divided in 4 cars, all of us anticipating to see the Chikala Pillars. In the car I was in were 5 people, a peaceful silence with some late 1990s R’n’B playing. What I love about the drive was being able to see the Zomba city and its beautiful scenery that always has me craving to stay and settle there. The weather was beautiful, hot but cloudy which left the Zomba Mountain looking exceptionally beautiful.

A Brief History of Malape History

Zomba Mountain

Beautiful Zomba Mountain

It took us a total of an hour and thirty minutes to get to Malape. Before getting to the pillars. What intrigued me were the people. Some sat outside enjoying their basins full of mangoes (which I assumed was lunch for them), with the kids waving frantically at the cars that were passing them. It was a warm welcome to the village.

The cars finally packed, and we all came out, the anticipation higher than before. I was prepared for a small hike before we got to the pillars. But 10 minutes of walking from where we had packed and there they were. Standing confidently tall like the pillars of heaven were the Chikala Pillars.

I have never been so awestruck in my life, I have never fallen in love so fast like I did when I set my eyes on my scenery.

A few pictures I was able to capture, forgive their quality

In true sense, they are not Chikala Pillars, their real name is Malape Pillars, this is as we were told by the chief of the village. However, they are known to people as Chikala Pillars because they are nestled within the Chikala Hills of Machinga, a beautiful mountain that covers the pillars from plain sight. Chikala Hills is known for its use by the military, who use it for training etc. But to the locals, they refute the pillars being known as Chikala Pillars, but as their actual nameMalape Pillars.

From the explanation of the chief, the pillars were formed from sandstorms that use to hit the area a long long time ago. After they were formed, locals then got familiar with them because of the heavy presence of the spirits that lingered. The existence of the spirits meant that no one would go to the pillars without performing a sacrifice, but even then, only old people (makolo) were allowed to go. He explained that at this time, the room-looking like carves would hold at least 20 people inside them.

Unfortunately, people started cutting down the trees, thus leaving the pillars vulnerable to different weather conditions. With heavy rains, some of the pillars would fall and dissolve. It was fascinating to hear that at one point, there was a pillar which had a cross on top which made the Roman Catholic church hold some of their Eucharistic ceremonies there. And at some point, another pillar had a moon shape which also attracted the Islamic religion there.

Also read: Hiking Michiru Mountain

As they stand, the pillars only have a few trees that are countable. He explained that although initiatives have been made to plant trees around the areas, trees have not been able to survive. He suggested that maybe planting trees from similar to those around the area would have a better survival rate.

One thing for sure is, if no care is made to preserve the history of the pillars, they will not be there for long. Some time in the future, it will be a bare ground to which people like me will fish out pictures and say “at some point, this land used to hold some castle like pillars.”

Back to the story…..

You know how they say, “Go to a new place, meet the people, see the beauty and enjoy their culture,” I must say, bunch of us did exactly that.

Yesterday, as a way of enjoying the culture, I tried a shot of Kachasu, do not judge! To be frank, that is the most amazing spirit I have tried in my life. When you throw it to the back of the throat, you quickly smell the charcoal which in a sense adds to the taste. I must say, if Malawi Gin smelled like that, I would probably drink it often.

We left the village satisfied, you could tell by the smiles on everyone’s face. We travelled back with a heavy rain hitting the cars, flavoured with DJ Thunder and Lightning (I hate lightning).

It leaves one to marvel at the beauty of the country. The Malape Pillars are not known like the beautiful Lake Malawi or Mulanje Mountain, or the game reserves we have. But this is a beauty we should focus on as well, one whose history should be told with pride and narrated fully.

Current Fantasy

It would be amazing to go there with a group of friends, have a bonfire, play some games while enjoying some wine or a cold beer under the stars. It is such a serene and calm place that would easily uplift the soul and calm the mind. Also a good place to be naughty, hide in one of the rooms…… Let me stop myself there.

Anyway, you can watch the full clip of my adventure here…..

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