The hot, dusty and windy town of Rumphi is located in the Northern Region of Malawi, to the south of the Nyika National Park and an hour north of Mzuzu. It is a small town, hemmed in on most sides by rocky mountains, covered in rural, sparsely populated villages, with one main road to connect the town and its people. To pass into the District of Rumphi you pass through a mountain valley and over a river with spectacularly large boulders. The River Lunyina runs down from the mountains, through the centre of the town, giving Rumphi a beautiful green glow, with fields of irrigated maize, tomatoes and tobacco sprawled either side of the river and hordes of banana, papaya and mango trees providing the town with a constant (and delicious) source of fruits. When we arrived in the town, nearly 10 weeks ago now, we were surprised to find ourselves in such a luscious oasis after driving through the sparsely vegetated land to the south.
Through the tree lined streets of Rumphi there are many people walking and cycling, always giving a wave and stopping for greeting in Chitumbuka to say good morning, noon or night. Rumphi is a very friendly town. People recognise us and call greetings by name, we’ve made friends at the restaurants and shops we frequently visit and it feels safe; as visitors we have been made to feel very welcome.
Thursdays are Market Day in Rumphi, where masses of people come from far afield to the town to sell vegetables, fruits, rice, beans and clothes. It is the clothes that bring in the people, with heaps piled everywhere of shoes, jackets, bags, jeans and tops. The clothes are supplied to sellers by charities from countries such as the USA and the Netherlands. Shopping at the market has become a weekly treat, with everyone topping up their wardrobes and buying gifts to take home.
Between two mountains on the far side of town another river runs down to join the Lunyina. This river provides the town with its plentiful water source. The river here is shallow and rocky, lined either side by overhanging trees and crossed by small wooden bridges. Here there are monkeys that sit in the trees and run along the banks. Many afternoons have been spent by the river, with hot feet being paddled in the cool stream in the shade of banana and guava trees.
In our free time plenty of exploring has been done. We’ve walked the hills above the town, to be rewarded with spectacular views over the valley below. A safari lodge, a half hour walk out of town, has whiled away several Saturday mornings and when other teams have visited Rumphi, we have been proud to show off our town.
Living in Rumphi has been a delight, it is a beautiful little town, which we have come to feel part of and will be missed wholeheartedly.
Written by ICS volunteer Anna Guise