3 days before the run, I was out with half a dozen of the tour guides to do the marking of the routes. We had started on a really narrow trail when we noticed behind us some smoke coming from one of the legal logging areas.
Foolishly, we thought (I thought) that the guys working there would sort it out – I have worked in Malawi for 7 years and still I thought this…
Anyway, by the time, we were in position to do anything, it had become much bigger – we contacted the Forestry Department and we rushed to the scene. All the tour guides have had training in fighting/controlling fires so I left them to run up to the fire and sat back and watched as the flames spread with the wind.
It was incredibly windy and instead of helping, the loggers were actually running away to a safer distance and then watching, as if this was the greatest show on earth!!
I felt so totally powerless and terrified for the safety of the guys, but deep down, I knew that they knew what they were doing.
The fire raged for what seemed hours, it probably was hours and hundreds of hectares of newly planted and young pine were either killed or severely damaged.
The thought that we could have reached it in time was not worth entertaining.
Being told by passers-by that this was Malawi, shaking their heads as if this was unavoidable gnawed at my insides – I couldn’t help barking back that it didn’t have to be this way, that they should take pride in their country instead of throwing it away so casually. I was incensed!!
And I thought again: if we can make people realise that these fires are not only damaging to the ecosystem, but also a threat to their future livelihoods, maybe soon, people will listen…