Porter’s Race Weekend


“The route is rocky and hazardous and the paths are small. But this is Malawi’s only extreme sport, runners cover such a tiring distance of 25km in less than three hours.” The Nyasa Times was right but a little lenient on the timing; the winner ended up finishing the race in about 2 hours and 7 minutes. Not a bad time for summiting and descending down Malawi’s highest peak if you ask me.IMG_5019

As we arrived as this legendary event, crowds were surrounding the streets; there was a buzz of people chatting, standing around, and shopping from the local artisans. As we drove by taking everything in, we decided to drop off our tents and bags while we let the runners do their thing.

View from where we were staying

View from where we were staying

After setting up, we decided to head down the mountain to enjoy the festivities. Overwhelmed by the amount of foreigners and people in general, I walked around as a zombie – not talking but absorbing everything going on. There was a barbecue area, a stage for concerts, and a small art market; this was the place to be, but not for too long. News spread quickly that the first finisher was approaching.

We lined the path with necks strained trying to peak around the next person for a glimpse of the runners. With people everywhere and so much excitement, the police were clearing the trail for the runners. As I turned to watch the corralling, I heard a boisterous cheer from behind me. My head shot around with eyes fixed waiting for the runner to come around the bend. There he was. He had a steady gate and wasn’t even breaking a sweat; this man was a machine. As he turned to the winners circle, kids followed by the masses just trying to get a glimpse of the winner finish.

The Final Stretch

The Final Stretch

As we were settling down from the first runner, we heard more cheers ahead. The second runner was already here, and he brought more joy along the way. With a smile from ear to ear, he was overwhelmed with all of the support. All the way to the finish line, he was getting the crowd louder by giving everyone he passed high fives.

Second Place

Second Place

As the runners kept flowing in, the crowd dispersed and we decided to relocate. Following some friends of Joanne and Andrew, we settled on a rock in the middle of a stream. It was the perfect vantage point between the water, the mountain, and the runner. Also, it allowed for some rock hopping to kill time between the runners.

Although still maintaing a loud cheer as the runners past, we allowed ourselves to sink into the surroundings. Basking in the sun allowed for the perfect blend of feeling the rays on your body but never getting too hot. Well at least for most people. Some people decided that sitting around wasn’t sufficient for them, and they decided to take a dip in the tempting pool while they waited.

After the last runner was seen coming down the mountain, our neighbors on the rock decided it was time to celebrate. Champagne was popped and glasses poured. Unbeknownst to me, the celebration wasn’t for the race ending, but the runner was one of their friends. There was a quick pitstop from the runner for a mid-race champagne toast before she trucked on to the finish.

After this small celebration, people began to disperse. Some went looking for food while others decided to call it a day and take a short midday nap. However, we weren’t ready to pack it in quite yet; the party continued down to the concert venue.

With people scattered throughout, the performers had some potential of making things into a party. However, it seemed that most people were wiped out from the race and felt like taking it easy. Following the ways of the masses, we decided to take our recess at the cabin.

The Crowd and Concert

The Crowd and Concert

While things were settling down at the campsite with an old fashion board game and conversation, I had a gut feeling that I needed to go back; the music was flowing through my veins and calling me back to the concert. And honestly, if I heard what was about to happen next I’m not sure I would have believed as I trekked back down the hill.

As I turned the corner to the concert area, I saw dancing. It wasn’t the type of dancing that you sometimes see at festivals or the dancing that you see in the States. There was no grinding, no swing, or people steeling the limelight. There was just a feeling; the people were connected to the music and moving with it without a care for appearances. It was a bunch of grown men dancing around an area in the way that your 5-year-old self danced: no sense of rhythm, the beat, or how to move your body. You just knew their was music and you were moving and jumping around. You can’t think, and you can’t overanalyze. You have to let your mind be free and just go wild.

That’s exactly what happened.

The memory of the next couple hours are a blur of smiles, sweating, and bouncing around the dance floor like a madman. While in America I would have been seen as crazy or the guy that can’t dance to save his life, here I was the life of the party. Pictures were being taken with me left and right, people were trying to buy me things, and everything was being as welcoming as possible.

In the middle of one of the photos, I heard Chichewa being sprayed like rapid-fire around me. The men closed in, and the next thing I knew, I was in the air. They carried me throughout the dance floor and began to pass me off. I was crowd surfing in an area of strangers and loving every minute of it. Putting my fists into the air and cheering, my new friends started cheering with me.

After finally being let down, the dancing didn’t skip a beat. We were not going to stop till the music stopped. Then it did. Well the music didn’t stop, but the singer stopped singing. The people around me slowed down their dancing and turned me around. The singer was pointing at me. “Come. Come up here,” he kept calling out to me.

Looking around at the people around me, they kept nudging me forward. “Wait is he pointing at me,” I thought. “Wait? Really? Me?” Without having a chance to think twice, the group around me started shoving me forward. “Well I guess this is happening. Might as well embrace it.”

As soon as I leaped onto the stage, the crowd went wild; the first foreigner was on stage. As I gazed out, I couldn’t believe what was happening. “This isn’t real life,” kept spinning through my head.

“Dance. Dance,” the singer called out to me as I snapped back to reality. The next couple of minutes were a compilation of two grown men dancing on stage at each other. While he kept singing, I continued as his backup dancer. As the crowd kept heating up, the singer decided to give me another surprise. He shoved the microphone into my hand and told me some phrase to chant to the audience. Admittedly I had no idea what we were saying as we were singing back and forth to each other and the audience. Meanwhile the crowd was going wild as ever, and the music laid the foundation for some chanting. Back and forth the crowd and I went for the next couple of moments.

Singing on Stage

Singing on Stage

As the music wound down and the crowd gave one last grand cheer, I took my bow and hopped down off the stage. The energy was buzzing all around (actually, it may have just been my ears). Anyways as I went back into the crowd, locals swarmed me with congratulations and a desire to dance again. Of course there was no refusing.

Meanwhile the friends that I came with came up to me. They had come down from the relaxation and saw me on stage. The excitement was in the air and I couldn’t contain myself. I’m not sure if I immediately hugged them on account that I was so sweaty, but there was definitely a cheer of excitement.

We continued laughing, talking, and joking as the night continued and the energy tapered to a blissful next day.

However instead of immediately going home the next morning, we decided to make a pitstop at a waterfall that Joanne and Andrew knew. A little bit off the beaten path, we trekked up the hill to a hidden oasis.

Serenity had be reached with crystal blue water; however, it was broken with the bone-chilling temperature. After looking at the water a little while, we decided to take the plunge. The next couple hours consisted of swimming, cliff diving, and an absurd amount of sun bathing to regain our warmth.

As we packed up the bags and headed on home I couldn’t help reflecting on what an unexpected weekend it had been. From waterfalls to crowd surfing, the weekend was filled with excitement around every corner. While next year this event will be hard to top, Andrew and I made a pack to run in the race next year. So, watch out Porter’s Race 2016. Next year we’re coming to win. Well… Maybe I should start training first…

If you’re interested in more details about the Porter’s Race, you can check it out in this Nyasa Times article.


Labor Day Celebrations

Labor Day or Dia dos trabalhadores” is celebrated on 1 May every year. Everything was cancelled: school, work, and banks. If this was a big enough day to have everything canceled it must have a celebration to go along with it; no big holiday goes without a celebration in Mozambique. I was not disappointed.

After getting ready for the day, I grabbed my camera and headed to the only main street in town. Disappointment spread across my fixed smile as I looked upon an empty road. Before I turned back around, a float drove by me and restored my hope in the day. My power walk kicked into sixth gear as I followed the float. As we came around the bend, I couldn’t believe it. Cars, people, and floats all lined up along the road for a big celebration.IMG_2762

Intricate floats lined the road. Some simple designs decorated with smiling faces and others giving a sneak peak into the daily life of the profession.

After looking at all the floats I had a clear favorite. What’s yours?

Beginning of the parade

Beginning of the parade

HospitalThe Hospital – Here presenting its range of capabilities, the hospital is showing patient care and a different surgery on the other side of the drape. The hospital sits on top of the main hill in Milange, and is designed as a rural hospital. It has some of the necessary equipment, but the hospital in Blantyre is the closest one that many would want to go to.

ChurchIgreja Reformada de Moçambique – The church has many projects throughout the community. Many of the missionaries from the community are here through this church. Freek, man with blond hair and glasses, is a doctor at the local hospital. Kim, to the right, partners with the hospital for community and health outreach projects. Niehan and Carmen, waving on the left, are in charge of a literacy project aimed at rural schools.


Fire Engine – This was the first time the firemen were seen in town, and they were showing off their new toy. Not entirely sure how useful they will be considering houses will never burn or burn down long before they could arrive. Hopefully this truck will never have to actually be put into use.

Teaching a class

Teaching a class

Primary school – One of the primary schools in town. During the parade, they were giving a mock lesson equipped with a desks, students, a teacher, and a blackboard (not shown in the picture). If only this fully represented a classroom in Mozambique.

RoadSurveyors – These people help out with the road construction. Their presence in town is hard to come by; however, you can see many of them along the road that is currently being worked on.

Salon2The Salon – Everyone likes to look good here in Mozambique, so if you are feeling like a new hairdo, this is the place to go.

Demonstrating handpump

Demonstrating handpump

The Center for Public Works – Demonstrating a hand pump in the back of a truck, they advocate for water security and availability in Milange.

ConstructionRoad Construction Company – Consisting of half of the parade by showing off their large machinery, the road construction company is supposed to be paving a road to the nearest large city in Mozambique. Funded by the EU and run by the Portuguese, this company has led to a large increase in the economy in Milange.

Alcohol3Olivera Commercial – One of the many places owned by Mr. Olivera, this store is in charge of the liquor for the town. This float was one of the more lively on the parade. Maybe they had a little pre-parade celebration.

Vacination2The Agriculture School – They teach farming and agriculture techniques: growing vegetables and other types of produce. They seem to have a new program related to animal vaccinations. We are still unsure what ended up happening to the dog on the float.


ESPANOR – One of the local NGOs that specializes in adult and child education. They have a preschool, university, and a variety of programs including English lessons, agriculture techniques, IT programming, and clothes designing. This is one of the organizations I help out with.

BuildersHardware Store – Representing one of the biggest hardware stores in town. The store imports many of its materials and has the largest selection of goods for the local handyman.


The Tailor – Not entirely sure where all of these tailors are concentrated, but Milange has a variety of tailors that will do anything from fix a ripped patch of clothing to creating an entirely new shirt out of capalana. The tailors are convenient if you happen to lose some weight over your stay in Mozambique.

The Crowd

The Crowd

After the parade, everyone piled into the sports complex. Here we saw plenty of dancing, music, presentations, and medical consultations. The hospital didn’t fully take a day off by offering a blood donation center at the edge of the party. There was a constant feeling of joy in the air, and all were there to have a good time.