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Getting There & Away

From the main north–south road between Karonga and Mzuzu, the road to Livingstonia (known as the Gorode) turns off at Chitimba, forcing its way up the escarpment. This twisting, ulcerated road is a test for the most steely drivers: a white-knuckle experience of 20 switchbacks and hairpins, with a boulder-strewn, mainly unpaved surface – at times single track – with the mountain abysmally close to you.

Don't attempt this in anything but a 4WD and never in rain – it's just not worth the risk, as your nerves will be frayed even in dry conditions. You can get a place in a shared pickup truck, which may involve a long wait for the vehicle to fill with passengers, for MK2000 (plus MK1000 per big backpack). The journey takes around 45 minutes, and pickups leave from the small station at the junction of the main M1 road and the Gorode.

Be warned that accidents are not uncommon in the shared pickups, sometimes because the cab is so crammed with passengers that the driver lacks sufficient space to turn the wheel properly. A safer option is to privately hire a vehicle; organise this through your accommodation or call Thomas. Thomas lives in Livingstonia, so you may want to arrange the transfer in advance of your arrival in Chitimba. Alternatively, Willie at Hakuna Matata in Chitimba offers day trips in his bakkie (pickup) to Livingstonia for up to 10 people (US$10 per person, minimum charge US$60) – an easy and recommended option.

You can tackle the 15km trip up the mountain on foot, an ascent of just under 1000m that takes around three hours. Park your car, leave your bags and stock up on iced water at Hakuna Matata. There have been isolated incidents of muggings on the Gorode, so check on the latest situation and hire a guide if you're by yourself or setting off late. Inquire at Hakuna Matata, phone your accommodation or ask at the M1–Gorode junction for guide Stanley Zinyengo Gondwe, who can also arrange porters.

Coming from the south, another way to reach Livingstonia is to drive up the dirt road from Rumphi, for which you’ll need a 4WD – that said, it's an easy, dusty and very pretty drive. You can also join this 78km route about halfway along by turning off the M1 at Phwezi. During the rainy season the dust turns to mud and even 4WDs may not make it.