Mulanje: Elephant's Head, Thuchila
Elephant's head Lauch Site near Thuchila Hut, Mulanje Massiv.
Elefant's Head is a nice protruding ridge from the Thuchila Plateau with a rounded mound mostly covered in grass and offering launches in 3 directions, giving maximum flexibility with the wind direction.
The launch site is about 30min walk from the Thuchila Hut on the path down to "Otto's". There are really 3 sites, all covered in varying degrees of lumpy grass. The sites slop roughly north, west and south. All sites can be launched without a breeze, as long as you are comfortable with running fast in lumpy grass! The ground drops away quickly on all sides. The site can be difficult to launch from in strong winds or no wind, depending on experience level. Usually there is a thermal breeze coming from the bottom giving a nice launch opportunity. In case if a strong wind the northern launch may have less wind, as it is lower and somewhat protected - but be ready for poissible gust or rotor!
Elephant's head is close to Thuchila Hut on the western side of the Mulanje Mountain. The site is best accessed via the Elephants head path (about 3h, but steep) from Thuchila Estate (former Otto's) or from Tinyade Estate (5-6h via Thuchila Hut not so steep, but longer). The best starting point for the site is Thuchila Estate (log cabins at the end of the road, what used to be known as Otto's). You can drive all the way up there with a suitable vehicle, giving you a 1h head start. If you start at the estate main entrance this will add about 1h to your walk.
The best landing area is one of the fields or roads on Thuchila Estate. Keep clear of the 33kV power line crossing one of the fields! Land on one of the roads, if the fields are planted - don't damage the crops. Be ready for a bunch of kids welcoming you on landing. Don't give them sweets, money, pens or anything else as they will get excited.
With a breeze or wind there can be some nice updroughts on launch, which can be used to soar near the launch site and even enable a top landing given the necessary skills.
After launch there was quite some serious updaft allowing some extensive ridge soaring. It is normally easily possible to reach the estate in any weather conditions, but be careful not to lose too much height at the start fo the flight while over the forest.
The site is fairly accessible and offers a nice first choice for a flight off Mulanje Mountain. With a reasonable level of fitness, this can be done as a half day tour - thougth be ready for the weather to change or encounter unfavorable wind conditions, which may necessitate a delay or even an overnight at the hut. Bring some emergency food and overnight equipment, just in case. It is a 2-3h walk back down!
|Landing||Thuchila Estate 5km away, 750m Elevation|