The Hanging Bridge

Evidently, this is the most interesting photo I’ve ever taken:

Kandewe Hanging Bridge

To date, I have posted 241 Malawi photos to Flickr. The photo above just received the highest “interestingness” ranking of all of them. Since other people seem to enjoy it so much, I’ve decided to share this photo here too, along with more about this very interesting bridge in a remote part of Northern Malawi.

Zuwulufu Suspension Bridge

Before the Kandewe Hanging Bridge was built, people risked their lives to cross this river by canoe. An enterprising man from the village devised this bridge. Since then, everyone from businessmen to schoolchildren will cross on this bridge. Crossing it made my heart race, but it’s definitely better than braving the rapids in a dugout canoe!

The bridge was first built in 1904, so obviously none of the original materials remain. One story says that a hippo tried to cross this bridge once, and broke through!

The bridge crosses the South Rukuru River, one of many rivers running down from the Nyika Plateau in the background.

The bridge crosses the South Rukuru River, one of many rivers running down from the magnificent Nyika Plateau in the background.

High water on the South Rukuru River. Man running across bridge

LEFT: High water on the South Rukuru River. As you can see on Google Maps, there are some rocks visible in this part of the river during the dry season.

RIGHT: This guy was amused by my fascination with the bridge. “Did you know I can run across?” And so he could! He only put his hand down once.

The bridge uses clumps of trees as support pylons on both ends. During this rainy season, the river extends to the very end of the bridge.

The bridge uses clumps of trees as support pylons on both ends. As you see, during this rainy season, the river extends to the very end of the bridge.

The bridge is constructed from bamboo running the length, to provide strength, and roots running the width, to provide flexibility.

The bridge is constructed from bamboo running the length, to provide strength, and roots running the width, to provide flexibility.

Be careful where you step. My foot, and the holes, for scale.

Be careful where you step. There were a lot of holes as big as my foot!

Some well-meaning donor provided two steel cables and some cement pillars to reinforce the bridge. You can see one slack cable on the bottom right. It seemed to me that they weren't doing much anymore.

Some well-meaning donor provided two steel cables and some cement pillars to reinforce the bridge. It seemed to me that they weren’t doing much anymore.

These men are repairing the bridge with cord made from bark.

Sometimes, the old ways are best. These men are maintaining the bridge with cord made from bark.

It's not just for adventurers. People of all ages cross this bridge every day.

It’s not just for Indiana Jones. People of all ages cross this bridge every day.

The South Rukuru River was in flood stage as we went. It had recently washed away a concrete bridge about 50 km downstream, but the old bamboo bridge flexed and remained.

The South Rukuru River was in flood stage as we went. It had recently washed away a concrete bridge about 50 km downstream, but the old bamboo bridge flexed and remained (there’s a sermon illustration in there somewhere…)

I watched this guy with a bike approaching, and asked if I could take his photo. To him, having someone take his picture was much more unusual than crossing a bamboo bridge with a bike over his shoulder.

I watched this guy with a bike approaching, and asked if I could take his photo. To him, having someone take his picture was unusual, but crossing a bamboo bridge with a bike over his shoulder was totally normal.

The hardest part for this guy seemed to be the steep descent at the beginning.

I learned a few tricks from watching him. The hardest part seemed to be the steep descent at the beginning.

There are no handrails on the bridge. Most people employ the "lean over and grab the side" technique. This is what I used. :)

There are no handrails on the bridge. Most people employ the “lean over and grab the side” technique. This is what I used. :)

Children running and playing on the bridge. I didn't try this technique for crossing. :)

These kids enjoyed running and playing on the bridge. I didn’t try this technique for crossing. :)

The water was so high, I used a pole to get my camera out past the trees. These kids were fascinated to see my antics!

The water was so high, I used a pole to get my camera out past the trees. The kids were fascinated to see my antics!

Want to see more? Every week, I try to pick five Malawi photos from my archives and post them to Flickr. You can view 240 slightly less interesting photos here. :)