Day 1: Lujeri Shed 3 to Minunu Hut (4-5 hours)
Day 2: Minunu Hut to Chagaru peak and Chinzama Hut (6 hours)
Day 3: Chinzama Hut to Chinzama peak and Madzeka Hut (6 hours)
Day 4: Madzeka Hut via Mbiya pools to Lujeri Shed 3 (3-4 hours)The steep path from Madzeka to Shed 3 involves a series of ladders. If you are more sure of foot going up these rather than down, then you may wish to do the loop in reverse; this would be an equally good option, though you may not feel as tempted to dip in the Mbiya Pools at the start of the walk.
Shed 3 is situated in the midst of tea fields near the mouth of the Ruo Gorge. Minunu Hut – the target for Day 1 – is high up the Ruo valley. Peer to the right of the gorge to see another high waterfall alongside the returning path from Madzeka Hut.
Follow the road from Shed 3 to the hydro-electric station (built in the 1930s and still powering Lujeri’s operations). The path gently winds up the west side of the valley, through woodland and with occasional glimpses of the Ruo river. Cross a first tributary after about 3 km (this can become an impassable torrent immediately after heavy rains), and a second after a further 1 km. From here, it is a long steep climb up on sometimes loose soil. The top rewards you with a fantastic view of the Ruo pouring off the plateau. Minunu Hut is another 1 km along relatively gentle ground, about 4-5 hours from the hydro-electric station.
Day 2: From Minunu Hut, set off up the Ruo valley towards Chinzama Hut. After some 2 km, go left at the junction towards Thuchila; then at the next junction - 1 km further - turn right along the firebreak. Take this for about 2 km to a non-descript turn off: from here, the route to Chagaru crosses grassland and rock ramps, following red paint markings.
Chagaru is a long serrated ridge, with the main summit on the right hand end. The summit is accessed from the boulder-strewn gully to its left. At the point where boulders totally bar the gully, enter the cave and take a precarious step across the gap, thus emerging on the other side. An alternative is to wriggle on your back up through the narrow (but short) tunnel. Continue up the gully to the col and bear right; a groove in the rocks will take you to the summit (2,660m).
To descend, return down the gully and move down the rock ramps. Returning to Chinzama can be done by returning to the main path via the firebreak, or using the more direct route of hunters’ trails.
Day 3: Chinzama peak (2,663 m) is a rounded protuberance with rock slabs leading up on every side. From Chinzama Hut the path crosses a stream and goes up to the head of the valley. Continue on the firebreak for 1 km or so, before turning right and crossing grass to the rock slabs. Ascend the slabs and cross a deep vegetated gully with a couple of tricky steps. Continue up the steep slabs to reach the summit; a jumble of boulders on a broad flat slab. There is a delicate manoeuvre to sit atop the highest boulder.
Either return the same route down to the firebreak, or take a direct cut towards the path for Madzeka Hut. Upon reaching the firebreak it is a further 2 hours of gentle plateau walking to arrive at Madzeka Hut. This hut is conveniently located next to fresh pools in the Madzeka river (sometimes called the Little Ruo).Day 4: The route down from Madzeka is a short and steep 3 hours. After quickly crossing a tributary and moving over slanting slabs (slippery when wet), the gradient steepens dramatically. A series of wooden ladders are placed to help negotiate the cliff-hugging path. A large rocky outcrop offers glorious views looking across to the
Madzeka waterfall. Continue steeply down to the fields of the smallholder farmers on the periphery of the estate.
A short detour can be taken from the main path to the sacred Mbiya Pools – a series of bowl-shaped hollows fed by mini waterfalls. The path returns through Ndaonetsa village where there is a footbridge crossing the Ruo into the Lujeri Estate and the nearby Shed 3.
Dzole (2,715m. 4-5 hours. Difficulty, 3) is a direct scramble up impressive slabs from Minunu Hut. This peak would be an alternative to Chagaru on Day 2.Manene peak (2,715m, 5-6 hours. Difficulty 3) is reached from Madzeka Hut (see full Route Description).
Getting there and away
The Lujeri guides and porters are based at Shed 3, deep inside the Lujeri Tea Estate. The maze of red dirt roads winding through the tea fields can be difficult to navigate, but it is a well known location if you get off track, so don’t hesitate to ask!
Turn off the M2 at the signpost for Lujeri Head Office and stay on this road all the way to the numerous buildings of the Estate Office. Bear left past the diesel pumps and after about 1 km turn right over the Lujeri river. Take the left at the entrance to the Tea Factory and take a hairpin left again at the next junction. Keeping straight (following the power lines coming down from the hydro-electric station), Shed 3 is some 3-4 km ahead on the right.