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A Majestic Excursion to Mount Gorongosa (Part II)

Cascatas Murombodzi 2_resizedBy DJMuala

Thursday, June 5, 2008


And Murombodzi Falls?
You’ll need an adventurous spirit if you want to reach the Falls. Climbing up and down small hills from the campsite at Nhancuco until the tourist site of the Murombodzi Falls. We walked. We received a few phone calls in the areas where there was Mcel reception. We confirmed and arranged our coming plans with the help of Mcel. Then we were left with only the march to our destination. Rebecca had to shift her mindset and take off one of the tops she was wearing.

There used to be transportation in these areas. So Greg, who knew the situation and was already mentally prepared, moved to the front, dragging all of us behind him. When I asked him how he felt climbing up and down, he quickly responded that he felt a little big (crudely, fat), and that he needed the exercise.

Our colleague David took lead of the march a few times. Then he swapped with Greg, who took his place. Vasco, using his motivation to battle the climb, would only say that he was burning off the sugar from the morning coffee he had before we left Chitengo.

Everyone knew the way except for Rebecca. Even Carlitos, our journalist, remembered his last trip to the Falls. He even recalled that last time the path was choked with grass. Very different from this time, when three people could walk shoulder to shoulder without touching the grass alongside the path.

Restrooms made from local materials are situated all along the path to the Falls. It’s necessary to stop and consider what’s behind and gather energy for what’s ahead. Even businesses have holidays, meetings, balance sheets. Our trip also had these moments.

We crossed a river. Anyone who had ever crossed that river before would notice the difference in crossing it now. Our colleagues had found time to neatly assemble a natural stone bridge, placing one stone on top of the other without blocking the natural course of the water! How surprising! How helpful! Positive human action! Learning to live with a problem without destroying the adversary – the Murombodzi river! How novel! 

A natural chill in the air signals the entrance to the Falls. It was almost 10:34. Carlitos was in the rear, filming. We had arrived. Some people sat down. David and I were no longer tired. We saw the first, most accessible part of the Falls and we set our sights on the rocks.

We continued up towards the harder-to-reach part. Everything here brings awe to the human spirit. Only each individual can express for themselves the state of their soul in front of this magnificent natural landscape – the big Falls. The falls over the Murombodzi River. For me this historic place provoked so much that there’s not time or space to express it here. Maybe using self-contained expressions like:

• Constant tumble of cool water
• Spray rising from the impact of water on rocks
• Coolness sprinkled over a sizeable area by the falling water
• A row of natural reservoirs that unpretentiously collect water and distribute it
• A nearby natural pool for swimming
• Rocks splayed out in an evocative and impressive way
• Clear water
• Different
• Fascinating
• Startling
• Mysterious
• Moving
• Botherere’s House
• Enviable
• Etc…


Murombodzi Falls may soon cease to exist if trees are cleared from the Mountain.

And because we couldn’t take it with us, we left this natural wonder there. For anyone who likes natural beauty, your soul will be satisfied here.

En route to Murombodzi village and close to the Falls, there stands a church that piques one’s curiosity. The Bethany Church. Standing until today with only five pillars. Three at the end with the altar and the pastor. Two here on the end where the congregation sits. The benches are each made of two stakes stuck on the far edges, with another plank across that rests on the open V shape of the end stakes. And here it is – two long columns of benches inside five tall pillars in place of walls, as simple as it is natural. We saw Bethany Church on the tip of the rise that leads to the populated area of Murombodzi/Kwangueresi village.

We stopped at the church and the commentary promptly started. Very impressive. Vasco highlighted how this spectacle draws the spirit’s attention – he said even Peggy Rockefeller (daughter of one of the riches families in the United States of America) wasn’t immune to the charms of this church. Rockefeller venerated the church by choosing it as the site for a traditional ceremony that she took part in.  

Rebecca would also like to see the Church’s believers at worship.

We continued our walk listening to Vasco tell stories of adventures from colonial times. For example, the Makombe people chose to raise cattle on the Mountain. And they were very successful.

Murombodzi/Kwangueresi Village
Bertus and his helicopter already had an audience almost as large as the one we had in Nhancuco. Children and adults (men and women) crowded together to greet the helicopter and to enjoy the fruits of human technology. That which is built by a handful of men has meaning for all mankind. Yes. It’s quite necessary yet also uncommon to have the courage to stop and appreciate the advances of our species. Notice the wide divergence in experience here – I’ve seen it in my day-to-day life.

Helicopter after landing in Murombodzi Village

For example, people who very rarely see these inventions (such as helicopters, airplanes, computers, various telephones, machines to produce water, televisions, etc…), people who have never tried to make use of these or other miraculous machines of human technology, know very well how to appreciate them. Too bad for those who lose a taste for the simplicity of life. Pity for those who didn’t invent the machines, but who have lost the perceptiveness to contemplate them. 

On the other hand, are people who know very well how to appreciate natural beauty (waterfalls, forests, grottos, stars, diverse animal and plant species, even the way of life of other peoples, etc…)

Is curiosity also relative? And what role do our habits play in influencing our curiosity?
We arrived. Five, just as we’d left from Nhancuco. And five, just as we left the Falls. We greeted everyone. Greeting is universal. In every culture people greet and are greeted. And it’s become natural for everyone to want to greet upon meeting someone for the first time.

Maybe the really prideful, the self-important, think that they have the right to always be greeted by others. In that village, at that moment, there wasn’t anyone who would wait to be greeted. Everyone threw themselves without hesitation into warm greetings, everyone with another one, which was us.

I engaged in a quick conversation with Seriano Bage, a man from the village. I wanted to satisfy my curiosity. To know about the resident community. A bit about its history, traditions, habits, customs, various interpretations of life. It was already known that many of them worshiped God at the Pentecostal Church. But there was a lack of what’s always lacking – time. After some of our group finished taking pictures and getting some video, they already headed back in the direction of the helicopter. The helicopter can land in any flat place. I was obliged to say good-bye to those who would stay behind, the locals. Until another day, pretty Murombodzi/Kwangueresi Village. Another day I’ll satisfy more of my curiosity. We’ll build a trusting friendship. When we know each other a bit more and share more of our lives together. Also our difficulties. So we’ll wait for another day!

And so I ran after the others and got into the machine in front of Carlitos who had changed places with Rebecca Peterson.

And so ended the prettiest phase of our trip.

The unsavory part of the trip: The Gorongosa tropical forest simply begs for a peace accord that can no longer wait!

It all started when we flew over the Mountain. Our smiles, me and Carlitos, disappeared in no time. We tried on the harshness. It was what everyone who had already flown over the Mountain had insisted on telling us. The Mountain is being destroyed. It’s true.

Hundred-year-old trees are destroyed to make room for a farm plot that will last a maximum of two years…

And you only get full proof of this when you fly over it. That’s when you see the new areas that are being cleared. The areas where the trees are being cut down. The spaces where you can still see some of the felled trees, just like the many other bald spaces once were. I’m talking about a visibly critical situation that leads me to think we don’t act just because we don’t fully grasp the danger that this destruction represents. Or because we don’t worry much about the future generations who will grow up in this beautiful Gorongosa.

The trees and the water
The percentage of water in organisms, machines, and the earth, only exists in books. Selfish books that contain within them the knowledge of the quantity of existing water, its origin, its life cycle, its multiple daily uses for both inanimates and animates. The necessity of initiating more water production to sustain the explosion of lives and technologies, and to counteract the explosion of expanding deserts, is hidden behind the creation of more boreholes, wells and other points where water comes up from underground. All this while we strive to destroy the last natural trees – the tree churches of our pantheistic forefathers in Gorongosa.

The stark loss of trees, in various quantities, and in many places along and around the Mountain was at odds with the warm feelings that had built up since Chitengo and strengthened at the Falls.

Although Greg had already alluded to it when he forgot to give us a view of the elephants on this trip. This is an opportunity that I’ve always waited for. Because I’ve never been lucky enough to see a live elephant. I’ve seen them thousands of times in books, photographs and pictures, in the Khodzuè-Cheringoma Grottos, etc. And I can’t wait to have the pleasure of seeing a live elephant. But Greg was right. He understood that the moment was gone.

We entering a critical phase in terms of continuing to maintain balance in our ecosystem. In the ecosystem of our Gorongosa Park. The Park that belongs to all of us. The Park that we’re always proud of. This Park really is ours and it needs more water from the Mountain than from the floods. We who have lived here since time immemorial and who, because of hunger and the weakening sun in this area, have begun to leave on our own.

This region hasn’t produced good agricultural yields in quite some time – it hasn’t produced much cotton and the animals have been killed by sun and disease. The region brings us only disease and death. We left this land little by little for other regions outside of the tando (encampment). The colonial authorities exacerbated our departure with their at times inhuman policy of expelling us from the tando, to areas outside. They did this in order to create from the tando what has now fallen into our hands. Today it’s called Gorongosa National Park.

We have often seen this Park as the enemy. In other times it deprived us of our land, meat, skins, ivory, etc., that we ate, sold, traded for food, etc., in order to protect these goods. And someone turned them into common property for all of the citizens of Gorongosa, of Sofala Province, of Mozambique, of the whole world. It’s a Park for all of the concerned friends and unwitting enemies of nature. Of the nature that gave birth to us. And we need to take care of it like a mother would. Of the nature that we give birth to. And we should take care of it as our creation, life-giving force, creativity.

Limited resources that someone, acting together in the past, managed to form into assets so that we can all stand proud and face the rest of the world. Except that now we’re no longer proud to talk amongst ourselves about the Park. From inside our Gorongosa. We treat it as an enemy that deprived us of the greatest payback, and that now wants to deprive us once again of the Mountain. Just like during colonial times, even today we still don’t understand the advantage of protecting rare species. Rare because in other days we wiped them out with our attitudes without even realizing it. We only welcome the Park when we have an ulterior motive!

Time is unjust to Gorongosa. It vanishes with its intelligence. But humans don’t vanish. They’re always here. They act, and are active in action. That is, they act based on the fleeting bits of intelligence left by time. They act with innate limitations. And they die as a victim of the same limitations before time can get here. Asked what they were doing in Gorongosa, the right answer evades them, leaving only confusion like the trees when they are fractured. They acted as individualists and they were dragged along by stormy time. They weren’t able to distinguish the essential from the additional, the urgent from the important, and they died like this, before bringing together theory and practice in their Gorongosa.
In the Tsiquir area everything was already becoming clear. The kind of agriculture that was always practiced in these attractive regions, which are rich in natural landscapes and varied sights, and which were handed over according to blind luck that epitomizes them today. Hectares and hectares waiting anxiously to see the green of the trees. Hectares and hectares tired of the brownish blonde of the desert. And some browns are already deserted because they no longer produce. They have been through menopause and productive impotence.

Spaces, streams, marshes and swamps were gradually reduced to little Kalaharis. The rivers and streams that used to make up thousands of arteries, veins and capillaries that carried the pure blood of the heart (the Mountain) to the regional brain (the Park’s current area) and to the rest of the body of Gorongosa gradually left us. Only a little finger of that framework remains today. And it’s this finger that watches Gorongosa in agony, and it’s fainting head.

In place of them. In place of the thousands and thousands of waterways that used to proliferate, circulating and irrigating all of dear Gorongosa, there are thousands and thousands of trucks, tracks, routes, streets, roads, bridges, everything to help the omnipresent rulers of the region – humans!

This war is locally called “mathemas” and attacks have intensified since 1992. The victims are here for all to see.

Mathemas will only abate if we listen to our consciousness, heed the call to action and act together without going after the guilty.

The time has arrived for us to sit and reflect on the past. In the present. We need to analyze what we mean by this word development that we’re always heralding. Analyze what we mean by sustainable development. And if we don’t stop destroying, maybe we can destroy straight forward and create a balanced ecology along the sides!

The procedural death of many veins, capillaries and glands that conserved the necessary humidity (from the Mountain) in order to ensure an abundance of diverse life in the region below the Mountain is already irreparably bankrupt.

The impartiality of time clearly displays the stages from the living Gorongosa to the Gorongosa whose ecosystem has a weakening ecology.

We just have to let loose our consciousness and our sensitivity.

This may seem opinionated to some. Exaggerated to others. Protecting my job to still others. Scouting for work to others.

Nevertheless, whatever it may seem like to the extremists, whatever is may seem like to those who haven’t had the opportunity yet, whatever it may seem like to the Thomases from the Bible who wait to believe until after they’ve seen – only an acute ignorance could remain indifferent.

I doubt we’ll all have the luck to see in order to believe. If that were the case we wouldn’t have the word faith. And according to the Bible, only those who were with Thomas on the day Jesus wanted to shame the disbeliever were able to see him.

We just need to have an unfettered mind in order to analyze. Let go of the metaphors of life and indulge our curiosity a little. Walk a bit outside of the small urban centers that lull us into imprisonment. Step into the only tropical rain forest below the Zambezi River.

We can assess the pace of the tree cutting – mathemas. Then we can estimate how many years this forest will withstand the current speed of the mathemas. Mere regeneration is no longer a dependable method to make up for the injuries caused by rapid population growth. We have to think of another way to teach the good native people of Gorongosa to farm in a sustainable and rational way, if these terms aren’t too far fetched.

N (c) Jeffrey Barbee-Gorongosa Mozambique_resized 
Is it true that after once learning this type of agriculture we are then unable to change it?

From a Gorongosa that knew only a superior density and diversity of animal life. A density that wasn’t confined only to the tandos. From a Gorongosa where the Zimbabweans who arrived from far away places like Mbire and Báruè unscrupulously killed the animals and the meat that, in addition to consuming, they sold (and the ivory too) to the Arab traders stationed in the coastal zone of the Indian Ocean.

And they did this before they decided to permanently flee Zimbabwe and definitively establish themselves in the heart of Gorongosa. From where they began the destruction of the ecosystem at a laisse-faire pace that gradually, with the continually growing number of interested parties and births, we see today as Gorongosa in agony, over-populated by people who replaced the previous density of assorted irrationals.

I wanted to believe in the delusion that we, the rationals – seemingly more adaptable and endowed with powers of intelligence and intelligibility – would be capable of looking backwards, to history, to time immemorial, with eyes that could see and let us understand that our actions are an avalanche on top of the ecosystem where we have found ourselves since the past preterit tense. And without giving up on the essential challenge of survival, we could choose to learn methods that would save Gorongosa in agony from it’s current state. Gorongosa is here, there, over there, way over there –  today and now! And the destruction of the Gorongosa ecosystem effects us all.

And it’s difficult to grasp that the destruction of the nature surrounding us is keeping pace with AIDS within our own human nature. When this unmentionable death, unstoppable, entered our houses, we learned through sacrifice and hours upon hours in the production of antiretrovirals that delay our death. Lab analyses of patients with the disease loudly murmur that the virus doesn’t have a cure, but we learn to live with it and mitigate the impact of the noxious effects on our life.

The time for us to analyze the health of the Gorongosa ecosystem is pounding at our door. Together, we should resoundingly confess the type of virus it suffers from. The emaciated animals and vegetation that today characterize the once gigantic ecosystem have two principle enemies:

• The war and the fugitives who openly bet on the animals.

• The peace and social tranquility that has sworn since 1992 to eradicate the plants, the trees, the forests, the vegetation.

There have already been sixteen years of war against the forests, followed by sixteen years of war against the animals in the Gorongosa region.

Let’s consider, then, thirty-two years of wars. Either we fight against animals and when they go scarce, we sign peace accords and remain alive. Then we stir up another war against the plants and when they go scarce, we sign accords for our own defeat.

To be a philosopher about this ecosystem is to look for answers about the origins, infancy, adolescence, adult period, old age, death, and afterlife of this immemorial and memorable ecosystem.

And if we want to see what remains survive for future generations, if we want to delay the complete death of this ecosystem that, although injured, still guarantees our lives and could still guarantee tomorrow’s lives, then we must examine our conscience and study what type of antiretrovirals work against Gorongosa’s underlying infection (many have diagnosed deforestation, and the reader?).
Will we let our ecosystem just vanish? Will we live on just rocks, dust and sand in the future? Can the inorganics on their own bring us rain, oxygen, photosynthesis, life? The forest that we’re saying good-bye to is ours. And the one that’s already gone was also ours. And with it went the animals that can only live within it.

If there’s a group that once put down roots in Gorongosa, then someone yesterday put down roots in Gorongosa. And today someone else is putting down roots to begin a life here. And tomorrow another someone else will put down roots to make this ecosystem their home. All of us together are destroying what’s natural and putting in its place corn, sorghum, beans, pineapple plants, mango trees, banana trees, orange trees and any type of tree, but the change is evident, palpable. 
Gorongosa is over there where we live and work. Where we have a chance to attack and defend violence against vegetation: Gorongosa!

Some vestiges of violated vegetation: inside of the district administrative space, in the many continually more computerized offices – mission: Chitengo – the multiple modern and traditional accommodations, built on different parts of Gorongosa’s soil, the innumerable farm plots and big residential yards here and there, the streets, tracks, roads, ways, alleys that were built there yesterday, here today and over there tomorrow, including the tarimbas (local beds made with stakes stuck in the ground) and modern beds, replace and will continue to replace one or another of the various trees that always had this place as their habitat. And we have justification for this. The best always for our species. We don’t have a reason to cut down trees and more trees, with breathtaking speed, for new farm plots, residential yards, accommodations, commercial workshops, farms, etc… for these things, we don’t have the option of respecting the trees!

The sudden and giddy population growth in Gorongosa, and the need for space for the new people being born to fulfill their expansionist dreams over waning plant life will never come to an end.

Oh… be sensitive my dear and well-known rationalists. When are we going to take action to avoid the total extinction of purely natural vegetation that has for so long nourished animal life, the ecosystem?

According to the practices that we call intelligent, we can’t stay in the same farm plot. We require a nomadic existence to the detriment of the tropical forests that consequently disappear along with the animals it sheltered.

If we look for our pride in being more rational, more intelligent, more capable of making Gorongosa a better place, we simply can’t find it!

On our way back now and already inside the Park, we see an enormous burned area at the very beginning of June. Over there before the Mussicadzi River. An enormous brown plain was already visited by a vindictive, uncontrolled, early morning fire. Maybe it was started by practitioners of the art of smoking and tossing the butts. Or maybe by rat catchers. Can we get rid of the immature practitioners of mathemas?

A little while later, we landed on the continually improved landing pad at Chitengo. And we thanked Bertus for giving us an exclusive ride that brought together the sacred and the profane.

If it took sixteen years for the animals in the ecosystem to declare defeat, why is it that in sixteen years the tropical forest of the same ecosystem can’t know peace?

The answer always slips through fingers of our intellect!


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 2, 2008 10:16 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Majestosa digressão à Serra da Gorongosa (parte II).

The next post in this blog is Majestosa digressão à Serra da Gorongosa (parte I).

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