Unsung heroes of the mountains

Just got back from the long ‘Heroes’ holiday. I was surprised to find out my uncle was so busy working he actuall

Pure, clean and natural spring water

Pure, clean and natural spring water

y missed the fact that the past four days were the holiday to commemorate the heroes that suffered, spilled blood and died for the struggle to free Zimbabwe from the clutches of colonialists. Even more-so because this period coincided with the service chiefs finally swallowing their pride and saluting the Prime Minister, Morgan Tsvangirayi. That in principle sounds noble, I am sure. But like my Mom often says, if you do a lot of bad, people tend to forget the little good you might have done in the past. People in Zimbabwe love Heroes holiday not because of uncle Bob’s usual colorful rituals at the Heroes Acre, nor the long-winding off-topic speech and gun salutes. They love Heroes because often it coincides with the weekend to become one long lazy Saturday where you can do all the things you often fail to do during the week. A lot of people use this time to be with family and friends who are the true but unsung heroes in their lives. I chose to visit the mountainous areas of the country, Honde Valley…

 

The air in the valley is so refreshingly cool and clean, made light because of the absence of pollutants in the form of toxic motor vehicle fumes. The atmosphere imitates what my ‘A’ Level Geography teacher once described as Equatorial rain-forest climate; when its hot it burns and when it rains it pours. Even the rain is unpredictable. One moment the clouds are blue and the sun is shining right in the heart of the sky, the next, a voracious downpour emerges without preamble. The Honde Valley indeed is a land of plenty, its people humble and hardworking. They literally dig and level the mountain top to build their homes. Building on the side of the mountain is not safe when it rains. Everybody seems related to each other one way or the other, its one big family. Everybody stops to greet you long and proper, even and especially if you are stranger. The air and temperatures make this the ideal place for tea, thus the never-ending rows and rows of tea spotting the mountains. You can recognize tea pickers by the slight bent of the back and the rough and discolored calloused two fingers that do the picking. The valley is the ultimate banana land where all kinds flourish from plantains to cavendish to the red ugly ones locals call maropa (blood) and the horn-like type they call kanyanga. Sugar cane also loves this place and so do the madhumbe, an edible bulbous tuber that is a favorite for many locals. The place has some of the freshest, most cleanest water sources on the continent. People tap their drinking water directly from springs and underground seepage. Very cool and refreshing its almost like it was refrigerated. There is one catch. Because of the nature of the terrain, people still use the oldest farming methods because they are the most practical. Because farming is mostly done along the mountain-side, its next to impossible to use draught power because the cattle would just topple. So people do the digging themselves going up. Its an uphill task, literally. Villagers weave their way through the thick undergrowth to pave way for edible maize. their feet are heavily cracked from walking barefoot and most of them have adopted an odd-looking C shape that makes it possible to walk up the mountains. Those without good balance young and old use walking sticks that become some kind of a third leg. When harvest time comes, they carry 90 kg loads of produce from the valley up the mountain to their homes. They load creaking old buses with bags and bags of bananas and teas that make their way to the capital and beyond to export markets. Indeed, food is plenty but only after you have gone through some back-breaking work to get it. It takes hours to travel a single kilometer because you are either going uphill or downhill navigating thick foliage and at the same time, looking out for snakes or sharp cliff edges that transform one false step into a lethal fall. And yet the people here will not prefer to be any place else. This is home where the spirit of their ancestors reside. Home where the tall trees worship the God of plenty and the mountain splendor glorifies that God. These are the unsung heroes that work the hardest yet have managed to find inner peace and continue smiling whatever the circumstances. I have never felt such peace…

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