Ups and Downs


I should probaby, for the sake of my dear mother’s heart, report here that I am definitely returning to normal from my recent bout with malaria. I have to admit this time that it was a truly awful experience. I have usually tried, in the past, not to sensationalize the many downsides of life in Africa. My previous experience with plasmodium falciporum was that it flared up quickly and with terrible intensity, only to immediately fold under the application of appropriate salvos of drug. It would seem that not all strains of malaria are created equal. I am now on day 7 of a slow decline from the peak of this recent attack.

Two Sundays ago I was treated to one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen anywhere. It was decided that we should spend the day hiking the mountains of Alebu in search of watery caves which were widely reported to exist up there. Having not found them on two previous excursions, we sought out the help of two Sudanese friends–a Mr. Juju and Mr. Mangusto.

I have mentioned previously that the mountains of Moro are simply loaded with amazing spectacles of balanced rock. They are absolutely everywhere you look as you hike. It was one of these arrangements which had an extra feature which fascinated me so.

The day had been excellent for climbing and we had refreshed ourselves in various cracks in the great rocks full of cool water. Mangusto had guided us without the least hint toward the final spectacle high on the mountain. As we unwittingly approached it, Mangusto rushed ahead and disappeared. We began to hear a strange musical sound.

Mangusto had led us to a truly gigantic boulder which was perched on three small stone faces. Two of the faces are compressed in such a way that when you strike them, they sing out with distinctly musical sounds. In fact, striking them in different places yields different notes. The faces had dozens of pockets worn into them by thousands of strikes. Mangusto assured us that people had been playing this gigantic instrument for, “very, very long.”

I’m guessing that estimate could mean anything from hundreds to thousands of years. I felt that I was in the presence of a still-active ancient African artifact.

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