Early this morning, sitting on my bed pondering, my thoughts drifted to where I was last weekend. You might be thinking where that was, right?
There is a discovery around the Freetown Peninsula deep in the hills of Mambo, a waterfall that has been attracting a lot of local tourists even amidst the Pandemic. In fact scratch ‘discovery’, this waterfall has always been there. Hidden, untouched, pure, mystical, a secret that was known to only but a few in the Mambo neighbourhood. Even though its voice can be heard from miles away in a slow rush as it falls on black rocks as if it were cleansing them, the irony is this voice is lost on most of its people. Its voice can only be heard by those who dare to listen. Human interventions and deforestations happening around the peninsula has brought this mystery place to the knowledge of Freetownians, it is no longer a secret. In fact, it seems as if all the lands around that territory are now in the hands of private individuals. Stones marked with white paints and tiny aluminium structures depicting ownership are the views along the way. My friend asked me, what if someone comes to claim this waterfall as his/her property? We had a great laugh about it, but deep down we know this is Sierra Leone where anything can happen, especially when it seems all the landmark around it are now privately owned.
I asked myself questions: Who own these lands, the community or the government? Who are selling these lands? Why are people buying these lands? Those who are claiming to own these lands in the Mambo community, how did they come about it? If not for anything but we have seen, how building structures on these hills can be disastrous. Lessons that Sierra Leoneans are refusing to learn. When shall we start to care about our safety and that of others, these are not easy terrain. These lands should be preserved, the whole ecosystem up there had been altered. You can see the damage, as exposed land stand naked in the cold heat of the July evening asking the passersby for a blanket. We are not listening to their pleas and these hills had long stopped to re-echo our cries likewise.
I was not expecting to go to Mambo waterfall that day, but I am pleased I did. After what seemed like broken arrangements with friends. I got a call from one saying let’s do this, “I am leaving now, let’s meet at your junction”. As a lover of adventure, I jumped right in. It was about 5:00 pm in the evening when we left my junction. The road to that place is the worst I have ever experienced in Freetown. Steep hill, sharp rocks, slippery slopes, sharp edges of fallen trees for coal burning, and land clearing that require every bit of your mental and physical energies. The climb is not for the faint-hearted, I can assure you.
The amazing detail is that the trip to the waterfall is unexplainably eventful; this came as a shock to me as I was not expecting the crowd, especially in this pandemic. People moved in groups; community members as well as others who just want to see the great waterfall: those who want to take pictures for social media, couples, friends, pregnant women, teenagers, kids all in anticipation. Some in the deep conversation of what government should do, how countries in the west would have turned this into some money. The usual ‘Salone man’ talk of the knows and the know not, the haves and the have not. How we all have an opinion, yet nothing seems to be working properly in the country.
No! I didn’t see a single person in a mask. The climb did force me to take mine off so I can breathe properly, maybe the same thing happened to others too. I thought it was a national holiday or some other festivities. My people will never disappoint when it comes to having a good time. Musical sets, Bluetooth speakers all through the walk, great ambience, young guys intoxicated from alcohol, and others on some kind of high. Young girls clad in bikinis and short. I turned and looked at my friend we smiled at each other with the understanding that we were definitely not dressed for the occasion. My long turn jeans and Jesus print T-shirt on Sunday was definitely out of place, I guess. Her long black jumper seemed to have no place either. We were like, duh! who made the rules?
The view from up there is to die for, I can’t even lie. Freshwater which I was made to understand by the locals is from Guma dam waste running through their community. The fall is soothing to the soul as it will take your mind off everything else. Magical spring falling with so much grace at a pace enticing to the eyes. Romancing with the wind and creating a mist in the air just above the water. The birds chirping was music to my worried soul, I was lost on the climb but immediately found myself, only to get lost again in awe of the view.
As we left the falls trying to brave the walk back to where we were dropped off by the bike riders, I can’t help but felt sick to my stomach. Other questions came running through my mind. What is the Environmental Protection Agency doing to protect that area? I am afraid human activities will cause the water to dry out someday. What is the Ministry of Tourism doing to see how best they can build our local tourism? Can they work with other government Ministries like Lands and Works? Can they make the roads? Bring solar light and set up structures around the waterfall? Imagine if cars could get really close to the waterfall? Eventually, we reached where we were dropped off by the bikes and not a single bike in sight. This was the most painful part of it all because at this point our feet were shaking and aching. Don’t these bikers saw the crowd coming to these hills? Why can’t they see it as an opportunity to make money by doing multiple trips? In my frustration, I forgot it was dark and no one will risk himself or his bike for a thousand five. That’s how we walk from the waterfall to Mambo Junction on our way back.
Lesson Learned “one might never climb down the way you went up, be humble”
Tips For First-Timers:
• Be on flat (Sneakers, Sandals or Slippers)
• Get a backpack
• Pack food and water if you don’t want to drink the water from the fall.
• Pack your Bikinis, one-piece, minis and short or extra clothing
• Best time to climb is Morning or the early evening.
• Prepare your mind, be ready and be fit.
© By Rahima Vandy Kargbo also known as Dasalonetiti Rahima