The animals had been hiding in the shade of the woods for weeks. Lying among the bushes, all that could be heard was their breathless snarling that evaporated with the touch of the warm earth. At dusk, the huge herds of tired buffaloes could be seen walking to the river bank with a discouraged air, anticipating that by now the Lugenda would have great difficulty in slowly dragging every litre of its flow.
The sky, the colour of fanta orange, warmed even more the imposing summer sunset, which disappeared camouflaged in a cloud of dust. A group of gigantic clouds, dark and dense, swallowed the day’s farewell scenery, and without delay gave way to a fury of wind that came in the wake of a whistle.
The dry leaves scattered on the ground began the whirlwind dance. The little birds fled in terror at the sudden change in weather and the mother monkeys carried their young to a safer place for the night. Squirrels and owls peered cautiously from their hiding places in the trees and from the cracks caused in the ground by the drought, millions of insects appeared to witness the fall of the first rain.
Then came the first lightning. A supersonic and fleeting lightning bolt that struck against the vacuum of the inselbergs, and uttered seconds later in a hellish scream that made the earth shake for instants. There was a moment of suspense, where all life forms seemed to have disappeared until suddenly, the smell of wet earth blessed the fall of the first rain. Fat, sporadic drops that lightly hit the sand and disappeared before quenching the thirst accumulated during the season.
The anxiety for the arrival of the rain had reigned for a long time. Rain represents cleansing, calm, growth, fertility and even rebirth. That is why even the most creative artists use rain as a symbol of prophecy. But this time it was different; we didn’t run out and dance in the rain, in fact we hadn’t even moved away from the main room and the anxiety was felt in the heartbeats that called from inside our chests.
- [radio noise] ‘Posto Modelo calling base – OVER!’ [radio noise] ‘Model Post calling base – OVER!’.
- Base in position COPIED – OVER’.
- We acknowledge information coming from HQ, REPEAT, information coming from HQ. We have record of insurgent attack and presence in block X-13 – OVER!’
- COPY from base – instructing alert at all checkpoints … [radio noise and message exchange sequence].
With hands on his head, concealing some kind of mental activity, all effort was focused on keeping his heart inside his chest. The dialogue between the inspectors continued on the radio in a technical and formal way. Meanwhile, sweat dripped down the frozen body and one could feel the flooded eyes trying to escape their orbits in ecstasy. What had been so feared had happened to the terror of everyone and everything in the Niassa Special Reserve.
This year the rain came, but it came accompanied by uncertainty, fear, powerlessness, but also courage and determination to keep fighting for these protected spaces, their people and their animals. As Samora Machel said ‘We cannot build the happiness and well-being of the people with rascals and criminals’. The fight goes on!