EnvironmentLiving off Mother Earth

Walking with the clouds

Dr. Henok Wendirad (DVM)

Mount Zuqualla is a 2,989 meter-high volcanic mountain not far from Addis Ababa and can be accessed through Debre Zeit (Bishoftu) or Dukem.

A big fan of the place, I visit the place at least once a year to take a break from my city routine and refresh body and soul.

My last trip was in September 2011, on the first day of Pagumè, the 13th month of the Ethiopian calendar: a time of transition ideal to evaluate the year that is ending and set resolutions for the new one.

Heavenly nature: Juniper surrounded crater

The top of Mount Zuqualla offers an amazing view on the surrounding highlands. It has an immense plant and animal biodiversity, small lake lies in its crater, and its rim is ringed by a juniper forest.

The place is almost pure wilderness, little exploited by humans and well preserved. A sensitive visitor may well be consumed by the divinity of the place and compelled to engage in meditation. Time stops. The natural beauty seizes the moment.

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An Island on a cloud              

I particularly remember waking up every morning and having to find my way around literally walking among the clouds. Sometimes I would be soaking wet after just a few steps, and an umbrella would be a good idea even if there is no trace of rain in any conventional sense.

When the clouds get a little lower towards the mountain’s base the lowlands disappear completely: nothing is visible except clouds all around, as if the summit were an island in an ocean of clouds.

The inhabitants

The wise-looking, old guardian of the monastery told me a few rules to follow during my stay before taking me to a compound reserved for elderly and weaker monks. Here I assisted one of them in his work fencing the compound, a very old, but still strong-looking, monk who seemed happy to see a stranger. His face was bright and smiley, with the air of a man who has fulfilled all desires. Later on I saw the same bright face on most of the monks and nuns, an inner glowing that shows ease and peace.

Just before leaving I managed to ask the old monk: “How come you look so happy and satisfied, as if you have fulfilled all of your desires?” His answer was simple: “I killed all my desires!”  He then held my hand and said: “There is one story I want to tell you before you go,” he sat with me under a tree and began: “One day, a man holding a piece of stone begged God to turn the stone into gold. God heard him and turned the stone into gold. The man immediately threw that gold, grabbed a bigger stone and asked God the same question. God answered and turned that stone into gold. The man again threw the big gold, grabbed a much bigger stone and asked God the same thing. For the third time God did as the man asked. Then the man thought ‘why should I worry about stone, since there is a mountain nearby?’ the man reached the mountain and asked God to turn the mountain to gold. God changed the mountain to gold. Now the man, poised with his cleverness, asked God ‘please God diminish all who wish for smaller dreams.’ God once again listened his prayer and diminished him”.

“Your desire is an endless craving unless you know where your limits are,” the old man concluded. “So learn to know when to stop and thank for what is at your hand. Only then you will have inner peace and satisfaction in this life.”

The writer can be reached at hendirad@yahoo.com

Editor’s note:

A bushfire that lasted for more than a week gutted the juniper forest surrounding Mount Zuqualla shortly after the second half of March 2012. The exact amount of the damage is hard to come by and there were no coordinated efforts from the government to put the fire under control on in due time. Luckily the fire was finally put out by locals and an energetic youth volunteer from Addis Ababa. However, the lasting effects of the fire is visibly seen from pictures circulating through  facebook and twitter.

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