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The Tragic History of Le Morne Brabant Mountain

One night, I clicked on virtually every island visible on google-maps and found the island of Mauritius. He wanted a beach, I wanted seclusion, so we searched for a hotel that offered the best of both worlds. We booked a week-long stay at LUX Le Morne, located on a less populated stretch of beach, with the Le Morne Brabant Mountain as the backdrop.

View from the base of Le Morne Brabant Mountain, Mauritius
View from the base of Le Morne Brabant Mountain, Mauritius

We planned a number of adventures during our stay, and oddly, it was the excursions that we didn't expect that now stand out in our memory. On day five we arose early, and headed to the mountain. We had arranged for a private hike with a guide, to the half-way point of the UNESCO Heritage Site: Le Morne Brabant Mountain. We didn't know much about it's history, but didn't want to miss out on an opportunity to hike and such spectacular views.

One of the spectacular views from the mid-way point, Le Morne Mountain, Mauritius
One of the spectacular views from the mid-way point, Le Morne Mountain, Mauritius

We were privileged to be paired with a local guide whose grandfather was a spiritual Shaman and who held a special connection to the mountain and it’s history. He shared our love of nature and our belief that the experience should be slow and respected. Though he told us stories from his personal history, we hiked slowly, often in silence, and paused frequently to enjoy the view. There were many who passed us, who treated the hike as nothing more than an intense exercise regime, the mountain a mere prop. And there were those who felt the need to hike with music blaring from their cellphones. Some places have a history that radiates so loudly, one should be forced into silence.

He also enlightened us on the mountain's dark and tragic history as a shelter for runaway slaves through the late 18th century and early 19th century. In the 17th century, the first slaves were brought to Mauritius from Madagascar to work on plantations. Over the next 150-200 years, huge numbers of slaves were also brought in from India and Africa. Large numbers of slaves escaped their captors and took refuge up Le Morne Brabant, protected by the dense forests. These slaves were called "Maroons", and over time, Mauritius, an important stopover in the eastern slave trade, came to be known as the “Maroon republic” because of the large number of escaped slaves who lived on Le Morne Mountain.

The cliffs were virtually inaccessible, but our guide showed us how they survived using the tools nature provided. The Maroons formed small settlements in the caves and on the summit, surviving off the land. On February 1, 1835, slavery was abolished in Mauritius. Army officials approached the base and began to climb, with the intent to inform the inhabitants that they were now free. Tragically, fearing the authorities were about to recapture them, many Maroons plummeted to their deaths, choosing to jump to avoid being punished for escaping and enslaved again.

The International Slave Route Monument sits at the foot of Le Morne Brabant. On the hike up, another plaque was erected, honouring the mountain as a place of resistance. The oral traditions, like the one we shared on our hike, have made Le Morne Brabant a symbol of the slaves suffering, sacrifice and the fight for freedom.

We hiked with our guide at the beginning of 2019. While we spoke of spirituality, he shared that a very powerful Shaman had revealed that people's "true intentions" their "true faces" would be revealed in 2020. None of us knowing what tragedies would occur the following year, we took the prediction with a grain of salt, a good play on the phrase 20/20 vision. If 2020 reveals who we are and what we stand for, let us not forget the lessons learned and move forward with purpose, gratitude and reverence.

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