by John Fuhring
The following is an account of my June, 2002 horseback trip to Lake Natron. Our ride took place in the north-central part of the country of Tanzania. Geographically, this area is in East Africa, only two to three degrees south of the equator and is about half way between Lake Victoria (to the west) and Mt. Kilimanjaro (to the east). This region is part of a great geologic structure called the African Rift Valley, an area of tall volcanoes (one of which is the most unusual volcano in the world), cinder cones, hot springs, lava flows and outcroppings of very old bed rock. The most salient feature of this region and the one that attracted us there, is Lake Natron. This lake has no outlet and for tens of thousands of years it has been accumulating salts until its waters are hypersaturated with dissolved solids.
The ride began on the slopes of a 15,000 foot volcano, Mt. Meru at a place called the Uto Farm. From there we traveled by horseback down into the Rift until we reached the very remote and very unusual Lake Natron. I have included a map of the region that shows our outbound trail in blue and our inbound trail in green. The route was plotted on that map using data derived from a Magellan 315 GPS that I carried on the trip. Each camp and lunch stop will include nearly exact geographic coordinates that are accurate to about 50 feet.
The expedition was organized and conducted by Lisa, Jan, Tom and Elizabeth Schovsbo along with some native help and two women hired to take care of the horses. Lisa was our main guide with her son, Tom, riding in support. Another son, Jan, was the camp steward and her daughter, Elizabeth, was our Chief de Cuisine who could perform miracles with the simplest of cooking equipment out in the bush. As we rode on horseback, we would daily rendezvous with Elizabeth's Land Rover at lunch time. In the evening - sometimes late in the evening - sometimes very, very late in the evening - we would rendezvous with Jan's large (Bedford) Army truck. The Bedford carried all the camping supplies, the food and pulled a trailer of fresh water (also known as a "water buffalo").
In addition to the safari staff, the other riders consisted of two from Switzerland, two from France, one from Austria, one from England and myself, a Californian. English was indeed the "Lingua Franka" but in fact, few could speak it with ease.
Before we get very deep into this story, I had better state up front that this isn't a story about how much fun I had in Africa. As a matter of fact, I did not have much fun at all on this safari. A lot of things went wrong and many other things were done wrongly or poorly. Please be forewarned, the following story isn't a lighthearted tale set in the African bush. This is the story of an adventure, and adventures are seldom, if ever, fun. On the other hand, if given the choice between a "fun time" and an adventure, give me an adventure any day.
In this story I plan to tell things as I saw them from my personal perspective. It is, by no means, my intention to hurt anybody's feelings or be insulting, however I shall "pull no punches" and I shall tell the story no matter how hurtful parts of it may be to myself or to others. Finally, I should warn you that I have absolutely no use for any organized religion (Christian, Muslim or Pagan) and I have very few nice things to say about their missionaries and proselytizers. Please realize that these are my own opinions and observations and I make no claim of having exclusive access to the truth.
As I have stated at the beginnings of other stories, I do my very best to be truthful, but I can not guarantee or promise scientific accuracy or total objectivity. Like every living being, my observations are likely to be colored by the hue of my preexisting paradigms and by the memes that are operating within me. If you decide to read my story, please keep your mind open and know that you have every right in the world to be skeptical.
More than anything else, I am writing this for my own amusement, but I hope you may find it entertaining too. I sincerely hope you like my story, but if you find you don't like the way it is told or you're offended by my opinions, look at the pictures instead or put something else on you PC or, better yet, go outside and have your own adventure.
This story is arranged in a whole series of chapters. Each chapter deals with a single day or some important event or subject that I thought deserved its own chapter. There are dozens and dozens of pictures that accompany the text of this story and this may make for slow loading. If you don't have DSL, cable or other high speed internet, opening the following pages will be practically impossible.
Most of the pictures appearing on the following pages were taken with my little Fuji digital camera, however (where noted) many pictures were sent me by Dr. Camillo Kolblinger and by Bernadette & Stefan Basler. Well now, if you are still with me, it is time to begin the story.