Every morning we had a full breakfast of whatever
we wanted of eggs cooked to order, toast & jams, sausage or bacon,
corn flakes & milk, fresh tropical fruits, coffee or tea, and orange
juice. At home I generally have only coffee for breakfast,
but on these safaris I couldn't pass up their elaborate and delicious breakfasts.
This morning, after a great breakfast and after mounting up, the ride headed
nearly due north toward the south end of Lake Natron.
The landscape this day was mostly flat with
some low hills (probably cinder cones) around and to the north of us.
The ground was mostly black sand with white rhymes of salt and bunches
of zerophyte grasses here and there. When I was living in Northern
Nevada, we would call regions like these "Alkali Flats" a name derived
from the level of the land and the fact that the pH of the soil is so high.
To my surprise, there were some pretty good sized herds of zebra out there.
I don't know that much about the grazing or living habits of those animals
out in this reason, so I was wondering what in the world they were doing
out there. Perhaps they had come for salt - my horses certainly like
the salt blocks I provide for them and all animals need the stuff to maintain
proper electrolyte balance in their blood and tissues.
Zebras on the flat south east of Lake Natron
Near noon we reached a small highland (probably
a cinder cone) about 60 feet above the general surface and overlooking
the Lake. Lisa showed us the area that was supposed to be last night's
camp. Nice spot, but we only stayed there a few minutes. Afterwards
we started a ride to the southeast across a salt flat. We had a nice
gallop in the soft and mushy surface of that flat, but only went a few
miles when we rendezvous with the Land Rover for lunch.
This part of the ride was very nice.
Pictures compliments of Dr. Kolblinger
|Dr. Kolblinger with
Mt. Gelai in the background.
|Dr. Kolblinger on a salt flat
with Oldoinyo Lengai in the background.
Riding in the wind south of Lake Natron and north
of Mt . Lengai.
Picture compliments of the Baslers
There wasn't much shade out there for the
horses and the sun was hot. We took their saddles off and watered
them as usual and then tied them to the odd thorn tree as best we could.
As usual we placed the saddles upside down on a mat spread out on the ground
so the saddle blankets could get a chance to dry out some of the sweat
they had absorbed. These horses were the best drinkers you have ever
seen. They sucked up their bucket of water in one gulp. After
all, it was hard, sweaty work bearing us through this hot and dry land.
Horses picketed to a thorn tree.
Saddles and bridles at lower right.
Pictures compliments of Dr. Kolblinger
Elizabeth had just started to unpack the cooking
gear and supplies so Stefan helped get things set up. I want you
to look at the picture below. On a tiny campfire made of little sticks
with nothing more than a simple metal frame, somehow Elizabeth was able
to prepare for us really wonderful meals at lunch. Two things that
really amazed me on this trip was Elizabeth's cooking skills and Lisa's
mapless dead reckoning navigation.
Lunch Camp 6.
Elizabeth getting ready to prepare a delicious and
elaborate "bush mean" over a little fire.
Stefan helping out.
Lunch Camp 6.
I know what you're thinking -
but the stain on Terry's riding pants
is neatsfoot oil from his saddle.
After washing up and having
a cold drink, we relaxed under our thorn tree and waited for lunch.
The scenery out there was beautiful and totally natural with only one exception.
There was the glare of a tin roof off to the northeast about 4 miles away
on Mt. Gelai's slope.
We had a beautiful view of Mt. Gelai from our lunch camp.
This was truly out in the middle of nowhere. The scenery was
unspoiled except for a shiny roof of a damned mission.
A close-up of Mt. Gelai's western slope.
The little white dot is the shiny tin roof
of an American Missionary's compound.
Oh Lord, I feel another one of my infamous philippics coming on.
Many years ago some American guy decided to
come out to Lake Natron, with lots of money from the good people of his
church back home, to "minister to the heathen Masaai." The guy and
his family love living way out there and built this shiny tin roofed "little
bit of America" eyesore that you can see for miles around. We didn't
stop by to visit, so I have no idea how many Masaai he and his family have
managed to "save" over the years, but I suspect that it is very, very few.
This White Man's mission has a straight shot
view of the Masaai's holy mountain, Oldoinyo Lengai. To my mind,
located where it is, it is an affront to their religious beliefs.
When you consider that there's nobody out there, not even many Masaai,
you wonder what in hell he's doing with all his expensive buildings, vehicles,
generators, etc., etc. I suspect that he really loves it there and
has a pretty good thing going with the "good people" back in the States
picking up all his bills.
You know, this reminds me of when I was in
Catholic School back in the '50's. I swear I'm not making any of
this up - this really happened - more than once. You see, at various
times we would have a very special and important fundraising event.
With great pomp, money would be collected, counted and when we had the
right amount, Sister would announce that we were going to "Buy
a Pagan Baby." Yes, we would "buy a Pagan Baby" so that
it could be raised a good Christian Catholic out in the missions somewhere.
Saints be Praised, we'd even get to name the little creature - always a
Christian name and usually Matthew, Mark, Luke or John - although John
wasn't all that popular for some reason. We were assured that this
noble deed of ours would be good for at least a couple of years off our
purgatory jailtime and maybe even keep us out of hell. I was too
young to really understand the details of how the child was to be purchased
from its Pagan parents and whether or not it was to be allowed to remain
at home there in the jungle or just what.
Now that I think of it, there was another thing
I never really understood from those days: if a kind, loving and merciful
God really loved all his creatures, how come most all of us boys were going
to land in hell to be tortured for ever and ever and in a way much worse
and longer than any whipping our dad would give us with his belt?
God knows I did things to offend and piss off my dad, but I know for sure
that he never for a moment even considered "throwing me in a Lake of Fire
where the worm never dies." And another thing, if sex was so dirty,
nasty, filthy and sinful, how come we were only supposed to do it to somebody
we really loved? Would you do something nasty and filthy to somebody
you loved? No, I didn't think so.
Are these kinds of "Pagan Baby" farces still
going on in religious schools and churches in our religion saturated country?
Of course they are, how else do these (almost exclusively American) humbugs
get all that money to "minister to the Pagans?" Except for the Missionary
Community itself, these people are held in pretty low regard by the Afrikaners
and ex patriots who live in Africa. These damn Holy Joes who come
out with all their trucks and generators and air conditioners and refrigerators
and fancy foods and prefab buildings and god knows what all. Most
of them show up, make a big splash, live like kings, loose their funding
when a church committee shows up to investigate and then they leave behind
all kinds of surplus equipment that the local businessmen really enjoy
After telling that story about the Pagan Babies,
maybe I should say something nice about the Catholic missionaries.
On more than one occasion I have heard Afrikaners say that, of all the
missionaries, the Catholic are the only ones that are "Of the People."
No way would any of those Afrikaners want to become a Catholic themselves,
but they had to admire how the Catholics live at the same level of abject
poverty as the other natives. The priests and lay workers live in
the same kind of mud and dung huts as the rest of the village. They
appear to have no outside sources of unlimited funds and make no demoralizing
show of vulgar wealth like the American Fundamentalist's do. Which
reminds me of what I heard the new Baptist missionary say when he visited
the Catholic compound there at Monduli Village. "Gee Father, you
should get those native boys to build you a house like mine ... this place
really looks like SHIT!"
It is just too bad these good people - and
I'm sure many of them are good people - are required by their churches
to replace the Native's superstitious aboriginal beliefs with equally foolish,
but actually more harmful superstitions from the White Man's world.
Too bad the Natives aren't taught the principles of modern science and
economics instead of having their minds filled with supernatural beliefs
in angels and devils and the foolishness that by simply praying and believing,
God will give them all they need, make them healthy and save the lives
of their sick babies. Too bad the innocence and simple pleasures
of these people have to be replaced with those awful guilts and beliefs
in hell fire awaiting everybody that doesn't do or believe as they, the
missionaries, say they should. My only hope is that, if there really
is a hell, only those people who preach about it and use it to coerce others
with it actually end up in it. Of course, the possibility that there
is such thing as hell has about as much a chance of being true as a "snowball's
chance in hell" - and you know that.
. OK, no more preaching (for now). Back
to lunch. After starting lunch we heard the sound of an engine and
it seemed to be coming from somewhere up in the sky. Looking up,
MY GAUD!! there was a ultra light aircraft up there.
Scenes from Lunch Camp 6.
2 degrees, 37.280 minutes South Latitude
35 degrees, 59.904 minutes East Longitude
2010 Feet above Sea Level
While I watched in fascination,
an aviator circled our camp and came swooping down at high speed.
For all the world this guy looked like a WW I aviator, Snoopy goggles and
everything. His "Sopwith Camel" was a powered Rogallo Wing of his
own design. I was hoping he'd land and give us a visit, but the ground
wasn't all that flat and had lots of volcanic rocks littering its surface,
so I didn't really expect him to land. However, he came lower and
lower and finally landed a little north of camp. I can't remember
the fellow's name, but he's a young German engineer who has made East Africa
his home. Tom told me that he had designed this robust looking ultra
light and had sold the design to the Swiss army. What the Swiss Army
wanted with an ultra light aircraft, I can't guess - maybe it will be a
new feature incorporated in the next model of their famous knife.
Our flying guest joined us for lunch and I
had a ball talking with him. In addition to being one nice guy, he
was obviously very smart guy and could speak perfect English. Man,
was I jealous. There he was, leading a life that is usually only
fantasized in Hollywood productions. Seems he was out on a aerial
voyage to visit a lady friend at some camp (in the Masaai Mari in Kenya
I believe) and would be there in a couple hours. In this country,
a journey like that would take a couple of days (or more) by Land Rover.
The roaring of his engine and the sight of
him flying around had attracted a lot of Masaai kids who had been herding
cattle to the east of us. They gathered around his plane after it
came down and were obviously delighted with it, but kept their hands to
themselves without being told. Would that American kids would be
so well behaved.
Soon it was time for him to bid us adieu and
take to the skys. The Masaai kids got out of the way as his engine
started and revved up. He took off after a short taxi and then swooped
close to the ground to gain airspeed. I couldn't help but remember
reading about all the ultra light pilots around home who have been killed
over the years while swooping around like that. It sure look dangerous,
but oh so fun. Anyway, he got his air speed up and then he started
a climb so steep I was sure he would stall out. He must have known
what he was doing because the little craft ascended at an astonishing rate
and off he went on a course to the northwest to visit his girlfriend.
Up in the sky, it's a bird, it's superman, it's a plane.
What a delightful surprise seeing a flying
machine out here.
Go to Chapter 16
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