Journey to Lake Natron and Back
by John Fuhring
Chapter 15
Camp 5 to Lunch 6 and
an unexpected visitor.

     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


This part of the ride was very nice.

   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.
Dr. Kolblinger with 
Mt. Gelai in the background.
Dr. Kolblinger on a salt flat
with Oldoinyo Lengai in the background.
Pictures compliments of Dr. Kolblinger

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 getting cheap.

     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.

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