Journey to Lake Natron and Back
by John Fuhring

Chapter 19
Lunch stop 9 and Camp 9

     This day our trail was a fairly straight shot to the southeast from Camp Mesa Colorado (Camp 8).  As I remember, it was a fairly easy ride although it was warm out.  I think the ground was a little easier on the horses' feet.   Just at noon Lisa asked people to be looking out for a sandy river bed with outcroppings of very black rocks.  We wandered a bit and all of a sudden there were black rocks in our way and a passage on to a creek bed.  After a short ride down the "sand river" we spotted the Land Rover and the buckets of water set out for the horses.

    Speaking of water for the horses, I have to say that the horses we used on this trip were the best drinkers I have ever seen.  Upon arrival at each lunch stop or overnight camp, the buckets of water would be set out and waiting.  Even before we could take the bridles off their faces, the horses would be neck deep in the buckets, sucking up the water at an astounding rate.  Within seconds the bucket would be empty and the horse would be looking for more.  There was no fussing around, no playing or splashing in the water, no tentative little sips to see if the water was to their liking.  No, these horses were thirsty, really thirsty and they didn't waste a second or a drop of that precious water while satisfying that thirst.  Here at home, many a pampered or ill prepared horse has died of complications from dehydration and overheating, sometimes from a refusal to drink.  It's a curious fact that when dangerously dehydrated, many horses feel too sick to drink the very water necessary to save their lives.  That nearly happened to my horse, Rusty, and it nearly happened to other horses I've been around (see my Movie Story on this disk). 

The Sand River looking up stream from Lunch Stop 9.
2 degrees, 27.670 minutes South Latitude
36 degrees, 14.777 minutes East Longitude
2933 Feet above Sea Level

     Of all the sites in Africa to camp or have lunch, the 'sand rivers' are the best.  There is lots of vegetation along the borders and it's flat and comfortable.  This particular lunch stop was really nice for several reasons.  Near the top of the list is the fact that the ride was pretty straight and we arrived just at noon and not too exhausted.  Neither we or the horses were all that fatigued and feeling that we'd been on the trail too long.  As a matter of fact, I think we arrived a little too early because Elizabeth hadn't set up her bush kitchen yet.

     Speaking of Elizabeth's kitchen and the food, I watched her set up and was amazed all over again at the utter simplicity of her equipment and how effectively it was handled.  The "stove" consisted of a little (and I mean little) fire of sticks.  Over this little fire would be placed a triangular frame made of (what looked like) coat hanger wire.  The little frame would support a metal plate no larger than 1 X 1.5 feet.  On top of that would be cooked this day's lunch and it didn't take very long before this day's memorable meal was done and served.

     The reason the meal was so memorable was because the main course today was that excellent Nile Perch.  In my other safari story my loyal reader (if there is one) will remember that I mentioned that the Nile Perch is a huge fish that they pull out of Lake Victoria (way off on the western border of Northern Tanzania).  Unlike many fresh water fish, the meat of this species is not fishy smelling or tasting.  It is a beautiful "fish and chips" white and has a very mild flavor.  My loyal reader will also remember how I went on and on about how I hate fish, but this fish I can eat and enjoy especially since it was cooked and served in my favorite style which is fully cooked with a crispy outer texture.
     I asked about the details of how Nile Perch can be obtained so many miles from Lake Victoria.  When you consider the horrible state of the roads in Tanzania and the slowness of the rail service, how can it be possible to catch fish and have it to market in Arusha before it spoils?  Mystery solved, they fly it to market in special planes so that it arrives fresh.  The next question I should have asked was how Elizabeth got it out there.  I don't know if somebody made a supply trip out our way or if they had it on ice all this time (which I doubt).   I'll find out and let you know. 

Columnar (or Prismatic) Basalt
at a dry waterfall near camp.
Janice, Bernadette and Stefan.

On top of the escarpment
Elizabeth, Janice and Tom

     Another reason this lunch stop was so great was due to the interesting outcroppings of a black volcanic rock called basalt.  Basalt is a pretty neat volcanic rock and it forms some interesting structures as it goes from a liquid to a hard rock state.  First, basalt is technically classified as a "ultramafic" rock which is nerd talk for a rock that contains mostly dark minerals and little or no light colored minerals.  What are the light and dark minerals?  I am so glad you asked.  The dark minerals are the so-called ferro-magnesians meaning that they are rich in iron and manganese.  The light minerals are rich in potassium and sodium and silicone dioxide.

     As is typical of volcanic rocks, basalt was extruded from deep within the earth in a liquid state (lava) and then hardened to form the rocks we see today.  Some of the largest volcanic structures in the world are made of basalt lava.  The Hawaiian volcanoes like Mt. Kilaweah and the volcanoes of Iceland are made of basalt.  These volcanoes are very different from the stratvolcanoes like Lengai in that they are much, much wider than they are tall.  Matter of fact, a basalt volcano may form a huge island without being nearly a tall as Lengai. These wide basaltic volcanoes are known as "shield volcanoes."  Sometimes melted basalt will come out of the earth in wide fissures and cover a huge region without forming a volcano at all (typical of Iceland and the so-called mid ocean ridges).  Generally, a basalt flow will be seen as a thick, flat sheet of black rock covering older rocks and is seen best in cliffs and river beds where erosion has eaten away some of the rock to reveal its structure.

     The reason that basalt forms low volcanoes and thick flat flows is because it comes out of the earth very liquid.  Unlike lavas that are rich in the light minerals and especially silicone dioxide, basalt flows very freely - almost like water while its still white hot from the earth's interior.  Maybe you have seen pictures of lava rivers from eruptions in Hawaii or Iceland.  Basalt is also poor in trapped gasses and water which keeps the eruptions of lava from being explosive.  Generally, the eruption of a basalt from shield volcanoes or fissures is much, much quieter than a Mt. Saint Helens or Mt. Vesuvius eruption.  Almost never is anybody killed when a Hawaiian volcano erupts, but in the early 1900's over 30,000 - yes 30,000 people were killed in just a few minutes at the port of Saint Pierre on the island of Martinique and lord knows how many people were killed when Krakatoa blew up in the 1880's.  When the volcano on the island to Tehera blew up in the Bronze Age, it ended (or helped end) the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations hundreds of miles away.  Those killer volcanoes are all stratvolcanoes who's lava is rich in silicone dioxide and trapped gasses and come out of the earth as a very, very thick and explosive paste.

      Molten basalt extruded from the earth will eventually reach a level region and will stop flowing, cool and thereby forming a thick layer of hardened lava rock.  Many times the lava on the bottom will cool relatively slowly and form six sided prisms of rock.  When these prisms are exposed by faults or erosion, the prisms look like man made columns of rock, sometimes the columns are quite long very regular.  Here at this dry waterfall, not far from our lunch camp, we could see a good example of a very small columnar basalt formation.

     After our lunch and a long siesta, we resumed our southeast ride toward Camp 9.  Looking back at the distance and direction data recorded by my GPS it looked like we got a little lost and went too far to the east for many miles.  We took a jog to the southwest for several miles until we got back on course and then proceeded to the southeast to Camp.  As I remember it, this was a pretty easy journey and pretty easy on the horses and their feet.

    A little after six P.M. we arrived in camp and picketed the horses.   For the life of me I can't remember much about this camp.  There wasn't anything out of the ordinary that occurred that evening that I can remember.  I did take a shower before dark that evening and it was nice to have flat ground under me. 

Picketing the horses after arriving at Camp 9.

The camp was set in a wide grassy plain.
2 degrees 34.275 minutes South Latitude
36 degrees, 16.581 minutes East Longitude
3318 Feet above Sea Level

Our bucket shower

     As the sun was going down it outlined the slopes and peaks of the northern shoulder of Mt. Gelai and after it sank below the horizon, the sky was filled with some rather nice colors.

Sundown at Camp 9.

     I turned in pretty early and was starting to be glad our trip would be over in just a few more days.  By this time I was starting to be pretty tired of the trip and would have liked it to be over with.  With a little luck tomorrow's stage of the journey would be easy too, but that's another chapter.


 Go to Chapter 20

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