Journey to Lake Natron and Back
John Fuhring
Chapter 7
Our First Camp

     Where was I?  Ah yes, we rode a long way after our first lunch, but again it was over easy ground and pretty much in a straight line.  We got into camp a little before sundown, but with enough daylight left to do what needed to be done.  I was really ready for a "sundowner" by this time and to sit my sore butt on something not bouncing and jerking around.

Camp 1. 
2 degrees, 57.987 minutes South Latitude
36 degrees, 28.663 minutes East Longitude
4283 Feet above Sea Level


The bar is open.

     On finding my tent, I discovered it had been pitched almost directly under a thorn tree so that you'd get snagged by those horrible mini hooked thorns as you entered or exited the tent.  I went to work tying back some of the branches and cutting off others.  Sure wished I had pruning shears because a little pocket knife was a lousy instrument for this kind of work - got my hands all scratched up and bleeding.  I put our kerosene lantern up in the tree to give better illumination and make it easier to avoid the thorn tree branches.

Home, Camp 1.

     After sundown the bonfire was lit and dinner was served.  As mentioned earlier, whatever else went wrong, there was nothing wrong with the food.  Every meal was delicious and besides I brought along a huge (magnum) sized bottle of genuine Tabasco Sauce as my gift to everybody.  It turned out that almost nobody wanted to try even as much as a drop, but I enjoyed it and I was glad I brought it.

     Before supper I took one of those great bucket showers I have already described in another story.  You know, I couldn't help but wonder what the African guy who carried the bucket of hot water for me thought about all this washing.  I'll bet he and the other guys thought we were a pretty soft and effete bunch of sissies the way we wasted precious water on something as vain as a shower.  I mean, what were we doing in deepest Africa on horseback if were so worried about smelling bad?  Lord knows they weren't worried about it.  I know this is funny, but I felt like a real wimp while walking out to the shower area and especially while I watched the guy fill the bucket up with hot water for me.  On the other hand - (and there's always an 'on the other hand'), we did have women along and well, masculine vanity demanded I not smell too bad - right?

     After supper I sat around the bonfire listening to a veritable "Tower of Babel" of languages.  In a while I headed for my tent.  As I crawled in I realized something that I should have noticed earlier - the tent was on a slope so that the person on the right would have a natural tendency to roll down on the sleeper on the left.  Oh shit!  Ever since I was a boy scout I knew better than to pitch a tent like that, what was wrong with those people, pitching it like that?  Every scout knows that a tent pitched on a hill should be aligned so that the sleepers' heads are uphill - it says so on the first page of the second chapter of the Scout's Handbook and everything.  The way the safari staff pitched it was the worst possible way to do it - under a thorn tree and sideways to a slope.  Well, it was too late now to do anything about it.  When my tentmate (Terry) showed up, he wanted the left (downhill) side, so I had the task of trying to arrange myself so I wouldn't roll over on him in my sleep.  Let's just say that I'm not a very chummy person and that would have been way, way too chummy even for the chummiest of people.  Well, maybe not everybody - if you know what I mean.

     Did I say "in my sleep" in that last paragraph?  There was no sleep for me that night, not a wink.  The night started out OK, but I couldn't get comfortable with that tendency to roll down hill.  After a long while I noticed that Terry wasn't using that space between his feet and the tent flap, so I got in sideways and that made it a lot better, but still I couldn't fall asleep.

     Then began the heavy snoring.  Earlier Terry had warned me that he snored.  He assured me that it was OK to shake him when it started.

     I really didn't mind the snoring because I wasn't sleepy at this time and hearing it rather confirmed a suspicion that I had regarding why Terry had such a hard time in the mornings.  God knows I know nothing about medicine, but I suspected something related to a condition I had read about called 'Sleep Apnea.'  Well, here was strong evidence for it in Terry's loud snoring and periods of suspended breathing.  After I had satisfied my scientific curiosity I cleared my throat - loudly - and with that Terry turned over and stopped snoring.  Still, sleep wouldn't come.  Over the years I've learned that the worst thing you can do to yourself when feeling sleepless is to worry about it and try to "force yourself" to go to sleep.  The best thing I've found for me to do is to simply relax and try to rest my body if not my mind.  So I did just that, as best I could.  Later I got up and out of the tent with the first light of dawn and I felt surprisingly refreshed, believe it or not.

     The dawn on that hillside was well worth getting up for.  At first there was the predawn quiet of the camp.

Our cook getting the breakfast fire going.

     Upon climbing to the top of the slope, I was greeted by a most beautiful sunrise.

     While watching that glorious sunrise, I didn't even notice an even more beautiful sight until Tom pointed it out to me.

Mt. Kilimanjaro at dawn from Camp 1.  It was beautiful.

     After witnessing the early morning beauties of East Africa, I returned to camp for a little grub.  That Tabasco sauce I brought sure went well with the eggs and sausage links I had for breakfast.  No way could I get anybody to try it on their eggs though.
The Early Bird gets worms.
That handsome bwana is me
(showing my best side)
image compliments of Dr. Kolblinger

Charcoal stoves used all over East Africa to cook on.

The Safari Breakfast Club.

Here's me making some faux pas
in really bad French for Bernard's amusement.
Picture thanks to Bernadette Basler.

     As usual Terry didn't join us for breakfast and I knew the guy was back at the tent feeling rotten.  I was eager to share my observations and theories regarding what I thought might be his sleeping  problems.  First, I wanted to ask him if he had ever been treated for sleep apnea.  If he had never been treated for it, I wanted to advance the hypothesis that perhaps apnea was the reason he felt so bad in the mornings and slept at every opportunity during the day.

    Like the damn fool that I am, I thought I had an insight into something that might really help somebody and wanted to suggest to him that he at least consult with a trained medical practitioner to see if my amateurish guesses might have merit.  Couldn't hurt - right?  Wrong!  He had never heard of the condition, didn't believed it existed, there was nothing wrong with him (he could sleep for hours and hours anywhere, anytime) and what the hell did I know about anything anyway?!?   I should have just dropped it there, but I said that it was quality of sleep not quantity that was important and why not simply mention it to his doctor at his next visit?  I could see I was just offending the guy so that was the last I mentioned it, but within days my problem with his snoring unexpectedly vanished.

     Also that morning I asked Jan to ask the guys to try to avoid pitching my tent sideways on a slope from now on.  I was surprised and disappointed at his reply: "if you don't  like it, just sleep sideways next time."  You know, I really didn't appreciate that kind of an answer to what I considered a respectful and reasonable request.  In a pup tent, sideways isn't the best way to arrange yourself, but (in the words of the Ancient Sage:) "if the tent won't move for Mohammed, Mohammed must move for the tent" (or something like that).

 Go to Chapter 8

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