Journey to Lake Natron and Back
by John Fuhring

Chapter 8
Our Second Ride

     With breakfast over, we started our second day of riding.  We went on a circuitous ride this morning.  Evidently our intention was not to cover any great distance, but see wild animals.  We went in every possible direction until I would have been thoroughly confused without my GPS receiver.  Incredibly, Lisa knew where we were by her (amazing but not infallible) system of dead reckoning.  We encountered a lot of game animals, but because this was an official hunting area, they were very wary and would run off as soon as they caught sight of us.  Tom said that there used to be lots and lots of rhinoceroses in this region in historical times, but now that they had been poached to extinction.  Now that the rhinos were gone, the whole nature of the vegetation was changing - for the worse.

Just leaving Camp 1. 

The handsome dude on the left is me.  Hey, consider yourself 
lucky I wasn't facing the camera, OK!?!

I saw more giraffe on this trip than I had seen all the time I was
in Africa put together.  The richness of the game was incredible.
All four of these images are compliments of Dr. Kolblinger

Here's one I got with my digital.  This is about
as close as the giraffes would let us get.

     It was an interesting ride and it would have been very, very enjoyable except some of us were having trouble with our horses by now.  To make matters worse, my blisters were rapidly developing into a problem.

     By noon we made it to a pretty little "sand river" where we found the Land Rover and lunch being made.  A bright sun was out by this time and it was hot under it.  We found some shade under the trees growing by the dry river bed and you can see from the picture how nice it was actually was there.  What tree branches there were were inadequate to tie up the horses to so they were allowed to wander through the camp.  It was kind of fun having them around like that, but they did get into things and things could have gotten bad if any of the little horse fights that occurred would have turned serious.
     For all the riding we did, it seemed we had ridden scores of miles since breakfast but, incredibly, my GPS said we were west of last night's camp by only about three miles.  Three miles, that can't be right?!?  At first I thought I had selected a wrong waypoint in the GPS.  On rechecking I could see that we had traveled many miles sightseeing, but only three miles in a straight line from last night's camp.

     By the way, I sure loved having that GPS along.  With my GPS I knew I could never be lost or disoriented and knew that I could always get back no matter what.  The GPS was one item I would have hated to be without. 

Lunch Stop 2
2 degrees 57.126 minutes south latitude
36 degrees 25,085 minutes east longititude
3,708 feet above sea level

     After lunch we began a long, long ride to Camp 2.  At first, we ran into huge herds of giraffes, the numbers of which astounded everybody.  I love giraffes and even have a carving of one at home, but I was starting to get a bit jaded by the sheer numbers of them out there.  It definitely would have been more enjoyable if they would have let us approach them a little closer, but (as said before) all the critters out there were very wary of strange creatures that might be hunters.

Giraffes,  the land was alive with them.

     After riding some distance, the nature of the ground changed from relatively firm grassland to a very dusty semi-bare ground.  Our little herd of horses couldn't help but kick up clouds of dust as we rode along.  I don't mind riding on bare, dusty ground all that much because we have so much of it in California and I'm used to it.  At home I have experienced riding where it's been hot, dry and dusty and I've experienced riding where it's been cold, wet and muddy and believe me, hot, dry and dusty is better any day.  Still, the dust got to you after a while and too much of anything is, well, too much.

Here's some scenes from that afternoon taken by Dr. Kolblinger.  Mostly the dust was too thick and I didn't want to
ruin my camera by taking any pictures with my more fragile digital camera.

 Dr. Kolblinger as "Der Herr Auf Swartz"
     These dusty conditions persisted mile after mile.  For just this kind of riding, I always bring along a bandanna and I use it even though it makes me look like a Wild West bandit.  You know, it's the old question of "form over function" but, I don't give a damn about how I show, I'm much more interested in how I go.  If wearing a bandanna will keep the dust out of my lungs, I'll wear it and you can laugh all you want to.

Silly as I look, bandannas work.
"Throw down that strongbox and don't try anything funny!"

     After the longest time we pretty much left the dust in the dust, but now started riding over some very bad country.  The floor of the valley over which we were riding now was now covered by a volcanic soil that must have contained large amounts of shrinking clays (montmorillinite to you geologists).  The soil was now dried out thereby producing large cracks that were mostly hidden by tall grasses and by thin layers of soil.  The horses kept stepping and falling into these cracks and the going was slow, uncomfortable and dangerous for both the horse and the rider.  We slowly made our way through this country until it started getting late.

     Toward evening we were still riding and there seemed to be a disagreement between Lisa and Tom as to just where the next camp was.  It was then I discovered that whenever anything went wrong or we were lost, you either knew Danish or you knew nothing.  Yes, all important discussions were conducted in a language that none of us understood.  I can't speak for the others, but the fact that they resorted to this tactic and obviously felt that we should not to be included in discussions that effected our welfare made me extremely uncomfortable.  Just because I didn't know what they were saying sure did nothing to enhance their competence or credibility in my eyes, but rather the opposite.  I'll tell you something else, when I'm taking part in an activity, especially if there's risk involved, I want to be informed and I want to be included in any possible solution.   I don't appreciate it when I see myself and others around me treated as if we were small children or irresponsible rabble.  I feel very strongly about this, but I'm not speaking for anyone but myself here.

     Tom went one way and Lisa went another and I tried to ride my herd bound nag between them so we wouldn't completely loose communications with each other.  That damn horse nearly went berserk on me and I had the most difficult time keeping it under control.

     Lisa's instincts proved to be correct and she spotted the camp in the distance.  I called out to Tom and then allowed the horse to go back to the others (about 200 yards away)  It started a mad, out of control dash through fallen branches and dangerous footing until I was able to pull it up and make it trot back in a more controlled fashion.  It was so nearly out of control, I thought it was going to rear at any time.  And this was Cougar, the same horse I had said such wonderful things about on the last safari.

     To get and keep control of my horse, I had to use the curb reign pretty hard.  Next day we noticed an abrasion on the horse's chin where the curb chain makes contact.  It was likely my fault the abrasion occurred, but part of the problem may have been due to the way the curb chain was put on that morning.  That aside, these abrasions to the chin are no big deal, all my horses have had that happen to them at one time and I've seen plenty of other horses get them on a hard fox hunts.  The abrasion heals over in a few days without any intervention.  Big Deal - right?  Wrong!  Janice acted like I had brutally and with 'malice of forethought' nearly destroyed the poor gentle creature.
     Just as I caught up with everybody and had that damn piece of dog meat I was riding under control, Lisa (again without warning) made another one of those mad dashes for the camp and this was over that dangerous cracked open ground too.  Oh, I was mad and I thought to myself, "damn it, damn it, this is exactly the opposite of what a leader with good sense should be doing."  First and foremost, it was damned dangerous to run into a picket like that and it was such piss poor training for the horses.  Horsemen have a name for an animal that rushes home at full speed and out of control.  That horse is called "barn sour" and next to rearing, that's the worse vice a horse can have - even worse than being herd bound.  Here we were actually teaching the horses to be barn sour.  I told my "Cavalryman who broke his back at the Gettysburg picket line" story again to whoever was listening, but alas, to no avail.

     In this manner, we arrived in camp just as the sun was going down.  After putting everything away and giving the horse to the staff, I noticed that there was an old giraffe nearby who wasn't so intimated by our presence so I got my camera and sneaked up to him on foot.  That was as close as I've ever been to a truly wild giraffe.

Wild giraffe right outside Camp 2.
2 degrees, 50.555 minutes South Latitude
36 degrees, 21.830 minutes East Longitude
3577 Feet above Sea Level

     For some reason, I didn't get any pictures of Camp 2 except a blurry one of Terry trying to mend his one and only pair of riding pants.

     By the way, his pants were rapidly falling apart.  Now, I really hate to see a guy have to ride around naked, so I offered to lend him my second pair (we are both about the same size) but he refused my offer with what I perceived as a huff.  I told him that the pants were clean and he was quite welcome to them, but if he wanted his ass hanging out of his own ripped pants, so be it.  You just can't be nice to some people - right?

Terry said something about being in (I think he said)
"the Loyal Navy" as a young man.  I had been in the
U.S. Navy myself and one thing they teach you is
the skill to mend your own uniform.

Caught this picture of Mt. Kitumbeine from Camp 2 just as the sun
was coming up.  Kitumbeine is another stratavolcano
and is about 9,400 feet high.  There is a native
village straight ahead and to the right about
3 miles from here.

Sunrise at Camp 2.

     After missing all that sleep the night before, I was ready to hit the sack as soon as our (good as always) supper was over.  You know, I can hardly remember a thing about that evening except I knew I was going to have a good sleep.  I don't think I took a shower either.  I seem to remember that it was about this time that Terry and I discovered we had so little interests and background in common, it wasn't worth talking about - if you get my meaning.

     My blisters were getting serious by this time and the truth is, I really wasn't having a very good time.  That's an understatement because in fact, I was having an absolute lousy time and again I considered calling it quits early.

     I do remember that I slept well that night and didn't even mind those times Terry's snoring woke me up.  I simply cleared my throat and he'd turn over and stop, I'd then go back to the sweet arms of Morpheus for more of that which had not escaped from Pandora's Box (yes, I mean sleep - don't you know any mythology?).   Near dawn I woke up feeling really refreshed, took a photo of the sunrise, ate breakfast and waited for the next stage of the journey to start.

 Go to Chapter 9

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