My African Adventure
Part 1, the Horse Safari
By John L. Fuhring
You have noticed that I have included the geographic coordinates of all the major stops on this safari. I took along a little inexpensive GPS receiver (a Magellan 315) and just loved having it along. These GPS things are almost magical devices. With my GPS I knew precisely where in the world I was at all times. It was a very nice feeling to know that I wasn't lost in the middle of nowhere and I could keep track of the journey by constructing a mental map of where we were and where we've been. Later I'll present a simplified map of our journey showing all the lunch stops and camp sites. Perhaps I should have (because I had lots of extra batteries), but I didn't leave it on continuously and so I will not be able to map out all the indirect paths we took between major geographic points. Simply connecting the dots on the map will in no way indicate our exact path and the total mileage we covered on horseback.
As indicated, I have no idea exactly how many miles we covered each day, but whatever it was it was exactly right. Any more riding and the journey would have turned into an endurance ride but any less and it would have been a simple "trail ride" - the riding was just right as far as I was concerned.
Notice that our latitude was only a couple of degrees south of the equator. Note too that the sun at that time of year is also only a couple of degrees south of the celestial equator therefore the sun rose directly east of us, rose straight up from the horizon and set due west, again straight down from the zenith. This is very different from what we are used to in the northern regions of the globe where the sun seems to "graze" the horizon for a long time as it rises and sets (especially in the summer). The net effect of the sun's path with regard to the tropical horizon is that there was very little dawn and almost no twilight at sundown. I mean, when the sun goes down it gets dark almost instantly. According to my GPS, everyday the sun would rise at 6:23 AM and set at precisely 6:23 PM. If you weren't in camp and had your personal stuff done by 6:30 PM, it was dark, dark, dark.
The early and sudden darkness created some novel and interesting situations. At each camp we had the opportunity to take a wonderfully refreshing "bucket" shower. The shower consisted of a metal bucket of warm water with a valve and a sprinkler head on the underside. This contraption was suspended in a tree with a rope and mats were spread underneath at a more or less discreet distance from the camp. I think everyone will agree that it was one very nice touch This shower was greatly appreciated and used. In addition, there was a portable canvass bath tub set up, but I never used it so I can't comment on it. The main thing is that it was located some distance from the camp and you had to tell Jan you wanted a shower before it got dark. Starting your shower at sundown, you had to hurry or it would get awfully dark awfully soon. As it got darker and darker, you couldn't help feeling more and more vulnerable out there with just your "birthday suit" on.
This same feeling of vulnerability to wild animals applied to other toilet activities. The "loo" consisted of a little trench shovel and a roll of "bum wad" (toilet paper to us yanks). Doing what needed to be done with this arrangement was clean and very sanitary and infinitely nicer than subsequent facilities I used on my later camping safari. Since we were really out in the brush and camping where Jan wanted to locate the camp, we could do things like this without affecting the environment in any negative way. Still, when it was thirty minutes after dark o'clock out there and hungry wild animals were roaming about looking for an easy kill, one felt a little - shall I say - naked being away from the lights of camp with one's butt hanging out. In short, after dark, voiding digestive or liquid metabolic wastes had to be of an urgent nature or else wait for the morning.
Speaking of "lights of camp," each night the camp was always well lit with plenty of large kerosene lanterns and a large bonfire. Forgive me for this digression, but I have always loved kerosene lanterns since I was a kid and I want to say something about kerosene lanterns. I have a whole collection of them, all of which operate and I use them for camping and for when the electricity goes off. In camp there in Africa I recognized immediately the most common lantern they were using: the Blizzard model designed around 1900 by the Dietz Lantern Company as the largest and brightest lantern ever manufactured. These lanterns still carry the Dietz name and are manufactured to the exact specifications of the originals, but they are all made in China now. In my collection, my favorite lantern is the Blizzard. When camping, I greatly prefer using my kerosene lanterns over gas mantel lamps because of their safety and ruggedness, but mostly because the light put out by kerosene is softer and warmer looking. Another important advantage is there is none of that hissing and sputtering of a mantel lamp. Finally, kerosene lanterns are cheap to buy and cheap to run. One thing that used to severely limit my use of kerosene lanterns was the pungent and unpleasant smell of kerosene and the soot that quickly darkened the inside of the globe. In the last several years (here in the USA) kerosene has been replaced by odorless liquid paraffin lamp oil. This stuff is just great because it has no objectionable smell and it burns without soot. As a final note before I let this subject die, in the 1920's Dietz designed the pinnacle of kerosene technology: the Air Pilot. The Air Pilot is smaller, holds more fuel and puts out the same or nearly the same amount of light (12 candles) as the Blizzard. The Air Pilot is still available (made in China too), but I didn't see any in Tanzania. That's all I'll say about kerosene lamps - I promise.
Back to the ride. In the late afternoon we saw up ahead the picket ropes for the horses, the big truck (lorry) that carried all the camping equipment and our luggage and the tents, chairs and tables all set up and waiting for us. This first camping spot was set up on a remote hill top of exposed metamorphic rock where large crystals of garnet were rare, but could be found. It was a beautiful and wild location.
Next to each tent was a portable wash basin filled with hot water so that we could wash up as soon as our horses were unsaddled and given over to the native handlers. The tents were likewise already set up for us and our luggage was placed in front of the tent for our immediate use. Chairs were placed up wind from a big camp fire and we would be free to have a domestic beer, a soft drink, gin or whiskey. Those who wanted one would request warm water and take a shower or bath. With nothing more to do, we would comfortably wait for supper to be cooked and served by the native staff. It was a hard life I tell you.
This evening I took my first out door shower. The "bath house" was rigged up on the opposite side of the hill from the camp and facing to the east (toward Mt. Kilimanjaro). I was looking out over East Africa as it was getting dark and there wasn't a light to be seen or a glow from a city anywhere. It was kind of wonderful. On the other hand, the wind was blowing at about 15 knots or so and after getting wet and soapy, I felt very, very cold. It was a wondrous thought that occurred to me before I rinsed off in the warm water: at this very moment I was less than three degrees from the equator in the very heart of darkening (if not darkest) Africa and there I was buck naked and damn cold. Some things are worth traveling the ten thousand miles from California to Africa just to experience.
That shower was wonderfully refreshing and even with such thoughts occupying my mind, I managed to remember to put my clothes on and make it back to camp before it got too dark. We hadn't seen any wild animals yet and so the fears of being away from camp in the dark weren't too scary - yet.
As usual, supper was very good and I hit the sack rather early. I took a small short wave receiver along complete with private listening headphones and listened a while to the BBC and Voice of America before trying to get any sleep. It was nice to be able to keep up with what was going on in the world (more or less) although you might argue the stupidity of coming all the way to the other side of the world, but still not able to detach yourself from the world's cares. Anyway, my Larium stomach problems were getting better and I got some refreshing sleep in my tent that evening.
Thanks to the effects of the Larium (I think), I was up a couple of hours before dawn and feeling wide awake. I got dressed in the tent and went out to enjoy the scenery about camp before dawn and to photograph the scene as the sun came up. Around eight o'clock orders were taken for eggs and breakfast was served while the horses were saddled and made ready. Then around nine o'clock the word was given and we mounted up for another morning ride.Please continue on to Page 3 of this story
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