A stop for lunch in the endless immensity of the Serengeti Plain This journey we managed to make just in time, by going as fast as the terrain permitted and as steadily as our physical resistance allowed. It was a pity to clash so fast through the game paradise of the Serengeti and of the Ngorongoro crater. But it would have been much worse to be caught by the rains anywhere along those hundreds of treacherous miles.Loliondo, a tiny post with a white population of two (the Assistant District Officer, or A.D.O., and his wife), was our goal. For the several days of strenuous safari, we kept in continuous radio contact with it. The postal agent there, an African, had a receiving-transmitting station of no appearance and absurdly small proportions and power, with which we couldn't understand how he would be able to handle official and private telegraphic traffic.But he did, and most efficiently. Every day he would gather and give us by code the snappiest weather reports. And every day they were worse. When he told us that all we could hope for was another 48 hours, we made a final effort. Going, going, going, without even stopping for a bite of lunch or for a picture, that same evening we made Loliondo.The following day I drove right and left with the A.D.O. to find a good site for an especially large camp, as none of the spots he had picked up appealed to me. We were only 2 degrees south of the equator. But each suggested place was naked, grim and swept by so violent and cold a wind that nobody not accustomed to the Arctic could have camped there for long.Finally, I saw just what I wanted: a glade of easy access, not far from a spring and practically surrounded by a tall, thick jungle growth which would protect us from the wind and supply any quantity of firewood. This was a special blessing, not only in view of our kitchens and other needs, but also and most especially for our boys who, accustomed to the heat of the coast, were desperately shivering, sneezing, coughing and entirely stupefied by the combination of cold weather and 10,000 or so feet of altitude.Immediately, we moved there. Keeping a constant eye on the menacing clouds, we worked like mad to get ready for the onslaught of rains. With the help of an army of laborers supplied by the A.D.O., of scores of truckfuls of grass and poles of every size which he had had his men cut for us during the last month, we also pushed as fast as we could the construction of a garage, a petrol dump, a storage house, an "annex" to the "Rolling Lab," a dining room for our personnel, huts for all our boys, huts for the laborers, huts, huts, huts. A MAN-MADE VILLAGE comes to lift in the jungle glade frequented by zebra's and wildebeests, by lions and leopards and occasionbally by a well guarded herd of Masai cattle. Narwa, as the locality was called, became gatti's Main Camp No. 4, the largest maintained during the entire expedition, a little town filed with tremendous activity. After a few days of frantic bedlam the place was unrecognizable. From the silent, still jungle glade, sometime frequented by zebras and wildebeests, by lions and leopards and only occasionally by a well-guarded herd of Masai cattle, NARWA, as the Masai call the locality, had become our MAIN CAMP NO.4, the largest we had in the expedition-a regular little town, as towns go in Africa, and one filled with tremendous activity.Squawks and voices came from the FM sets and from the radio station in the "Shack-on-Wheels."Motors throbbed everywhere of Internationals going and coming, of battery-charging and of power- generating engines. Natives shortened or dovetailed posts and poles, chopped off segments of jungle which protruded at the wrong places, kneaded mud for the walls of the main "buildings," rolled petrol drums filled with water, dropped huge loads of firewood, dug rain ditches, danced around a huge grate of sticks on which the meat of an antelope or of a zebra was being smoked.Masai warriors in ever-larger groups trouped in from all the surrounding valleys and hills to watch for hours the miracles of this extraordinary camp. Masai women bargained shrilly with our boys over the sale of great gourds filled with smelly milk. Kikuyu little traders talked for hours before parting with bags of potatoes, -baskets of fruit, pots of native beer. Tarishi (government messengers) were going and coming, bringing cables or heavy mailbags from the postal agency or chits from the A.D.O.Songs. Calls. Orders shouted. Whistles blown to call this boy or that. Frantic yells of sudden protest from hordes of monkeys in the surrounding trees. Cases noisily pried open. Others hammered closed. Rush. Rush. Rush. The rains have miraculously held until now. But they are coming. Come on, speed up. Let's get ready fast. . . . NOW AND THEN a bit of nostalgia caught up with our adventurers. Recalling one day that it was the 4th of July, Cmdr. and Mrs. Gatti drink a toast with Errol Prince, Weldon King and Norman Wakeford, principals in the expedition. The rains, the "tremendous" rains which would cork us up in camp for weeks on end, which for days would not allow us to drive even to Loliondo, which would make a torrent of each ditch, a river of each gully in the road, an impassable swamp of every depression-the great rains never came at all.On the contrary, all of a sudden, we heard only about the equally "tremendous" draught. The Masai had to concentrate their immense herds of cattle near whatever little water remained. Because of this, the game had to move away from their usual drinking places to the vicinity of what unoccupied water holes they could find.We were sorry for the Masai. We were doubly sorry because, too worried about their cattle, their sole possession, they were not much inclined to give us all the time we needed for the pictures and studies we had planned. The wild animals situation was another story. It suited us fine. GROTESQUE AND BEAUTIFUL, the giraffe rears his eighteen feet of height against a cloud symphony. Because now we knew for certain where to find herds of whatever game we wanted to photograph and-once a week or so-to shoot for the pot. For now the "pot" was a large one. The only way we could get fresh meat for ourselves and our boys was by hunting. In addition, we had to feed hundreds of laborers and "actors," all of whom could eat prodigious quantities of meat.Meanwhile, rain or no rain, draught or no draught, the work was advancing. Radio experiments were progressing, radio contacts piling up by the hundreds. Our collections of still and stereo and motion pictures of game and natives were swelling up with thousands of cut films, slides, transparencies and rolls.Everything went on satisfactorily, but it was a long, complex job. We were still far from its completion when the inexorable calendar reminded us that the end of the expedition 's six months in the field was approaching fast.Also, the rainy season had played one of its not unusual tricks. Having so conveniently missed us, it had fallen with redoubled vigor to our northwest, flooding entire districts -along the way we had to follow to reach the Mountains of the Moon. The movement of our entire equipment, especially the heaviest trailers, had become a difficult proposition which, at best, would take much too long.The only solution was for the photographic section of the expedition to continue its work in and around NARWA, MAIN CAMP NO. 4, and for the radio section to go, lightly loaded, to establish MAIN CAMP NO. 5 on the slopes of the Ruwenzori, near Fort Portal and the border between Uganda and the Belgian Congo.By the time our two Uganda stations, VQ5-GHE and VQ5-HEG, had concluded their job at Main Camp No. 5 and returned, we had finished also with the Masai and the Sonyo. Having worked satisfactorily the entire array of our live stations and completed a few more than four thousand world-wide contacts, we began preparing for the return of part of the personnel to America.The three men who had proved themselves outstandingly good and reliable remained, however, for a two-month extension during which we wished to devote our entire time and energy to an exceptionally tough photographic project about which I shall write more fully elsewhere. These men are Weldon King, color photographer and my assistant; Errol C. Prince, in charge of color motion pictures; and Norman Wakeford, camp manager.During the following nine weeks the live of us worked out of MAIN CAMPS NO. 6, 7 and 8, respectively at NANGA POINT, on the Kavirondo Gulf of Lake Victoria, at NAKURU, the most charming and generously hospitable little town in B.E.A., and in the grounds of the DESTRO FARM, near Nairobi.In view of the Jack of further space I shall limit myself to adding only a few brief recollections:Attilio Gatti.•Hippos and crocodiles emerging at night from the papyrus which bordered our NANGA POINT CAMP, to roam and grunt and snort amidst trailers and tents and trucks.•The joyful astonishment of Luo and Kavi- rondo natives as they excitedly watched the marvel of our little fleet of Aero-Craft boats darting at full speed across Lake Victoria, as vast as a sea•The long days-and the entire nights- spent up to our knees in the slimy, muddy, soda- saturated water of Nakuru Lake, never more than 21 inches deep, to obtain what no one has ever before managed: a full coverage of the flamingoes, there by the hundreds of thousands and yet as elusive and unreachable as if they had been on Mars.•The Equatorial sun, there doubled in strength by the reflection of the water, roasting us to a crisp, giving us the most painful sunburns of our life-while the pestiferous water (if the word may be used for the muck which fills that crater lake) took advantage of the slightest scratch or crackling of the toasted skin to start a glorious case of blood poisoning.•And the satisfaction of a job well and pleasantly clone, on the whole, when we reached Nairobi for the final curtain.•A satisfaction so strongly mixed up with so many deep sad feelings; at the disbanding of that tight group which had worked together so hard for so long; at the half-laughing, half-crying farewells with those native boys who had grown to be such an essential part of our lives; at seeing pass into other hands our faithful Internationals and all that wonderful equipment of every kind which had become so familiar and dear.•At parting from all those good friends and the nice friendly people of British East Africa.•At concluding my 15 years on African soil; at bringing to a close this 29-year-long period of my life and activity entirely devoted to Africa; at telling Africa good-bye-good-bye for good, this time!•GOOD-BYE FOR GOOD? That means forever-again. We are where we started on page 1 of my narrative, and at a new stage in my pursuit of the endowment policy . . . I am older and wiser. It is, as they say, later than one thinks. Have I been tamed sufficiently, now?•Will someone bring that dotted line?••
Among the Masai warriors wear long hair, houswifes keep their hair shaved. The Masai woman goes in for ornament. Strips of leather covered with colored beads, heavy spirals of copper or of brass wire, a piston ring or other bit of metal discarded by us, anything will do!
For centuries the terror of East African tribes, the Masai, were first-class bandits, but brave men. To become a full-fledged warrior, a youth was required to corner and kill a full-grown male lion by knifing its heart while the provoked beast made its leap.
THE SLOPE OF MT. MERU was home to the rhinoceros. The plains to the west were crammed with wild game. The expedition's observations and its photographic efforts were well rewarded.
Our main camp at Nanga Point was one of the most picturesque of the entire expedition. It occupied some three acres of open ground on the shores of Victoria |Nyanza's beautiful Kavirondo Gulf.