Although Gatti wanted me to take pictures of the climbers starting out from the Kibo Hotel, he changed his mind and kept me at our base camp when the group left. Bob and I had predetermined schedules on the VHF radio link. Because of battery drain, something Gatti had not taken into account when he planned his “Ham radio from the top of Africa” operation, we made short tries to communicate on a time schedule. At the end of the first day we had our first contact on the VHF. The terrain was such that we didn’t think we could make a QSO while they were climbing to the first hut. The signals were very weak from the Bismarck hut, now and then it would cut out completely. Bob gave us a short description of the climb. “We left the Kibo Hotel with two guides , 15 porters, and a cook,” Bob said, “The porters carry... their heads; it’s a wonder they don’t have terrible headaches. The loads are pretty heavy especially the camera boxes at 40 pounds. We walked up a steady incline through coffe and banana shambas.... word means farms in Swahili. Errol has been shooting movies and Weldon still pictures along ... slowed us down. The native porters passed us up and went bouncing .... mountain. They walk fast, believe me! The rest of us have to become acclimated to the altitude.” I was recording Bob’s transmissions on the Webcor wire recorder for possible playback on the 10 meter band later in the day. “We passed a bunch of native women cutting and carrying large bundles of grass... feeding the cattle on the farms we went by. This is... big mountain!” I was working Bob on one of the built-in Motorola radios in the station wagon parked in the lineup of trucks. “After a couple of hours of pleasant hiking,” Bob continued, “we said “The Game Sanctuary” boundary. I couldn’t understand his English too..... took a 15 minute rest... good to sit .... catch our breath. The porters went bouncing along ahead of us like.... bunch of gazelles.” The rest of the transmission disappeared. I called Bob again, but no answer. At that very point Gatti came up to the station wagon and asked, “Is that Leo?” I acknowdleged the link. “Why didn’t you call me?” Gatti was mad. “I thought you were listening on your own VHF set.” I said. “The link’s no good—it’s dropping out.” Gatti turned and stalked away. About 50 yards toward his camp he turned and yelled to me, “Are you recording that conversation on the wire recorder?” I held up the microphone so he would see it. “Yes, sir, I am.” Gatti continued to walk to his camp. Things were not going his way and he was mad. The camp climate became relatively quiet after the five climbers, Leo, Powers, King, Prince and Wakeford, moved down to the Hotel Kibo to start the climb up the mountain. The people in the United States who followed Gatti’s expedition press had been lead to believe that Mount Kilimanjaro was being climbed for the first time; however, the hotel furnished porters and outfitted amateur climbers every week for the ascent up the great mountain to Kibo Peak. It was a well-worn trail walk for the most part, no rock climbing at all. The guide company had established a number of shelter huts on the five- day round trip route to the top. High altitude climbing is tough physical work; the body’s demand for oxygen increases with each foot of altitude, so the hotel company had recruited a great group of altitude-acclimated natives who lugged the baggage, food and supplies for the climbers. Don’t get me wrong, the climb to almost 20,000 feet is not a cakewalk; it is a grueling, oxygen-eating, muscle-grinding walk. Nevertheless, a couple hundred of Tanganyika visitors were making the trek each year. Gatti did not discover the mountain, nor did he attempt to personally conquer it. He did, however, ballyhoo the mountain like he was the Edmund Hillary of Africa. A couple days after the climbers started, I was sitting alone in the dining tent, waiting to be served my dinner. Through the mosquito bar that kept the bugs from invading our dinner table, I saw a stranger on a bicycle come peddling into our camp. He was dressed in African safari khaki, only in long pants instead of shorts. His overloaded bike had a sleeping bag and other personal belongings strapped to it. When he saw me he called out,”Hello, there, I’ve been looking for you guys.” His voice had an American musical swing to it. I hollered back, “We’ve been waiting for you; you sound like an American. Come on in out of the nice day.” The stranger pedaled up to the dining tent net, grounded his feet, and introduced himself: “Yes, I’m an American, and I’m in the process of riding this beat-up bike around the world. The lady in the Kibo hotel said you guys were camped up here, so I thought I’d visit. Call me Glenn, and I’m going to write a book about my travels on this trusty two-wheeler.” “Don’t let my boss hear you say you’re writing a book,” I said, “That’s what he’s doing over here with half a million bucks invested in all these trailers, trucks and tents, and he gets jealous at the drop of a cardboard topi.” I invited Glenn into the tent. “Okay. Won’t say a word.” Glenn said as he seated himself in the spot where Jim Powers usually dined. “I’m all alone,” I said, “The rest of our guys are up there on Kibo somewhere; they’re struggling to reach the top in a couple days. You’re just in time for dinner, if you don’t mind dining this early. I’m eating now as I’ve some radio skeds in a little bit.” “Thanks,” Glenn said. “I don’t carry much grub on my two-wheeler. If I have to sleep out, I don’t want animals digging in my pack—or me either.” “Don’t blame you,” I said, “you can spread your bedroll out in one of the Higgins trailers, too. All our guys, except one, and he’s in Moshi today, are up there.” I pointed skyward toward Kibo peak where the sun was still lighting the left side of the snow-covered volcanic top.”I’ve gotta talk to the crew on the radio in about an hour. I’ll have them blink a flashlight at us after dark so you can see where they are. Worked great last night.” Asmoni came to the edge of the tent and quietly asked, “Chacula qwa bwana ngini?” “Ndeo,” I answered, “chacula embili.” Glenn laughed, “You speak Kiswahili?” “You just heard about all I know—except when I don’t want natives to look at the camera lens, I say, ‘Hapana angalia kamera’, and that’s about the extent of it.” Asmoni brought our dinner: the remains of a scrawny chicken that one of the native boys had bought at a local market. As always, it was tastily prepared in an open pit by our camp cook; however, I never cared to see the bird before it was butchered. African safari chickens are not supermarket quality. “Not bad,” said Glenn as he swallowed a bit of the chicken, “you guys have a good cook. What’s this called in swahili?” He held up a fork full of chicken meat. “Believe it or not,” I laughed, “chicken’s called ‘coo-coo.’ I think someone named it after the little wooden bird that comes out each hour on a cuckoo clock. Some of the local chickens have about as much edible meat as the cuckoo clock bird does.” Glenn began to tell me about his travels. He had biked across the United States to San Francisco and then worked his way on a freighter to Australia. I’d been in Australia twice during the great war, so we visited at length about the down-under country. “I biked all the way across that continent,” said Glenn, “and then I found another ship job to Africa from Perth.” His tale included storms at sea, problems with bicycle repairs and, in general, was a very interesting subject. He told of occasionally sleeping out alone on the Tanganyika plains, a situation I wouldn’t relish. It would be too easy to be a midnight snack for some hungry wild beast. After dinner, the two of us moved into the ham shack. I started the army surplus PE-95 power unit when the sun went down and turned on the radios. “It’s time to start the generator,” I said to Glenn. “The old man wants it started exactly on schedule, he says it burns too much essence or petrol or gasoline, whatever you choose to call it. So we run our schedule right to the minute.” I then explained all the ham equipment to biker Glenn. He seemed to enjoy the explanations. “The ten meter band is just opening up to the USA,” I explained, “ and at 8 p.m. I have a schedule with the Hallicrafters people in Chicago.” Glenn brightened and exclaimed, “Chicago! That’s my home town! My wife works there now!” “Want to talk to her?” I asked. “Would I! You bet I would. I haven’t talked to her since Australia, and it costs way too much to phone overseas very often.” “We can probably get a phone patch from the Hallicrafters’ club station in the windy city,” I said confidently. “We’ve done it before. Gatti has the local Catholic Bishop talk to some Bishop in Chicago every now and then.” “That’d be great,” Glenn said. The light from his smile was bright and clear. “It’ll be noon in Chicago and we have a daily schedule with W9CGC at that time.” “I hope she’s at her office, she works for a small company as a secretary,” the lad said. For starters, I worked a bunch of US hams, and then, on sked, called the Hallicrafters’ station in Chicago. We had an excellent ten meter heaviside channel to the plant. I could hear a clock ticking on the ham shack desk; the band conditions were just perfect. The telephone patch call went through to the lad’s wife and they were the happiest two people in the world that evening. I’ve never been so excited as I was listening to those two young people chatting over a ham rig. He told her of his trip, how he had dinner with me, and that he was going to spend the night in one of our trailers. The Hallicrafters operator in Chicago was excited, too. “We’ll try and get a story in the local papers,” he said, “maybe Irv Kupcinet will take it for his column. He’s been following you guys.” Then it happened: Gatti popped in the door of the shack. In one second, I could tell he was disturbed, badly disturbed. He had distress flags in his eyes. If he’d been an elephant, his ears would be flapped out in the “about to charge” position! I introduced Gatti to the bicycle traveler, they shook hands, and Gatti smiled his best broad phoney smile. But behind that cheery smile I could notice seething anger. It became more evident when the commander quickly excused himself and disappeared out the door of the shack. I didn’t know what to say to the happy kid, he was bouncing around on cloud nine. I signed off with Chicago and turned to Glenn who said, “Your boss seems to be a nice guy, and I sure thank the two of you for letting me talk to my wife. You just gave me the greatest thrill of this trip! And it was cheap, too!” “I’m glad you enjoyed it, but I think the old man is upset,” I said to the visitor. “Something’s eating him.” “I hope it wasn’t anything I said,” the biker said earnestly. “No, Gatti’s funny in some ways. But to hell with him.” I turned back to the ham bands. I made a few short contacts with other hams in the States and traded signal reports. After the sixth contact, one of Gatti’s native servants burst into the shack with a red-hot Gatti-gram paper from the commander. I read it, and just as I expected, Gatti was mad, violently mad. He had monitored Glenn’s radio conversation with his wife in Chicago, and when the Hallicrafter’s group had mentioned getting the story in the newspapers, Gatti’s steam blew the pressure relief valve in his Italian psyche right out through the roof. The note was almost too hot to handle; it sizzled! I had hardly finished with the note when the phone from Gatti rang. I picked it up and the commander was on the other end: roaring mad. “Get that visitor out of MY ham shack; get him out of MY camp, and I want it done right now! Do you hear me, Snyder—right this minute!” Gatti was screaming at the top of his lungs. I tried to talk: “It’s dark out there—I’m not going to ask him to get on his bike....” “Snyder, get that man out of MY shack—out of MY camp—on his way— RIGHT NOW!” Like his notes, Gatti’s voice went into capital letters! I held the phone away from my ear. It was easily audible to the visitor. I hung up the phone. “Did you hear that?” I asked. “Your boss wants me out of here, doesn’t he?” Glenn was calm; I was mad. “Yes, that asshole. I’m ashamed to say I know him.” I was embarrassed along with seeing red. “I’m glad I didn’t unpack my bedroll, Willy, said Glenn. “I’ll pedal down to the hotel and spend the night there. It’s only a few kilometers.” I spent the next few minutes apologizing to Glenn. Never for a minute did I think Gatti would be so discourteous to a fellow adventurer. “He’s jealous,” I said, “ he can’t stand a real adventurer...” “Thanks for the dinner and the radio contact, Willy,” Glenn said as he hopped on his bike and started away into the African night. “Good luck, Glenn” I called after him, “and this’ll make a hell of a chapter in your book!” I followed the flashlight beam on Glenn’s bike until it disappeared down the mountain road. The nearly full moon was just rising on the horizon. I walked back into shack just as the phone rang again. “Is he gone?” asked Gatti, his voice still in high key. “Yes, sir,” I snapped, and with a grand gesture of disdain, slammed the phone back on the hook. I now hated, yes, actually hated, the man named Attilio Gatti! The phone rang again. I did not answer it, instead I called CQ on the ten meter band. It seemed like everyone and his brother were waiting to talk to me, so I slowly cooled down to normal. I didn’t sleep well after the confrontation with Gatti. I was mad; I was embarrassed; I felt guilty as sin for my role in putting a young adventurer out into the African night. Gatti kept his distance from me the next day. I went about the maintenance chores on the power generators without any sign of the commander. I did, however, feel my days with Gatti-Hallicrafters were about to end. Before evening came and Glenn had appeared on the scene, I had talked to Bob on the VHF radio. Because of problems with one of the war surplus VHF transmitters, we were using one of the truck radios to communicate with Bob on the mountain. The climbers were in hut number three and bedding down for the night. They were dead tired, and the increasing altitude was beginning to tell on their physical condition. Because of short battery life in the line-of-sight radios, we kept the conversation short. The next contact by the VHF radio was at noon while the climbers were resting and eating. I noted these talks in my daily log to Gatti and sent it over to his camp. As I had predicted, Gatti’s blue-squared graph note paper arrived by native messenger. It was labeled “Camp #2 -- Kyouri—Sat. Feb.28”, followed by great big letters:


The carbon copy is a little hard to read, but here are some extracts from it:


I cannot understand why you didn’t call me when Leo came through. As you will remember, I had asked you to call me on the phone or to send a driver to call me at once. I had even explained to you that I would be in my office, near phone, from 11:30 to 12:30. I am well as by your going ahead in making arrangements with Leo which are NONE of your business 1. even if this morning I have mentioned to you how I was planning to handle the matter. Please let’s not forget that this the G.H. Expedition and NOT the Snyder-Leo expedition—or station or shack or anything! 2. Would appreciate immediate delivery of a detailed report of conversation with Leo, etc. and of the arrangements that you took upon yourself to make—so that I can keep my notes up to-date and be there at the next contact. 3. As, after so many weeks of talking about testing, checking and preparing, we are reduced to talk from the cab of a truck—it will just as well if you work Leo from (truck numbers) #11 or #15 where they are located. 4. As I told you, please have: Kohler from 3:30 to 6:30 sharp. PE-95 from 8:00 to 12:00 sharp. (It’s not 3:42!!!)” What Gatti was referring to in paragraph 4 were the power generators in the Commander’s Camp. While the troops were on the big mountain, I was filling in on some of the routine chores around the two camps. When I saw that I had been 12 minutes late, I wondered if I had delayed the start of the Gatti’s cocktail hour by not getting the generator going on the sharp dot! The truck with the Canadian Club booze was kept locked and handy in the boss’ camp. Most of the time I assumed Gatti was listening on the conversations on the radio and didn’t need to be told, but in this case I forgot he didn’t have a VHF radio to monitor, so I was wrong in my assumptions. The Schult house trailers had both 6 volt auto battery and 120 volt lighting, so when we were moving on safari the residents were never without lights in the living trailers. The same arrangement was built into the Shack On Wheels, although we rarely used the battery power. The electric refrigerators in the three Schults were operated on alternating current, so they had to be hooked to a generator to cool the box. This was no problem during static camping, but on the road, the butter melted and the ice cube trays slopped over if they were not emptied prior to starting the trek on bumpy African roads. Now that the Kilimanjaro climb was nearing the end, Gatti turned his attention to planning for the next safari convoy It was to be to the Seringetti plains for heavy-duty animal photography. His next field order note took up the subject of batteries:


SNYDER: Batteries (6 volt): I got 2 for each Schult. Thus 6 spare ones. Thus, I believe, Hallicrafters sent some extra ones. 1. Where are all the spares? 2. Are they charged? 3. I need at least three spare ones, well charged, for the Serengetti Safari (spare for #1, where I will use the Audograph a lot—and for Magic Ear which we must have in order and take with us—etc. 4. Are the batteries of the 2 Strobes well charged? If not please take promptly care of them, because this is the time when we are going to use them plenty! 5. Also please keep in mind that—by when we go the 8th (early morning) I must have the Magic Ear again fixed up and in perfect working order. 6. And the lapel mike replaced in # 1. 7. Please send me one Handy Talkie. Thanks, After I finished reading the note, I pulled the battery out of the Shack trailer and put it on charge. I didn’t have any clues as the status of the strobe light batteries, for Errol was the man in charge of such gear.

CHAPTER 12, The Climbing

Copyright 2003,William D. Snyder
All Rights reserved
The porters were too fast, a break was needed
Bill, making coffee for Glenn Acclimating to the altitude