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Arriving in Nairobi just after independence and working for an International Advertising Company allowed me amazing opportunities to see some of Africa’s best Game Parks.

Vdub Vs Elephant

What happens to a vdub when an Elephant wants it to go backward?

This is the result of watching a herd of elephants in Tsavo national park in Kenya and one got a bit upset and came down the road and pushed us backward for quite a distance. There was a creek on one side of the road so I was trying to steer a bit except the elephant broke the bonnet catch with her tusks and the bonnet came up and I could only see through the small gap at the base of bonnet and windscreen.

This was early into my stay in Kenya pre-marriage so my fiancee, Lynda was in the font with colleague from Grant advertising David Harris, an account executive from London in the back. David had a 300 millimetre lens and he said later ‘all I could see was a bloody great eye’.

Elephants usually give a mock charge at first especially if there are young ones about , this one was probably and auntie helping to protect the young, and she just kept coming down the road. I had my camera with a modest 100mm lens and had started taking photos, in the panic I dropped the camera which went under the clutch and I stalled the car, as you never turn of the engine when near big game.

This elephant push seem to go on forever, well in my mind and worrying about the drop to creek on one side of the road. Then whether it was the petrol fumes as the fuel tank is in the front, or she was happy that we were out of the way she backed off and rejoined the herd. I managed to start the engine and made a hasty retreat viewing through this little slit in the bonnet and screen. Then hesitantly got out and shut the bonnet and drove non stop to the game lodge where we were booked in to get our much needed drink.

Talking to the locals we heard about a somebody in a car killed on the main Mombassa road earlier in the year when confronted by an elephant and the car crushed after the elephant burned their trunk on the radiator, We thought thank goodness  for V dubs with no radiator.

Ngorongoro Crater

Ngorongoro is a World Heritage Site situated at the eastern edge of the Serengeti in northern Tanzania. The crater is the largest unbroken ancient caldera in the world. Nearly three million years old, the once-volcanic Ngorongoro is now considered “Africa’s Garden of Eden” – a haven for thousands of wild game, including lions, elephants, wildebeests, zebras, rhinos, Thomson’s gazelles and buffaloes.

How it happened: an old friend of mine from Melbourne, Doug Kneen, worked at George Patterson Advertising, worked in the art department where I started as an office boy. Doug used to give me some ‘real jobs’ to do instead of just filing artwork and running messages for the grumpy art director.

As it turned out Doug played tennis with an amatuer pilot and another friend the navigator. They decided  decided to visit me in Kenya for a few days and we hired a 

four seater Cessna. We took off from Nairobi and headed for Tanzania enjoying sights along the way, We radiod ahead to the Lodge for a landrover and guide to meet us, had to buzz the strip first to clear any game from the grass strip.

It is a fabulous park with most of the big game all in close proximity of each other, also the only place where lions sleep in trees, seems the very bitey march flies stay at ground level and the lions can enjoy a nap undisturbed although the trees are very thorny [see photo].

The walls of the crater are quite high and while the animals could climb out they seem happy to spend all their time inside the crater. The water supply and grass appear to last all year and the animals are much safer from poachers and farmers than other game-parks.

n.b. one crazy thing happened on return to Nairobi the navigator had done a good job by plotting and dead reckoning [no satnavs then] we could see the airport ahead but there were big planes on the tarmac…whoops, dropped down below radar and turned left to the little airport nearby, the navigator had plotted our course beginning at the wrong airport, luckily no one else noticed.

Kilimanjaro  Climb

The story starts in Canada where a flat-mate Barry Kelly got a job as a gym instructor and talked me into joining my first ever Health Club. Well it worked my girth went down to a 34” waist and started getting fit, so when I arrived in Nairobi to settle for a while I discovered a small Gym. Getting to know some of the others at the gym and talking of things to do in holidays got into discussion about a group planning a trip to climb Kilimanjaro the highest mountain in Africa. The names of the group are forgotten but the leader had made a previous trip and knew the alternate route from the Kenya side as opposed to the usual tourist routes which leave from the Tanzania side and in most cases are much longer. There is an apparent  myth about the border of this great mountain. In the beginning the mountain was mostly in Kenya until Queen Victoria ‘gave’ it to her cousin King Wilhelm from Germany as a birthday present, at that time before the first world war Tanganyika was a German colony and became all British as East Africa after the war. This story appears to be a myth but if you look at a map you will see that the straight line of the border does a dog leg around the mountain to include all of Mount Kilimanjaro inside Tanzania.

The trek: We departed Nairobi early in the morning, the drive about 3 hours [200km.] through Kimana and Oloitokito and high into rainforest using 4 wheel land rover parked at the end of a track with no village for miles. A relative short walk through dense jungle hearing some monkeys about the only wild life around and soon into short scrub lands. At this stage just a gentle upward slope and we were wearing jeans, t.shirts sneakers or boots and carrying rucksacks with some food ,sleeping bags and some warmer clothing, no water necessary as lots of fresh water streams coming from melting snow off the mountain  I remember quite a long walk until we camped under a cave like overhang in some rocks, there had been fresh water close by and water bottles filled for first night meal cooked probably on small metho stove, I don’t remember a campfire and there wasn’t much wood as we were in moorland similar to Scotland with short heath and short grass and mosses, with some cacti type grass trees etc. Getting an early start the next day We had a good view of the twin peaks as We trekked up the mountain. Kilimanjaro was formed with a giant volcano now called ‘Kibo’ it has a secondary peak or old eruption to the east this rugged peak has the name ‘Marenzi’ . We were climbing up the saddle between these peaks then slowly weaving up the north side of ‘Kibo’ that is the main reason why the climb is more a hike as you don’t tackle the main peak directly upward until the final assent.

Now more mountain type terrain as the grasses and plants got shorter, this was quite a long day heading for a hut high on the mountain. Taking this route we didn’t see any other climbers until we reached the west side of the mountain and reached the hut in late afternoon. The wooden hut ,probably now much larger just had some wooden bunk beds and some sort of basic kitchen, I think rain water tank as well. The hut is at ? altitude which meant we had climbed some  ? metres and some /kms.

The mountain summit was in view and back in the sixties the snow-line was down almost to the huts, now there is a tiny amount left with global warming I can see a huge difference in photos of today. Another party was at the hut they had come up the usual route via Tanzania. We must have picked this time of the month to also take advantage of a full moon as I remember when we got up about 4 am to tackle the peak it was incredibly cold but very clear and bright moonlight. The attire was jumper and rain-jacket and perhaps I had some warm socks left fromCanada I know  I had sent my long johns and earmuffs home in a case as I didn’t think I would need them in Africa. I remember the climb was more of a scramble with two steps up and one step slipping backward the snow and ice were really slippery in just normal shoes, the distance wasn’t all that far but at this altitude every effort became tiring, I had my appendix out in Canada and when you first get out of bed after an operation you feel just so weak, the sensation was similar just no energy,of course if you are in an eroplane or climbing normally you are taking oxygen at this altitude. I notice in modern reports they mention a lot about people suffering altitude sickness and a high proportion do not make it to the summit, another factor in our favour was perhaps that we were a bit acclimatized as Nairobi is situated at 5,00 feet and that may help. A lot of Africans are great long distance runners as they live at high altitudes. Now the good bit, Just at dawn we arrived at the first summit peak and this goes down as one of those lifetime ‘highs’ the sensation of being above the clouds and at the very top of Africa was a truly amazing experience. The sun came up through the clouds and was identical to those sunrises you see from a plane, the clouds were a few thousand feet below us and really did feel like top of the world or in this case Africa.

The sky was clear above as it had been but that became a wonderful bright blue We considered going around the rim to reach the highest peak it was more time than anything, they seem to make a big deal of it now by leaving the hut at midnight or camping inside the crater and making sure they all climb the highest peak, We thought we had done the main job of getting to the top we could see in all directions and as the cloud lifted you felt you could see forever or at least to the ocean I am sure that was wish full thinking but it was clear and visibility for a long way.

In the crater  there was lots of snow almost glacier type packs and walls of snow and in the middle a perfect hole still obviously warm as there was no snow inside the core itself.

The trip down was quite fast the first bit back to the hut was spent mostly on backside sliding down as it was too slippery to do anything else. Once back at the hut collecting packs and gear back the same trek around the face of the mountain at a much faster pace, energy returns as you get lower altitude and still on a high from the mornings view of the scenery from the top. One of those top ‘things to do before you die’ was ticked off, We did make plans to climb Mount Kenya the next year, unfortunately I left Kenya for a new posting in Zambia and never got the chance, Mt Kenya needs some real rock climbing but a achievable for beginners with some of the right gear