PART IV: EAST AFRICA
At this point the expedition shifts into independent travel via an arsenal of Lonely Planet travel survival guides. Free-wheeling adventure characterized by daily uncertainty about where one is going to eat, where one is going to stay, and how one is going to get to either. Plans are quite flexible since having no reservations, no return flights, and five months enroute to ponder the possibilities obsoletes advance planning. Past travels have shown that the most intriguing destinations are always discovered by word of mouth from other travelers. This grapevine also works well for avoiding the most undesirable locales although dropping by the local American embassy does not hurt either.
Arriving at the end of the fall wet season, we will probably hang around East Africa for a month or so, white people in a black people s country, possibly doing any or all of the following:
- Reveling at sleeping indoors at night and not bouncing around the back of a truck during the day. After five months in the bush, there will likely be a few postcards referring to clean sheets as orgasmic.
- Groveling at foreign embassies to obtain visas to onward destinations and scrounging for cheap airline tickets from shady travel agents to get to those destinations, most likely Pakistan and India.
- Possible touring a few more game parks with other travelers. These tours can be frightfully expensive and who knows where our heads will be at after the truck ride, but I have seldom been able to predict when enough is enough in the past. On the other hand, if the stories I hear about convoys of tourist-laden Land Rovers and VW pop tops circled around a single elephant are true, game parks might be a real turn off.
There are a few places in Kenya and Tanzania that are on the must see list:
- The island of Lamu, a legendary (notorious) hippie hangout of past decades on a par with Goa (in India) and Kathmandu (in Nepal). The latest word from the Lonely Planet newsletter says that Somali gunmen have moved south to ambush tourist buses going there but, hopefully, that will get straightened out before we arrive.
- Zanzibar, another island off the coast of Tanzania. We will probably sail to the island from Dar es Salaam by either hitching a ride on an Arab dhow or booking the hydrofoil if, for no other reason, then to learn why it was christened the MV Virgin Butterfly. Although the island is a good place to pick up a fifty pound bag of cloves, I am more interested in its slavery heritage. In the latter nineteenth century it has been estimated that up to 30,000 slaves were sold annually by Arab traders in Zanzibar s thick warren of markets and secret passageways. I can t wait to explore the ornate but neglected legacy of Arab architecture and wealth.
Budget permitting, we may head south to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. However, the fact that this country, formerly known as Rhodesia, has ATMs (cash machines) readily available makes me think it could be a major tourist trap. Other countries in the neighborhood include Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar but I haven t read anything about any of them so who knows where we may end up.
But one destination not to be missed in Kenya is Tsavo, home of the famous man eating lions, midway between Nairobi and Mombassa on the Kenyan Railroad. Tsavo is a nowhere place, home of the ignominious Man Eaters Motel. You may guess that the name is a phony - it is not! At the turn of the century, the British decided that Kenya should be traversed by rail. One of the many obstacles was the Tsavo River. Building a bridge across it fell to one John Patterson, big game hunter and soldier of fortune, and his legions of Indian laborers. As construction progressed, a pair of rogue lions somehow developed a taste for human flesh and discovered how helpless human beings in tents were. At night the lions would sneak into the dark camps and drag off victims out of their tents for dinner. As the lions grew bolder, they no longer dragged their prey far off, leaving the unchosen ones with the ghastly experience of listening to the beasts crunch the victim s bones once the screaming stopping.
Try as he did, Mr. Patterson could never seem to be in the right place at the right time to shoot the beasts. But he did keep a diary and eventually published a best selling account of the episode, The Man-eaters of Tsavo. Thanks to him we now know how a lion kills and consumes a human meal. Apparently the victim usually dies of a broken neck and is then dragged off by the head. With the victim rendered immobile, the lion licks off the skin and sucks the blood out of the flesh. Then the lion devours the torso and legs, often scattering the entrails, finishing up with the arms. Rarely are the head or feet eaten. Such gruesome findings led to severe morale problems among the search parties that went out in the morning looking for the latest victim. This situation was definitely not covered in my management classes during grad school!
Mr. Patterson tried all means but the lions had the advantage of darkness and Mr. Patterson had his hands full during the day contending with severe labor unrest. He even went so far as to use human bait in traps to lure the beasts into a fatal position. But it was not until 28 of his Indian workers and an estimated hundred more natives had been eaten that he was finally successful. For a more detailed account of this bit of African history, I suggest you pick up The Man Eaters Motel by Denis Boyles at the library.
Apologies to the squeamish for belaboring this subject but, hey, it s something to consider when you are planning to sleep outdoors in Africa for months on end!
Now, moms, you need not worry - lions, like man, prefer to eat herbivores like antelope, buffalo and the like. To quote Mr. Boyles: Imagine you are a lion watching a man in the field. The man is slow, with no natural defenses, and he smells rank. He is incapable of disguising himself. His movements are utterly incomprehensible, unpredictably stumbling or waving his forelegs in the air. If you were a lion, you d say to yourself, That s very odd food. Even if you could get past the smell, you might wonder how to kill him. Finally, you would retreat from the unfamiliar and look for something else.
On the other hand, as Mr. Boyles points out: Man-eaters often have broken or dull teeth, and frequently they have badly injured limbs, usually caused by deeply embedded thorns and infection. Once they get the hang of it, lions must find men easy prey; they simply wander into a village, browse confidently among the huts, and walk away with the food, with no tiresome lunging and leaping, no desperate death struggles.
So I will definitely be keeping an eye on any lion with a crooked smile. Perhaps I ll bring along my trusty vial of pepper spray that I used to carry on my bike for discouraging dogs from using my calves as lunchmeat.
(To be continued)
Copyright (c) 1995 Jet City JimBo