in December, 1963, I received an invitation for an interview with the
Portland Cement Co. in
was necessary to carry out all the arrangements in absolute secrecy.
circumstances must Yugoslav authorities in
good Lebanese friend, Gaston, took us to the airport early in the
December 31. He was joining us on the first part of our trip to
half an hour before landing in
was almost when we got
room in the Brunner Hotel. It was of the old British colonial style,
wide verandas within the inner courtyard, and large rooms with high
and fans turning slowly. Soon after we settled, we hurried out to find
to book a safari visiting the Amboseli Game Reserve. After the safari
for the next day, January 1, there was still enough time to tour the
wide avenues offered a lot of window-shopping for both girls. Ljiljana
concentrating on the variety of goods and their prices, mentally
comparing them with those back in
met a number of Europeans and Indians, but far fewer than Kenyans or
mingling in the crowds on boardwalks. Most of the shops were owned
by the Indians, who mostly employed family members to deal with the
Ljiljana soon found that she had to change her bargaining tactics from
Khartoum, being more clever and artful, and taking more time for the
bargaining, that had to include some cunning if need be.
That night we celebrated the New Year as Gaston's guests at the Mayfair Hotel, on the city's outskirts. About two-thirds of the celebrants were of Indian origin and Europeans were in the minority. The musicians played fine tunes and the crowd danced a lot. We enjoyed watching the young Indian couples dancing, with the women in their traditional saris. We danced some of the slower dances, but just watched several modern dances we did not know. We left the party shortly after but had to wait for the taxi until a strong downpour stopped.
morning soon after the breakfast, a driver with a Mercedes 190D came to
this access road to Amboseli, we saw the first animals, like antelopes
gnus. We passed several Morans, who are the young Masai warriors whose
painted ocher. They covered their naked bodies with only a red cloak,
brandishing a long spear in one hand and holding a club or long knife
other one. I wanted to take pictures of them but they asked quite a lot
the privilege. Our Kikuyu driver warned me not to do it, so we drove
tried taking photos through the rear window, but the two Morans run so
behind us that their naked bodies showed up under the cloaks. As they
getting closer, wielding spears, our driver had to speed up to avoid
damages to the car.
Kikuyu spoke derisively about the Masai's' way of life in keeping large cattle herds but not eating their meat at all. Masai use their cows for the milk, which is mixed with blood, ash, and urine. Then this mixture is stored in a leather gourd for drinking later. The blood is drawn from the cattle's neck veins. Adding ash and urine to the mixture of blood and milk prevents its coagulation and keeps it from fermenting.
about half an hour drive on a narrow, curvy, and sloping road, we
onto a plain of the dried-out salt
The Kilimanjaro was in clouds, but one could anticipate its large mass, not being too far away. Our tent was large enough to accommodate three beds and a table and comfortable chairs. The floor was covered with straw-mats meticulously clean. Through an open flap in the rear, there was a service compartment containing a wash basin with several water-filled buckets nearby. A chemical toilet and a shower booth ended in the free rear side of the tent. The whole arrangement was simple and practicable for a one-night stay in this wilderness.
Lunch was served in a pergola with only a canvas cover. There was a long table with benches for some dozen of visitors, with several sitting already. The courses were served by skilled Kenyan attendants, and hungry as we were, the food was tasteful and plentiful. The whole gathering seemed to be excited, looking forward to the first outing in the afternoon.
a short rest, we got in our Mercedes and drove off to circumnavigate
lake, looking for lions and other animals staying somewhere there. Our
drove at a relatively high speed across the dried-up but thin surface,
with short left-right swings to pass over to grassy or ferny spots.
speed would result in being stopped by the muddy, soft layer below the
stratum. At last we came to a large bush where a huge lion rested,
the heat after gorging upon an open-bellied gnu carcass next to him.
their pleasure too, but the smell was appalling. We took pictures in a
but amazingly, the lion didn't move at all, despite the car being only
meters from him.
driver missed the right path out of
"Musketeers" got interested in us and started approaching cautiously
but we got off fast as the job was done barely in time. On the way back
camp, we saw several herds of Grants and Thompson's gazelles, impalas,
hartebeast, and zebras. All of them were moving to the drinking spots
We were back in the camp at dusk, and had just enough time to "shower" with lukewarm water spraying out from a hosepipe fitted into a canvas bag hanging from some kind of gibbet. The stars were watching from the firmament! It had cooled down and many stars glistened from a dark sky over the natural setting that had become strangely quiet. This was the first time we had experienced the African stillness. It was fully dark when dinner was served under the same canopy as at lunchtime, with canvas walls closed on three sides now. It became rather chilly and the fresh air streamed from the mountain, so we felt fine in the warm clothes we had put on.
The entree of boiled maize cobs made the dinner for us, at least, and with smeared on butter it tasted even better. The main courses were typical of an English formal meal and visitors enjoyed the perfectly prepared food. The visitors' spirits were excellent and we exchanged stories of the afternoon. Of course there was a lot of laughing over the miring and pulling out of the vehicles. Also Vesna got her chance to present her notes on the list of animals and their numbers she had marked so meticulously.
was interesting to note how the conversation swelled up and went on
visitors from various countries like
In the meantime, the Chief of Camp, a retired colonel of the British Army, invited the visitors to join him for coffee around a big bonfire. Comfortable canvas armchairs with blankets were arranged in a semicircle around an almost fading bough fire. The visitors sat enjoying the fire's warmth and sipped coffee in the sight of the giant looming shadow of Kilimanjaro in the background. The conversation became somehow muted by the nature's all-encompassing quiet, being broken intermittently by some animal's shriek.
Chief brought out an old gramophone (it looked almost like the one of
Master's Voice") and put on old shellac records (not LP's!) to play a
Christmas carols and some classical pieces. Some joined in singing, or
to the familiar tunes, or just listened, surrounded by an unusual
on that night of
dispersed, looking for tents, and
followed by a swarm of dudus attracted by the torches' beams. Very soon
camp quieted down and one could hear only the voices of
A voice calling politely, "Your tea, sir!" brought me back to my senses. Still drowsy, I got up and slowly unzipped the front wings, trying to remember where we were. In front of the tent stood a steward holding a large tray, who said: "Good morning to you, sir. Dawn will be soon. Kilimanjaro is cloud free! May I put the tray on the small table?" I was a little stunned by a tall dark man dressed in white, whose eyes and teeth gleamed against a dull gray background. With some protests, my girls got up and got dressed quickly to be able to observe the day's spectacle.
Other visitors came out of their tents too and cameras were put in position to record a beautiful morning. Now we could see the mighty Kilimanjaro, still in a misty haze, and its higher peak, Kibo. On the green meadows below the mountain slopes paraded numbers of long-necked giraffes, many antelopes grazed or dashed to and fro, joined by some zebras.
Kibo blazed up in brilliant yellow as the first rays of the sun lit up
horizon. Steadily, full daylight dispersed the haze, offering a
sight of the whole
A lonely elephant bull with one rather long task only
Later everybody rushed to the tents to pack belongings and get ready for the early morning cruise at . Cars dispersed in various directions, looking for animals, avoiding the lake this time. We were looking for elephants and saw several groups of females with offspring. Vesna diligently recorded what animals we came upon, like bush bucks and water bucks, gazelles, and impalas, some warthogs and few jackals, with several groups of baboons scurrying around groves or near woods. At last we came upon a group of four male elephants. The game warden directed us to get closer, bit by bit, to the mightiest of them. The car slowly moved around the group so we could take pictures to our heart's content. When the bull started waggling his mighty ears and lifted his trunk in our direction, the ranger told us it was time to get away fast.
Unluckily, the weather worsened and we felt hungry, so at we went back for breakfast. After the visitors began their leisurely departure. The sun was gone and clouds gathered, obscuring the peaks of Kilimanjaro from our view. We left the Old Tukai Lodge around on the same road we had come in the day before. I wondered whether we would ever be able to experience such an awesome sight again.
way back to
next day, Gaston left for
learned that a reservation had been made in my name for the third of
had to explain to the clerk that we had arrived three days ago and had
been on a
safari. I asked him to cancel the reservation as we had already booked
another hotel, so there was no point in moving for one night.
I asked the clerk to place a call to the
Bamburi Works in
decided to spend the early afternoon in a
nearby cinema that had a wide screen, perfect for a monumental movie
"Cleopatra". The film lasted almost four hours, and I returned to the
New Stanley Hotel just in time to receive the message that had come
stated: "You will be expected at
next morning we took a taxi to the airport to catch the morning plane
meeting with the managing director went extremely well for us. A firm
was reached with the company that I should come to
time we stayed in the New Stanley Hotel for one night only. The next
spent shopping, and went to the Corrington museum in the morning. In
afternoon we drove out to visit the
ended happily and successfully our first safari in
Email Zvonko Springer at : email@example.com