Crocodile Tales

I remember going on safari with my dad in the early 1960s to Baringo where he checked on the new fish-processing plant by the Roberts’ campsite. At night with lights shining, the muddy brown water looked like a parking lot with all the reflected crocodile’s eyes as hundreds of the reptiles waited for the effluent from the fish plant.                At night a buzzing cloud of lake flies – a little gnat like a mosquito – surrounded the pressure lamp. Every few minutes one of the servants would clear away the accumulated heap of dead bodies from under the lamp! I fished there in the mornings. It took just a few moments to catch the first one – usually a big catfish or a tilapia. And then the hook wouldn’t even touch the water when I threw it back out. The fish would leap up for it. I caught so many I had to stop before I got tired or bored! The crocs scared me, but they stayed out in the water. I also feared getting my toes bitten off by a catfish, like I’d heard had happened to one of the Roberts boys. Some small fish did nibble at my toes! We filled a big used wicker picnic box with the fish I caught and carried them back to Nairobi. We kept a few and my dad gave the rest to the staff. The fish tasted delicious. A few days later, we asked the staff how they liked the fish. “Oh!” they said, “we still have them as they aren’t ready yet.” Apparently they liked their fish tender and...

Bad Binoculars

As we drove up the Subukia road towards Lake Hannington (now Lake Bogoria) in 1965, my husband Victor Burke stopped to watch some birds with his binoculars. Within minutes six Tugen men had gathered, intrigued by the binoculars. Victor explained that the binoculars brought things closer. Victor handed the binoculars to the men to try.  They took turns looking through the binoculars, turning them this way and that.  Finally they handed the binoculars back and told Victor they were no good. “You told us they would bring things closer so we could see them,” one man said, “but we can’t see the wedding that we know is taking place on the other side of that mountain!” Taken from the recently published book Safarini by Margaret Ann Hayes, Okanagan, British...

Newsreels Fire Imagination

During World War II we sometimes saw black and white newsreels with moving pictures of how the war was progressing. We kids enjoyed watching the tanks clank across the screen firing rounds of ammunition. Sometimes the newsreels also showed other news. One time we watched a motorcycle daredevil drive off a ramp and fly over a group of men laid out on the ground like logs.  This fired my imagination. I went and built a ramp of my own. Then I persuaded my brothers, Willard and Howard, to lie down on the ground.  Trusting me, they agreed.  I pushed my bike a long way behind my ramp, and then rode it as fast as I could. The ramp launched me into the air, but not as far as I had hoped and I landed on top of my brothers. I thought I could fix the ramp for a better leap, but my brothers didn’t want me to try the stunt a second time. On another newsreel, we watched paratroopers leaping from aeroplanes and parachuting safely to the ground.  I found an umbrella and thought it would make a good parachute. I climbed onto the roof of the garage at Litein, where we lived, and leapt off.  The umbrella did little to slow me down and I crash-landed to the ground. Dilly Andersen,...

Rhino Cargo

In 1949 Col George Jazman was driving his 10 cwt Fordson panel van on the Kiganjo-Mweiga road from his house between Monte Carlo Ranch and Steep (now Aberdare Country Club) when he heard a huge thump in the back of the car. When he looked around he saw a rhino in his car! Luckily he was on his way to do his duty as the hunter for Treetops and had his rifle with him and was able, with great difficulty, to shoot his unwanted passenger before the rhino completely destroyed his car. A photo of the rhino in the car was printed in Field magazine. David Doig, Njombe,...
Catching the Train

Catching the Train

Getting out into the bush was the best thing about going to school at Rift Valley Academy for me. We had a huge playground – the wild out-of-doors. Once we hiked a few miles northwestward along the railway to climb Kijabe Hill. We found heavy old tires near the top and sent them crashing down the mountain, squashing bushes. We laughed hard when a reedbuck and a duiker ran for their lives. Coming back we ran and climbed on a freight train chugging uphill. Didgie (Dave Johnson) missed getting on with the rest of us, so he caught the caboose. Hanging on, he looked up – into the black-bearded brown face of an Indian Sikh with neat red turban. “Yes, how far?” the Sikh man said in a deep friendly voice. Stanley Barnett in an unpublished...

Wattle Underwear

While attending the Highlands High School at Eldoret, we were taken to a wattle farm belonging to an elderly German. Wattle trees where grown and the bark used for the leather tanning industry. We were told how the trees were planted and harvested and finally to our great amusement he said, “Und von day you vill all be verring vattle underver. Ve vill turn the trees into fine thread like nylon.” Thank goodness that never happened. Imagine wattle underwear! Would it have been scratchy and bright yellow, like the flowers? We had lunch in the wattle plantation and then went for a dip in the small river. When we got out, we were horrified to find we were covered with leeches! We received no sympathy from our teachers who informed us that the Victorians paid doctors good money to bleed them with leeches. Helen Leggatt, South...