From my Tanganyikan Safari Diary September 1955
On the road in Tanganyika
There was always a risk when arriving unbooked, on my Tanganyikan safari, to find ‘No Room At The Inn’ (thinking of: “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and laid him in a manger because there was no room at the inn.’ Luke 2:7)
Unfortunately, the reasons for my travels rarely gave enough notice to make reservations.
Unlike the big city palaces, the bush hotel would usually fit you in somewhere – often the manager’s own bedroom, then he slept in the office.
My job then, depended on public transport – no company car- so I gratefully accepted a friendly lift, agreeing to have my day off at this small up-country township while he did his days work there.
At the hotel on this Tanganyikan safari
One of us, but not two could have kipped in my companion’s car, but although we were unexpected, there was room!
After 160 miles of bumpy dusty dirt road, I needed an evening stroll for exercise.
This attracted the huge guard dog.
He cantered alongside and dropped his toy ahead of me.
No! not a ball but a heavy truck tyre, waist high.
Getting the message, I bowled this thing down the road, tyre and dog trailed by a cloud of dust.
He overtook it, threaded the needle with his head, and jaws inside, and clamped it to a standstill:- the original canine disk brake!
Half an hour of this was enough, for me anyway, so a quick clean up then into the lounge for a pre-dinner drink.
No electric light here (or anywhere in town) but a reassuring hiss from a Tilley Pressure Lamp set down beside me.
“Wireless no work” said the steward.
I fixed that, so my first beer was free.
But who needed radio in this browser’s paradise?
A wall of books supported a roof of old newspapers, mainly Rhodesian and South African from the proprietor’s homeland.
Much dust was disturbed before I found ‘EVIDENCE IN CAMERA’ by Constance Babington-Smith:
A quick scan and I decided this was my evening reading; the story of her discovery of the German V.1. buzz bomb launching sites during world war 2.
After dinner, a look at the glorious African night sky, then early to bed, but an hour passed before I opened the valve, and the Tilley lamp faded out.
I laid down the book, unaware that some twelve years later I would be living and working very near the authoresses home in Cambridge.
The next day (of rest) was exploratory, to find the star attraction- a waterfall with the District Commissioners bungalow perched near the edge.
What a view! – but I had not packed my watercolour sketching gear.
Day three, and back to the grindstone.
Check out, and the half-read book reluctantly returned to its corner, then with my companion, away on the road to my destination.
JUNE 1960 On the Same Road Again
From exile in Uganda and England, back to Tanganyika, up in the cool tea-growing Southern Highlands, mile after mile, view upon view, “Might Be A Good Stop For Lunch”; but press on – ‘TANGANYIKA POLICE’ on the Land Rover door ensures a clear road and a good welcome at the same old hotel.
Same hotel 5 years later:
Greeted by the same proprietor but with a steadier handshake this time.
“Joe, this Christmas, when you get back, tell them Old So and So (himself) is ‘On The Wagon’ (teetotal), but they won’t believe you”
A good internal soak, then take my pressure lamp into the lounge and sift through the same old pile of newspapers searching for a book.
In the very same spot, five years on it is still there!
So I blew off five years of dust, turned the pages and resumed reading ‘EVIDENCE IN CAMERA’, where I left off in 1955.
Incredible to think that book had waited there so long for my return.
Now this time, for my day off I had brought my watercolour sketching gear (still in use at Earith) and the waterfall too, was there awaiting my attention.
A perfect day ended by finishing the book.
A good book is the precious life-blood of a master spirit”MILTON
Joe Lucas; October 2007.
[i] Blackwells Books