Ex Africa Semper Aliquid Novi

February 25, 2000

The Roman naturalist Pliny “The Elder” said it, sometime back in the first century AD — “There is always something new out of Africa”. David Roderick treated the Obsidians to a fascinating account of some of his many travels in East Africa. Much of what he told us involved very personal interactions with the people and the land — not your usual travelogue. East Africa’s geography, flora and fauna are outstanding, of course.

David has traversed the depths of the Great Rift and climbed the heights of Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro. He feels that Mt. Kenya is the more rewarding climb of the two. The timberline on Mt. Kenya is at about 9,000 ft. elevation (as compared typically about 6,000 ft. in Oregon), and one can expect to see there an occasional elephant, water buffalo or leopard. In the alpine meadowland one encounters, besides exotic plants, the closest relative of the elephant — the very tame, marmot-sized Rock Hyrax.

David’s penchant for adventure certainly colored the nature of his travels. Would you believe driving in elephant country in a VW Bug? On David’s first climb of Mt. Kenya he persuaded his reluctant guide to sleep out a white-out at the base camp (at about 16000 ft.) for a morning assault on the summit.

He once went off on a long hike to find (successfully) an ancient walled city on a remote island, with a native guide who spoke no English. Sharing the overnight hospitality of the natives in the lowlands took some getting used to, at night their small living quarters are kept filled with wood smoke to ward off the mosquitoes and tsetse flies! Obviously, a trip to Africa requires taking a lot of shots and a supply of anti-malaria pills.

Although Africa’s past reputation is as a hunter’s mecca, there is good deep-sea fishing to be had off the coast of Kenya. And inland, on the 150-mile-long Lake Rudolph, one can catch a 150-lb. lake perch . . . if you don't mind some competition from 20-fl. long crocodiles!

A painless (but not inexpensive) way, recommended by David, to experience the dramatic wildlife and landscape of Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda is via deluxe tent camping safari. He believes that on safari one is not likely to be subject to any effects of the political unrest that plagues much of Africa.

Bep Fontana

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