Name ID 1398
Matthiessen, Peter The Tree Where Man Was Born
Extract Date: 1972
Leaving camp [at Nasera, also spelt Naisera] and the truck behind, we went eastward down the valley, taking along a driver and two rangers. ... The valley was much rougher than expected, and two hard hours passed before we came to a rise that descended onto the Salei Plain. To the south, in a kingdom of black rains, the Crater Highlands mounted toward the rim of Ngorongoro, thirty miles away; away from the Ngorongoro road, the Crater Highlands, girt by dead volcanoes that rise ten thousand feet and more into their clouds, are little known. Northeast was the rim of the escarpment, and beyond it, and far below lay the great lonely Lake Natron, stretching away to the Kenya border. Straight ahead, lost in the clouds, Ol Doinyo Lengai rose nearly ten thousand feet from the Rift Valley floor.
The Salei Plain, which forms a broad step between the Gols and the brink of the escarpment, is a bitter place of tussock and coarse bush that rises from grey cindery ash of the volcanoes, and for a time it seemed that its creatures were all solitary - one hyena, one giraffe, a rhino - as if only here, in this land too poor to support predators, such outcast animals could survive. The big coarse grass, too high to walk through with impunity, hid stones that could gut a car, and progress, which had been slow all morning, became slower still. In eleven hours of lurching and jarring, with one half-hour stop, we were to travel less than eighty miles.
... The Land-Rover retreated westward, toward the east face of the Gols.
... Under the cliffs was a Somali track, headed south toward the mouth of the Ngata Kiti, where we climbed out of the Salei in late afternoon. Soon the air was cool, and we paused on the slope, gazing back toward Lengai, which had come up out of its clouds to watch us go. The Mountain of God is a magnificent pure cone, a true mythic volcano, shrouded in pale ash so fine that it mists into the canopies of clouds, making the whole mountain an illusion.
Now the sun appeared, and the air dried; the pale tones of Ngata Kiti came to life.
... Three miles from Nasera, we got down from the Land-Rover to walk home. Today we were beaten, but another day we would come back.