Gol Mountains

Name ID 1619

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Claytor, Tom Bushpilot
Extract Author: Tom Claytor
Page Number: 18i
Extract Date: 1996 July 03

Bernard Grzimek's plane

Rian stops the land rover on the crater rim, and we walk a short way through lush forest. The early morning mist is hanging in the trees. Rian pulls back some tall grass, and there is Bernard Grzimek's plane. I find it hard to speak. There is a moment when a story that one has only read or heard becomes a sudden reality. You can touch it. It is true. Michael Grzimek was flying in the Olkarien gorge northwest of here, near the Gol Mountains. The Ruppell's vulture nest there. He hit a vulture in flight, and it went straight through the window and killed him. I can't recall how many times I have stared at a vulture in the air. They must think it strange that such large birds can fly. The trick is to pull up and go over them. Perhaps, they can't judge distance well, but it is always at the last moment that they fold their wings in panic and drop down right in front of you. Michael and his father are buried on the Ngorongoro crater rim.

The askari tells Rian that four hyenas were spotted around my plane last night. I go out to inspect, and I can see all the tracks. One of the great dangers for an airplane in the wilds of Africa can be lions and hyenas chewing your tires. Normally, I can cut thorn brush and pile it around my wheels. This is usually enough of a deterrent to keep the tires full of air. I didn't want to cut thorn brush here, so I took out my can of pyrethrum mosquito repellent and sprayed it all over the wheels. I followed the tracks of the hyenas as they came and smelled the tires, but fortunately it worked. It is also not a good idea to leave any food in the plane. A thin aluminum airplane would be little match for the powerful jaws of a hungry hyena. Sometimes, when I write these stories, I can imagine that they may seem very strange to people who live in other parts of the world.

Confusion here: They find Bernard's plane on the crater rim, and then go on to describe Michael's crash. The remains of his plane are still on the valley floor north of Ol Karien, and not on the crater rim.

Extract ID: 3653

See also

Matthiessen, Peter African Silences
Page Number: 218
Extract Date: 1987

refuel at Barafu Kopjes

In 1961, the Serengeti was my ultimate destination in East Africa; in the winter of 1969 it was my home. We land and refuel at Barafu Kopjes, a beautiful garden of huge pale granite boulders and dry trees, in the clear light, where years ago I accompanied George Schaller on long walks across the plain to learn how primitive humans might have fared in scavenging young, dead, or dying animals. The wind is strong in the black thorn of the acacia, and a band of kestrels, migrated from Europe, fill their rufous wings with sun as they lift from the bare limbs and hold like heralds against the wind on the fierce blue sky.

Then we are aloft again, on a course Northeast toward the Gol Mountains, in a dry country of giraffes and gazelles. Olduvai is a pale scar down to the south, in the shadow of the clouds of the Crater Highlands, and soon the sacred volcano called Ol Doinyo Lengai rises ahead, and in the deep hollow in the land that is Lake Natron, on the Kenya border. We will fly across Natron and the Athi Plain and be in Nairobi in an hour.

He travelled in 1961 and 1969 and stayed in and around the Serengeti, the Crater Highlands, and the Arusha National Park, writing the classic book "The Tree Where Man was Born"

Extract ID: 4290

See also

Bechky, Allen Adventuring in East Africa
Extract Date: 1990

Ol Kerien

One such riverbed comes from the mouth of the Ol Kerien[sic] Gorge. It makes a wonderful campsite: Maasai and wildlife are both in the vicinity and, with an eastern prospect of Lengai, its sunsets and sunrises are among the finest in Africa. There is no water except that which can be dug from the bed of the sand river, so campers cannot expect a good wash.

The main attraction of the gorge itself is the colony of Ruppell’s Griffon vultures. Griffons are one of the commonest Serengeti vultures, their nesting sites are limited to a few suitable cliffs. Hundreds of birds roost and nest at Ol Kerien. In the mornings, they can be seen slowly circling above the gorge, waiting to catch the thermal air currents that will carry them effortlessly to the great Serengeti herds. The gorge is also used by the Maasai, who drive their cattle in to drink at wells that are laboriously dug in the stream bed. It is quite remarkable to be hiking in the narrow defile during such a cattle drive, when the lowing of the stock mingles eerily with the whistling of the herders. The Maasai around Ol Kerien see very few visitors, so contacts with them are completely authentic rather than canned tourist experiences.

From Ol Kerien, the track continues down the valley to Olduvai, but it is more interesting to cut cross country through Angata Kiti ('the little plain'), a pass in the Gol Mountains. Grassy prairies and hills of gleaming quartz-rich rock make the scenery reminiscent of Montana’s butte country. Lines of migrating animals use the pass to move between the Salei Plain and the Serengeti. ... At the western mouth of the pass, you emerge onto the Serengeti Plain. A line of kopjes is a good place to rest and savour the moment. From here you drive cross country toward the Gol Kopjes, Naabi Hill, or Ndutu.

Extract ID: 3706
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