A ZOO WITHOUT BARS by T.A.M.Nash. published by Wayte Binding, 97 St James Park, Tunbridge Wells, Kent. £9.95 plus £l.50 p&p
On being given this book to review I wondered what made it worthy of a leatherbound edition of £55,00. Having read it I am reminded of a precious miniature portrait which is kept in a velvet lined box. It is in effect a microcosm of 5 years of one person’s life while he was Tsetse Fly Research Officer in Kondoa district of Tanganyika Territory from 1927-32. As such it is unique and a collectors item. The author says, “it is written for the reader who is interested in the living conditions, the wildlife, the peasant and the European characters who gave (him) so much to laugh at.” It is based on his 117 letters home and is generally non-technical and abounding in details of everyday life in the bush. In fact there are so many details and so many incidents that they are inclined to become overwhelming if the book is read for a long stretch. However as a lively record of bygone days it is very good indeed, and what emerges particularly is this young man’s tremendous vitality and ability to ‘get to grips’ with everything around him and enjoy most of it. I imagine that the author, writing over 50 years later, must have relived the whole experience with much the same enjoyment but far fewer physical trials!
Tam Nash was only 22 when he took up his appointment under a somewhat eccentric boss (C. F. M. Swynnerton) who “never slept for more than four hours a night and was always in too great a hurry to stop for food. He was a delightful person, a tremendous enthusiast but utterly exhausting. His native name was ‘Bwana Funga-Fungwa’ (Master packunpack)”. Tam does not say much about the tsetse fly experiments but what he does say indicates that they were along the same lines as those we recently saw on television in a Horizon programme about the very successful work now being done in Zimbabwe by Dr. Glyn Vale. Has progress been slow ?
Living in the African bush over 50years ago was no joke, and Tam underwent no particular training for it as recruits do today. For the first few months he had no proper house; he had no electricity, no refrigerator, no telephone; there was no airmail post until 1931; there were no insecticides as we know them and no antibiotics and only quinine for malaria. Somehow he adapted to the dreadful living conditions and delighted on the wildlife on his doorstep, his “Zoo Without Bars. ”
After 14 months a proper house was built for him out of sun-dried mud bricks by one of the interesting European characters around. This was a “stubby little man” named Tschope who had been chauffeur to Colonel von Lettow-Vorbeck and later a Company Commander with the German forces, gaining the Iron Cross. I like his artistic streak: “He cut a stencil from a petrol tin and made a frieze of grey rhinos on a whitewash background, trotting along the top of three walls of the verandah, finishing at a grey pool of water.” Tam says, “it made an excellent background to show off my best antelope heads.”
This sentiment might not have been echoed by today’s animal lovers, but it must be understood that Europeans living in the reality of the African bush, shot animals as a matter of course, either for food or for self-defence and they took some pride over the way it was done. It was indeed usual for expatriate officers to shoot game to provide enough meat for themselves and their African employees, especially where there were no cattle due to the tsetse fly problem.
Tam’s encounters with animals led to many interesting observations of their behaviour. Besides being an entomologist, he was obviously interested in all aspects of the natural scene around him. Trees mentioned in the book are almost always given their latin names as well as their common ones. Kondoa district was on the edge of the Masai Steppe and the Rift Valley, and there seem to have been countless lions, rhinos, zebras, gazelles, buffaloes and such like around In 1929 Tan married a “small wife,” Wendy was only 4’10” tall but I imagine must have made up for lack of inches with courage and devotion! Her only complaint as far as I recall was that when she arrived, the doors and windows of her new home had been painted blue and it clashed with the curtain material she had brought with her. They had to stay with neighbours for a week while this was rectified.
At this time also Tam acquired a car – a model T Ford for which he himself designed a wooden box body and had it built in Dar es Salaam. This enabled them to make some enjoyable excursions, even into Kenya. Once, on the way to Lake Basuto, they “met Wa-ufiome women wearing t heir ruffs of concentric circles of highly polished brass wire around their necks, and later the Wambulu women with their soft leather shawls beautifully decorated with beads, shells and coins; in some cases the shawls contracted at the back of the waist and then widened out near ground level, looking like the tails of birds.”
On 16th February, 1931, the first R.A.F. planes landed in Tanganyika at Kondoa. There was great excitement and Tam was taken on a flight. Among the crew was Wing-Commander Harris, Pater to become “Bomber Harris” and Marshall of the R.A,F. Also that year they received their first airmail post: a letter from England took 20 days to arrive! Social life varied. Sometimes they had interesting visitors such as Dr.L.S.B.Leakey, Sir Julian Huxley, the Duke of Gloucester, and Sir Walter Johnson.
In April 1932 a son was born to Wendy and Tam, in hospital at Dar es Salaam. However, this event led to them leaving Tanganyika as Tam felt the time had come for him to seek a pensionable post. He spent the next 26 happy years in Nigeria.
BICYCLES UP KILIMANJARO by Richard and Nicholas Crane. Published by Oxford Illustrated Press and obtainable from Brigit Plowman, J. H Haynes and Co Itd. Sparkford, Yeoville, Somerset. £9.95.
“Bike across the Sahara?”
“No good. Murph, and Tim have already done that”
“Swim up the Nile?”
“Don’t like water”
“Right. What about running somewhere. Cairo to Capetown? Up
“Did running last tine”
“Bike up Kilimanjaro then !”
“Mmmmm Could be a good idea. Could be BRILLIANT! Let’s do it”
Thus the genesis of the idea culminating in the ascent of Kilimanjaro by the Crane cousins, riding up and carrying bicycles, is described in their book “Bicycles up Kilimanjaro.”
The enthusiasm, energy, and zest of the pair catches the reader and leads him on to the final ascent of Uhuru Peak, the highest point in Africa. The main author, Nicholas, seems to have been born on a bicycle (he is editor and author of books on the subject), and his narrative of the ascent leaves the reader feeling somewhat bruised and battered from all the tumbles that the pair take.
The book is well written, providing an interesting narrative of what is really a fairly straightforward hike (on foot!) up Africa’s highest Mountain. The Crane cousins’ desire to do something different results i n their resolve to ride and carry their mountain bikes up Kilimanjaro and to be the first people to cycle round the summit marker on Uhuru Peak at 19,340 ft, The exhilaration of attaining Gillmans Point on Kilimanjaro’s crater rim, following a 3,000 ft near vertical climb up volcanic shale from the mountain hut at 15,000 ft is well captured, as is the extreme difficulty of trying to cycle, or even think clearly, in the rarefied air at such altitudes. One has to admire the pair’s determination in trying to ride along the rim from Gillman’s Point to Uhuru Peak, gasping desperately for breath and trying to co-ordinate their movements. The ultimate reward must have been to freewheel from 19,000 ft to 7,000ft in double quick time !
The ample narrative of the book is complemented by some excellent photographs, which alone make the reader want to attempt the journey (albeit on foot !). There is little descriptive text outside of the everyday events and surroundings affecting the travellers, though one section is devoted to a visit to Wajir in North Eastern Kenya to see the site of the windmill pump to be purchased from funds raised by this expedition.
The authors have used their adventure to publicise the good work being done for developing countries by the Intermediate Technology Group, for which £20,000 has already been raised.
The book is good value, and as the authors’ royalties are being paid over to this worthwhile cause, a most pleasant manner in which to donate to charity.
LOW COST TRANSPORT FOR DEVELOPING COUNTRIES: POSSIBILITIES FOR THE BICYCLE IN TANZANIA by B.J. De Wilde, Centre for Appropriate Technology, Delft University of Technology. 1983
This study for a thesis shows its academic origins, but is written by what is rare these days – a grass roots observer of everyday life who can put things in perspective as seen by ordinary people. The lapse of time since its preparation in no way diminishes the value of his conclusion.
And how right and proper that this work comes from the Netherlands, proverbially the home of cycle users. Here is the “Old World’s” appropriate technology leaning towards the “Third World’s” appropriate technology.
The well known advantages of the bicycle are set out, and are applicable in Africa too:-
Low capital costs and no running costs;
Low maintenance costs and simple repairs;
Very little foreign exchange expenditure;
Useful in both town and country;
Relatively little cost for roads and tracks;
Plus convenience, durability, simplicity, and relative safety.
The study starts with an analysis of the “misfunctioning” of the
present personal transport system in Tanzania. This gives a misleading impression. It never has been motorised, The question is whether it should be, and the photograph of Mwalimu Nyerere on a bicycle with the caption “People must learn to use bicycles instead of relying on oil consuming vehicles” indicates that it isn’t national policy. Of course buses are necessary even in countries where cycles are plentiful, and the problems of UDA and KAMATA in providing a service for city and country (mainly due to maintenance difficulties) are not over-stated.
There is a discussion on design, drawing on the known success stories world-wide in countries where cycles are the means of transport for the mass of the people. Abortive efforts have been made in Tanzania to re-design yet again. The point is that the re is no need to redesign, rather import existing models from hither and thither, as described, and try them out. People will accept new products and foreign designs if they work well, and if they are reliable. For example , the best cycle trailers in Africa are said to be found in Cameroon. Their manufacture is a genuine local industry, and both design and manufacture could readily be repeated in Tanzania.
This is where the international Appropriate Technology organisations could and should help. It has all been researched and solved somewhere. The information exists. Successful designs should be circulated from country to country. Better still, actual examples should be sent and demonstrated to show their advantages.
There is an eye popping reference to the wooden bicycles of the Kigoma Region, “which are not fitted with a braking system, so downhill trips can be dangerous, Cow hides are sometimes used to make the tyres!”
The obstacles to greater use of bicycles in Tanzania are enumerated as : –
Price (now nearly equal to a years earnings);
Safety (suffering from intolerant car users);
Roads (especially road junctions in cities);
The latter is an endemic problem in all developing countries, and applies to the whole concept of appropriate technology – not only to bicycles. The study says “Things could change as the concept of appropriate technology catches on.” But will it? Unfortunately psychology and pride are too often against it. The suggested answer is a pilot project. There would he few better uses for “bilateral aid” from a perceptive foreign donor. Tanzania could help all of East and Southern Africa too.