On trail when night falls I am often asked “Why don’t you have any lamps?” and I tell the following story.
This is a wilderness area where man should only walk, canoe or ride on horseback away from the sights and sounds of human installations. It is our job to try to keep it as wild and primitive as possible – hard work in this twentieth century where the battle cry of humanity is development.
Now if I allowed a storm lantern in the camp it would mean having to carry paraffin in every time we came. People would soon become irritated and ask why a drum could not be brought to the camp. So a 44 gallon drum would be rolled down the river and everyone would be happy for a while. But when it was empty another one would have to be brought and people would say, “How silly it is to roll it down the river, why don’t you construct a small road, just a track, and bring it in by vehicle.”
So this would be the next step.
Then someone would ask, “These storm lanterns don’t give much light and seeing there is ample paraffin why don’t you have a little engine, with just enough horsepower to light six electric bulbs?”
So an engine – only a little one – would be brought in and there would be more light in the camp.
Before long another person would say, “It seems so silly sitting on logs around the campfire, what harm would a few deck chairs do, as long as they were green and fitted in with the environment. We would be able to read in comfort late into the night and not have any of this keeping watch alone. And we could have a guitar and sing songs around the fire. It would help to drown out the noises of the lion and the rhino – which can be jolly frightening.”
Later, someone would say, “Only bringing seven people on trail is a bit mean. Why don’t you double the number and all those who can’t walk too well could be brought by vehicle, along the little dirt road, offloaded a hundred metres from the camp so they have to walk the last bit and be in keeping with the wilderness atmosphere.”
The pace starts to quicken.
“You can’t have people going behind trees and bushes; it’s very unhygienic and also the thorns scratch which makes it uncomfortable. Why not a little pit drop latrine with a wooden seat to fit into the environment?”
So a lavatory is erected. Soon there would be complaints about the smell and a nice red brick building would arise in the bush, plastic seats, white walls and waterborne sewage.
“Well, seeing that we have a lavatory,” a newcomer would say, “why on earth do we have to sleep on the hard ground, with smoke blowing in our faces and all those ants and other nunus (insects) running over us in the night. It’s dangerous, snakes could come too, why can’t just two little rondavels be built, one for the men and one for the women. Very simple in style with camp beds and some nice rugs to add colour to the drab bush. A radio and gramophone should be installed because people are getting tired of guitar music and songs around the campfire. Now, there should be no television set, that really would be carrying things a bit far.”
Years pass and there is big camp with restaurants, supermarket, and swimming pool. It boasts of sleeping a thousand people a night and tarred roads have been constructed so no one is bothered by dust.
Now comes the final act. Someone says the camp is too big and sprawling, and it costs a lot of money to maintain. Buildings should go upwards and not be spread around. So plans are drawn up and thought is given to the birds and the animals and the wilderness atmosphere. At last the big announcement and headlines in newspapers: a 40 storey building is to be built and in order that it should be in keeping with the wild atmosphere it will have a thatched roof to preserve the rustic appearance.
This, I explain, is the reason for not allowing lamps.
Is all this improbable? Wildly exaggerated? Not on your sweet nellie it isn’t. A skyscraper with a thatched roof is planned for the north coast. How soon before it’s the game reserves?