Mercer, Graham


Book ID 949

See also

Mercer, Graham Tarangire, 2007
Page Number: a
Extract Date: 1928

A few colourful Europeans

Even as late as German times (1880s � 1916) Tarangire seems to have been largely overlooked, though once again it is likely that a few adventurous hunters visited the area during the dry season.

The British period is hardly any richer in historical information, though there is some interesting social history involved, as a few colourful Europeans once lived in and around Babati, just west of Tarangire.

Among the most notable was the Swedish Baron Bror von Blixen, ex-husband of the author of Out of Africa, Karen Blixen. The likeable but rather feckless Bror had remarried, to a lady called "Cockie" Hoogterp, and settled near Babati around 1928.

Bror and Cockie lived in a tent before building a very simple hut. In November 1928 Edward, Prince of Wales (who later abdicated the British throne) visited East Africa and travelled to Tanganyika to hunt lions, under the guidance of Denys Finch Hatton, Karen Blixen's paramour (Bror Blixen, when married to Karen, would introduce himself and his friend Finch Hatton by announcing "I'm Blixon and this is my wife's lover").

The prince badly wanted to shoot a fine lion, and Finch Hatton had recommended Bror as a good "lion man", so Bror and "Cockie" were invited to join the royal party at the New Arusha Hotel in Arusha.

Next day "Cockie" hurried back to Babati to prepare for the prince's arrival. When he arrived "Cockie" was asleep; Bror had invited the prince's party to lunch without telling her. "Cockie" had nothing to offer the guests except eggs, which Prince Edward happily helped her to scramble. Later he took Bror aside and asked how he could possibly allow his wife to live in such circumstances.

After lunch the party drove to Mount Ufiome (just outside present-day Tarangire) where the prince finally bagged the lion he so badly wanted.

However, the safari was abandoned when the prince received a telegram from London announcing that his father, George V, was seriously ill. He returned to England at once.

Extract ID: 5383

See also

Mercer, Graham Tarangire, 2007
Page Number: b
Extract Date: 1928

Settlers around Babati

There were other interesting settlers around Babati. The Earl of Lovelace owned estates managed by two Estonians, Karl Nurk and Evald Marks, deserters from the French Foreign Legion who had subsequently crossed the Sahara on foot, after their camels had died.

Hunting was popular among Babati's European settlers. One, a Dutchman called Mello Versluys had killed a huge elephant known as "Jaho the Invincible", with tusks weighing 290 pounds. "Cockie" Blixen knew Mello as "The Little Ray of Sunshine" as he always looked down in the dumps and revelled in reporting bad news. But Mello was generous (and rich); he let the Blixens use his silver Rolls Royce to tour Europe on their honeymoon.

The District Commissioner in Babati, a gentleman called de Coursey-Ireland, was killed by elephants in 1931.

Extract ID: 5384

See also

Mercer, Graham Tarangire, 2007
Page Number: c
Extract Date: 1928

Another neighbour of the Blixens

Another neighbour of the Blixens, a Dane called Turben Herfort, ran the Ndasagu Estate for Ake Bursell (once manager of Karen Blixen's farm outside Nairobi). Herfort apparently had an enormous appetite for food, drink and women. A friend once bet him that he couldn't eat an entire sheep and drink a whole crate of beer within 12 hours. Herfort not only accomplished this but also polished off a four-course meal at his friend's expense. When he died some time later his liver was found to be virtually non-functional. But the Dane was an intelligent man and a good manager; the coffee farm he managed was (unlike Karen Blixen's) very successful.

Extract ID: 5385

See also

Mercer, Graham Tarangire, 2007
Page Number: d
Extract Date: 1928

The Blixen home outside Babati

The Blixen home outside Babati might have been a shambles but the location was superb. There was big game around, including elephants and buffaloes. Bror's nephew later said that the house was "on a site that was quite possibly the most beautiful in Africa". More adventurous visitors to Tarangire nowadays, if they have the means and the time, might wish to drive down to Babati, where such lovely scenery might still be appreciated.

But if the Blixens had found Paradise in Babati they were not to find it in their marriage. Bror, said to be popular with everyone, had a reputation as a "ladies' man". And he was often away, sometimes for as long as 3 months, on hunting safaris.

One day a Swedish lady, Eva Dickson, turned up in Babati with a woman friend, after driving all the way from Dar. Eva had come to meet Bror and soon became a threat to "Cockie", who told Bror "Either she goes or I do". It was "Cockie" who went. Later she said "I have never regretted anything in my life as much as leaving Blix". She also said "He was a wonderful � unfaithful � husband, and the best lover I ever had".

Even Karen Blixen, in her old age, said that if she could have one moment of her life over again, she would choose to be on safari with Bror.

Bror eventually returned to Sweden and, after a relationship with Eva, married another woman, with whom he seemed to find happiness in his last years. "Cockie" also remarried and went to live in South Africa.

The events mentioned above took place a little way outside the present park boundaries, but before the Tarangire area was gazetted as a game reserve, in 1957, it was open to hunting parties and known for its abundant game. Local people also carried out some hunting, honey-gathering and fishing.

Extract ID: 5386