By Charles Louis Dominguez ’14
Mr. Tom Danforth is notable around campus for his stories.
As it turns out many of them deal with travel.
A former member of the Peace Corps, Mr. Danforth has a variety of tales relating to his worldly travels and experiences.
“I have lots of funny stories – and not so funny stories – from traveling,” Mr. Danforth said.
After college, Mr. Danforth spent a great deal of time traveling through Central and Southern Africa.
Having saved up $9,000 dollars, Mr. Danforth used this money to finance nine months of traveling, passing through Kenya, Nepal, Thailand, China and Japan.
Mr. Danforth recounted and reflected on a story that he said “always seems to come up.”
While teaching in Kenya, Mr. Danforth said that, with a friend, he decided to “do something really dramatic that was going to make (them) famous; we decided to do a camel trip across the Northern desert of Kenya.”
Mr. Danforth said they planned on reaching a German hotel via camel.
After conducting further research, Mr. Danforth said he learned that you do not actually ride the camels. Instead, you pack them, “like a burro,” and walk them across the desert.
“You travel at night,” Mr. Danforth said. “You don’t travel during the day because it’s too hot; we read the best time to travel, since you’re traveling at night, is during a full moon. We had all the dates figured out; we figured it would take us seven to 10 days.”
After buying a camel and packing all of their materials, they set off.
“We hired a guide and we paid the guy $60, which was a lot of money, but we thought $60 was cheap for us Americans,” Mr. Danforth said.
They did not expect their guide to lead them astray.
“At sunrise we stopped and set up camp… I looked out and I saw our guide and he was about a half mile away,” Mr. Danforth said. “We caught up to the guy only to find out that we were lost, which is what we thought when we saw him running away.”
They later found out that by giving him $60, they had paid him half a year’s salary upfront, Mr. Danforth said.
“We realized that he was just trying to take our money and literally run,” Mr. Danforth said.
Now lost in the Northern desert of Kenya without a guide, Mr. Danforth and his friend were left to find their own way out.
“We were at the two week mark… we were getting down to the end of our water, and we realized we were in a really bad situation,” Mr. Danforth said.
Without sleep and with dwindling provisions, panic set in.
“I was looking at the camels, and one of the camels started peeing,” Mr. Danforth said. “I walked over to where the camel was peeing and made a bowl with my hands to see if I could drink the urine… I picked it up and threw it down because it smelled so bad.”
At this point both men started to cry, realizing they were only two weeks in to a month-long vacation and might die.
“It was two weeks before anyone would notice us missing,” Mr. Danforth said. “We figured it’d be three weeks before the Peace Corps would be notified.”
In that moment Mr. Danforth said he saw a dust devil.
Coming from Arizona, Mr. Danforth was familiar with dust devils and decided that something had to be kicking up all of that sand.
Running in the direction of the dust devils, they discover a large caravan.
Coincidentally, the guide who left Mr. Danforth was a member of this caravan.
“We explain to these guys what had happened… the guys proceeded to beat the guide that we had hired,” Mr. Danforth said. “They kicked him in the head and he was bleeding everywhere.”
The caravan then took care of Mr. Danforth and supplied him and his friend with a 14-year-old who could navigate them to the German hotel they originally planned on going to.
“We get to this town and nobody knows what we’re talking about,” Mr. Danforth said. “Some elders start talking and they say, ‘yes there was a hotel here but it burned down about 40 years ago.’”
It turns out that it was a German hotel that burned down in the 30s, but nobody ever reported it.
With nothing to do but play card games in the hot sun, Mr. Danforth waited two weeks for a vehicle to hitchhike back to their starting point.
“We camped out on the cement foundation of this old German hotel,” Mr. Danforth said.
Finally, a vehicle arrived to the scene.
“We ask the guy if we can get a ride with him and he said sure, but we’d have to sit on top,” Mr. Danforth said. “It was a truck full of manure.”
Mr. Danforth and his friend spent three days and three nights sitting on a pile of manure.
“Needless to say the trip got more and more horrendous as it went on; all we wanted to do was forget that trip,” Mr. Danforth said. “So that was my most unforgettable trip; we really thought we had done it.”