East African Safari Rally 1967
At Easter 1967, I set off for Nairobi to film the East African Safari Rally (as it was known then), to cover the Datsun team for Nissan Motors, after successfully covering the Datsuns at the 67 Monte Carlo Rally.
Our local cameraman Mohinder Dhillon of Africapix was away on location in Aden, filming the troubles and dodging bullets. However his company had already made some of the arrangements necessary to get our job done.
I wrote a diary for future reference, as I had done with the Monte Carlo Rally a few months before:
The early problems with this production were, once again, trying to estimate costs at long range. Unfortunately, Mohinder Dhillon of Africapix was away in Aden and we had to deal with his assistant Aziz Islamshah, who, although totally competent was not fully aware of prior arrangements and requests which had been made on behalf of UPIN, ITN etc. Because of a misunderstanding regarding such requests, Mohinder Dhillon informed us that he would have to hire in local cameramen for the Nissan production at £50 per day. In the event, we were able to make use of an Africapix crew for a limited period.
I had already budgeted for the use of Badin, because of his helicopter experience, but it could easily be shown that a local man would cost more than a European staff cameraman. We decided to use Della Valle to work with Badin.
Before leaving Europe, Badin, Della Valle and myself had to be in possession of entry permits (or visas) for Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. We needed up-to-date smallpox vaccinations and an up-to-date Yellow Fever vaccination.
Because it was though impossible to obtain extra equipment in Nairobi, we decided to take spare cameras and lights with us. This lack of equipment was confirmed when we arrived, however, the cost of excess baggage, although very high, represented the cost of hiring the equipment in Nairobi (if it had been available). More problems were to follow, but these I will show day by day.
SATURDAY 18TH MARCH
Badin came over from Paris to London and was met by Lloyd Horowitz at the airport. Lloyd entertained Paul Badin until my arrival at 18.00 hrs at Denham. We sorted out our baggage and left for Heathrow transported by “Rocketboots” (Our lady taxi driver of the time). After checking in our baggage and receiving our first shock at the price of excess baggage, we had plenty of time so we went to have dinner. The aircraft took off at 22.00hrs and when we rad the flight schedule, we discovered that the plane was going to land at Zurich instead of Kampala, which was shown in the air guide. This meant that we could not settle down to sleep because we would be landing in another hour. As we had had dinner, we declined to have supper on the plane, but this meant that we could not get a desperately needed drink on the plane (it was a case of all or nothing). When we got to Zurich, we ran off to the restaurant for a cup of coffee.
I think it would have been better had Badin been booked in Paris for the London-Nairobi flight, using London as a transfer point only. It would have saved some money.
SUNDAY 19TH MARCH
It was only possible to doze on the plane because there was a huge idiotic man of unknown origin pacing the gangway throughout most of the night. It was after 06.00 before I could take any interest in the passing landscape, but we were passing over the Southern Sudan, it was very boring. The boredom was eased by the presence of a Zambian African who was trying to convince anyone in earshot that they should take up residence in Zambia. After spending half and hour on a captive audience of three /European children, he discovered that they were returning home to Lusaka. He stopped talking and we all had breakfast.
We arrived at Nairobi at 11.00 and it was warm and overcast. Formalities at the airport were soon over and we went out to meet Mrs. Diana-Howard-Williams who said she was going to meet us off the plane. She wasn’t there. We waited for a while and then decided to get a taxi at the hotel and 12 miles away in Nairobi. Paul and I were physically and mentally exhausted, so we had a quick lunch and rested for a n hour before re-emerging to do battle. I tried to make some phone calls to let people know we had arrived, but it was Sunday and nobody answered the phone. The most urgent problem was to locate Alan Gardner of Ford for the ATV Special which was due to be completed the following day. We got a taxi to the Norfolk Hotel and, by pure chance, found Gardner as we were enquiring at the reception desk and as he arrived to collect his key. We had some drinks and then went off with him to find the rest of the Ford team. There seemed to be no problem as far as they were concerned and we arranged to meet the Ford Drivers at the Fairview Hotel the following morning at 11.00.
We went off to find Africapix. The office is only 11 yards from the New Stanley Hotel where we were staying. It was now about 20,00hrs and having found the office, we did not expect to find anyone there, however, when we did arrive, Aziz was holding a briefing conference with a few operators. the sound camera was laid on for the following day and Aziz said he would collect it and bring it to the Fairview Hotel. We met our soundman Jitti, a Sikh, who said he would collect Paul Badin and I and take us to the location. We had dinner and went to bed exhausted. I could not sleep, so I had more time to think about our problems.
MONDAY 20TH MARCH
It was obvious that this day was going to be hot. We were not equipped for this weather, but we set off top the Fairview Hotel to interview two of the Ford team. We arrived and set up the camera. It did not look in the best of condition, but it was the only sound camera available in Nairobi – the cost being higher than in London.
The camera was set up and tested – it did not work. Badin and Jitti, two excellent sound technicians, soon found the fault, but it was impossible to fix it without a soldering iron. After some delay, the manager of the Fairview Hotel produced a soldering iron and the repair was made, but, by this time all the schedules were thrown out. I decided to send Badin off with the Ford drivers, into the country to obtain some silent footage. Meanwhile Aziz Islamshah took a test strip of sound back to Nairobi to have it checked. He finally had the strip tested at the studios of The Voice of Kenya Television. It was O.K., he was then told by the hirers of the camera that it was impossible to hear the sound through the earphones and the operator would have to control sound level by using the meter only.
We re-arranged out schedule, but we had lost half a day. I did the interview at the Ford Garage, plus some more silent footage, and got sunburned in the blazing sun. It was 18.00 before we arrived at Jamhuri Park where ~I wanted to shoot the opening and closing piece to camera. The light was going quickly, but we managed to complete the shooting. I was very surprised to find that Jamhuri Park, the start and finish point of the rally, was so far from the centre of Nairobi.
We went back to Nairobi for a meal and to pack up the shipment. Aziz said we might have trouble shipping the film out without an export exception certificate. He said that we could use their number. Later we went to the airport to make the shipment to find that we had not got the Africapix licence number. Fortunately, one off the customs officers was a friend of Dhillon and wrote down the number from memory.The next job was to send the Cable advisory. There is only one office open at that time of night (it was nearly midnight) and we went there to send the cable. I was told that we could not send a cable at Press rates because we had not made an application. I suppose it is not worth the trouble for the few shillings we would save. We went to bed.
TUESDAY 21ST MARCH
This was the day I had to find Mr. Kasaharas. I had phoned his hotel the day before on several occasions without success. Finally, I had left a message asking Kasahara to call me. By lunch time I had received a message from Kasahara saying that he had tried to reach me when I was out.
I spent the morning checking on our bookings for light aircraft, a helicopter and the Mercedes car – all needed further action later. I went to the bank to draw some of my draft, but it seemed that the draft had blown away before it arrived. The Bank had never received any notification of a draft. I cabled London using far less words than I would have liked.
The frustrations of the morning were relieved by the arrival of Vittorio Dell |Valle. The whole atmosphere seemed t change as he swept into the hotel followed by five or six porters laden with gear. We had a quick drink and Vittorio went to bed. Paul Badin spent the morning and some of the afternoon getting various scenes in Nairobi city. Later we had a conference to discuss plans. Paul and I went out to find the Datsuns. Their garage was a long way off in the industrial estate outside Nairobi. We met Mr. Kasahara and the team captain Mr. Cardwell. We asked if it was possible to get the cars out into the country, however, their schedule of servicing was so tight, this was not possible. We filmed the cars in the garage with the mechanics working on them. Mr. Kasahara said that they might be going later to perform some trip meter tests on the cars. This would enable us to get some “tracking” shots, but it would only be on the bitumen roads. Paul went back later to film this, but the cars were driven by mechanics only. In the evening, the Nissan team were having a conference at their hotel, so we decided to shoot it in case it had some interest. It was a bit disappointing both from their point of view of the action and the final result.
Somehow, Vittorio had found an Italian Restaurant, so we ate Italian style
WEDNESDAY 22nd MARCH
This was our last day before the off. Vittorio had been unable to get a visa for Tanzania in Rome. Jitti took him off to get one and to collect an ice-box from the Coca-Cola people. They had agreed after a lengthy conversation between myself and their production manager, who, for a man working in Coca-Cola, had the unfortunate name of Belcher. The main problem with him was the fact that Vittorio insisted on carrying Vichy water in the Coca-Cola ice box.
Paul and I went off in search of the Datsuns again. It was on this day we discovered that the Datsun had been out in the country for “rough country” shots on the afternoon of the 19th. These were made by Africapix for the Nissan stills assignment. We visited the airport to meet the Helicopter Pilot, Mr. Woodhead, and look over the helicopter. It seems small machine, but it had three rotor blades, so I was not unduly worried. In any case, we had no choice it was the only machine in Nairobi. With Vittorio, I visited the Mercedes garage to make final arrangements concerning the car. It was not possible to get a camera mounting inside the car in under four days. it would take a similar time to fit sodium spots to the front of the car. We would have to do without either of these features. As soon as we saw the effect of trying to shot a rally car through the windscreen, we were glad we had not gone to the expense of fitting a camera mounting. It was quite impossible to see a car in front for its dust.
Here ended the diary – it just got too busy to carry on.
With Vittorio Della Valle from Rome and Paul Badin from Paris, we had a formidable team.
The rally was run over an enormous distance which incorporated parts of Tanzania and Uganda. There was, of course, a big logistics problem for us, but we knew exactly what we wanted to cover and where. Mohinder Dhillon’s Africapix made a practice of going round the circuit with a stills camera and recording every interesting camera position showing what one might expect from each location. They provided over a hundred pictures. These photographs he mounted on a large sheet rather like a Polyphoto sheet. Copies of these photos were issued to their still photograph clients for them to choose where they wished to have their photographs taken from. Of course, it was quite handy for us as well.
Africapix provided some ground transport and we hired a car and two drivers for Vittorio. The Rally was always held at Easter, originally because it started off as an amateur event and Easter was a period when the drivers could get time off from their work.
The same sort of amateur driver still formed the largest group in the rally and some of them could give the professional works teams a run for their money, so much so that, by 1967, only local drivers had ever won the event..
The whole rally was run over some three thousand kilometres. The cars left Nairobi by the Mombasa Road. They would turn south and head for Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. From there, they followed a route which took them into the interior of that country before returning to Nairobi. The second stage had the cars leaving Nairobi to travel north and west to the Uganda border. They would cross the border near Jinja and make their way into Kampala. From Kampala, they would return to Nairobi via Arthur’s Post, which was well out in the sticks.
The tarmac roads only existed in and around cities and large towns, elsewhere it was un-made road on a surface known as Murrum.
Paul Badin would be able to film the rally cars at speeds of over a hundred miles an hour on the Murrum where they threw up a huge trail of dust rising to fifty feet high and trailing the car by fifty yards or more. He described the passage of the cars as “Comme une fusee” – “Like a rocket”.
We met up with the Japanese team to found out where they were going to make their scheduled stops for servicing. Some of these were in the dead of night out in the sticks where there was no habitation or light.
Others were at petrol stations where they had made arrangements for the cars to be serviced and the crews to be refreshed.
At the meeting at the Japanese team’s hotel, we were introduced to their Kenyan members. Some of their cars would be driven by Ex-pats who had a lot of experience of the event.
Paul Badin and I went off into the bush to film some wild animals. We had to start very early in the morning, otherwise, the Lions would be asleep under some tree.
We found the lions by the side of the road and we filmed them. They seemed quite unconcerned, which is more than I could say for myself. We also shot some Rhino and Giraffe.
We filmed street scenes in Nairobi and we gave the Japanese a good selection of “atmosphere” shots to enable their audience to see what Kenya was like.
The rally was due to start at Jamhuri Park, a sports arena outside Nairobi.
I was to interview the British Ford drivers and do a “piece to camera” at Jamhuri Park to show where the rally would start from. I had never done anything like it before.
This was shot the same day with Badin operating the sound camera and we shipped it off that night.
I got a congratulatory cable from ATV and another from the office.
It was very hot and I got sunburnt on the back of my neck. Aziz got me some TCP which I bathed on and by the next morning, there was no trace of the sunburn.
Paul Badin was with me for the start of the Rally. Paul Badin then went on to Wilson’s field where our hired helicopter was waiting, rotors turning. Vittorio, in his chauffeur driven car, was off down the Mombasa Road from where he would follow the cars well into the night to somewhere south of Mombasa. Eventually, he was to reach Dar es Salaam. Already in Dar es Salaam was Satwant Singh, one of Africapix’s most experienced cameramen.
When we next saw some of the drivers, one said “I was doing 160 miles and hour down the Mombasa Road when I was overtaken by a Porsche”.
However, by the second morning, Vittorio had not returned from his journey to the east. It was after lunch when he came back with his two crestfallen drivers. They had got lost in the bush and were driving around in circles miles from anywhere. The very reason I had preferred local drivers was that they would know the territory and not waste time getting lost. So Vittorio had not slept for 36 hours, so we packed him off to his bed. Fortunately one of the Africapix cameramen had flown directly to Dar es Salaam and got us full coverage there.
The Rally cars then went off north towards Uganda. Badin and his helicopter were in hot pursuit.
Vittorio Della Valle now flew up to Kampala, via light aircraft from Wilson’s Field, to get the cars approaching the city and continuing into the Uganda circuit.
Working alongside us, some of the time, were units from the BBC Wheelbase unit and the Ford Film Unit. They, of course, had a far larger team of cameramen that we had, but we were more mobile and they had not thought of using a helicopter. One of the functions of the helicopter that we found very useful in Kenya was that, almost anywhere, the helicopter could land near a road, enabling Paul Badin to get off and film the cars passing him on the road. The cars were as fast as the helicopter, but by travelling across country, it was sometimes possible to get ahead of the cars and have a second go at them.
We now had the trust of the Japanese team and they told us where they would be servicing the cars at night. One location was just outside Nairobi at a petrol station. We arrived in good time to find that the mechanics had been at work already. On the island housing the petrol pumps, they had laid out tools and spare parts all along the island level with where they might be expected to be used during the service. The layout resembled an instrument table in an operating theatre.
The problem for them was that they had to work only by the light of the petrol station, so that when they had their head under the bonnet or under the car, they could see nothing.
We solved that problem. Our assistants, provided by Africapix, carried a hand-held battery light and, conveniently, wherever the mechanic wanted to work, we wanted to film, so we provided direct high-power light to what work they were doing. They thought it was magic and from then on we were invited to all their night servicing.
We had been sending all of our film back to London on a daily basis, this was to enable the newsroom to take their pick of our material for the news service. The last batch, I took myself, knowing there would be a delay at Heathrow and a load of questions from the over zealous customs officers, however, it was something that had to be done.
For the Safari Rally, Datsun used Cedric 2000’s, the final placings were Jock Aird and Robin Hillyar in 17th, R.F.E. Mockbridge and Jack Esnouf in 20th, husband and wife Jack and Lucille Cardwell came in 21st. The team of Edgar Herrmann and Gerd Elvers retired early – Edgar Herrmann went on to win for Datsun in 1970 and 1971. The 1967 Safari Rally was won by Bert Shankland and Chris Rothwell in a Peugeot 404.
The film we shot was processed and sent off to Tokyo and it was accompanied by a full write up by me as to how they might best use the material. Nissan Motors of Japan were in raptures at the quality and content of the material we provided. There was enough material to make a first class half-hour film.
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