Onni's own stories:

Hazardous Orienteering

Letter From The Finnish Winter War

The Scout Movement on The March

A Visit to Kilimanjaro

Onni Goes Flying

Onni Goes On a Lion Hunt

Onni goes on a lion hunt.

From a letter from Onni, published in Duvbo IK's Annual Magazine 1955.

Karl-Gustaf Forsmark and I had long planned to go on a real lion hunt. We had obtained licences to hunt everything up to lion and leopard and we had learned that there were plenty of lions far down in the southwest corner of Ethiopia. That is where we were heading!

We teamed up with a female Swedish gymnastics instructor and Dr. Fride Hylander's son, who was in Ethiopia visiting and who was up for an adventure. We flew to Mesantafari and hitchhiked from there with an Italian coffee plantation owner, who had his farm some distance into the wilderness. The Chief of Police in Mesantafari had sent two armed police officers with us as escorts and they had the responsibility of keeping us out of trouble.

We knew that there were plenty of Tsetse flies in this area and therefore it was not possible to get hold of any donkeys or mules for our packs. Tsetse flies kill them. Tsetse flies are usually very dangerous to humans, but we had carefully investigated the species here and found out that they did not give humans elephantiasis. The wild animals are immune to these dangerous flies.

On arrival at the plantation, we hired a couple of porters and a guide, to help us get to the area where we were going. The guide had been visiting in that direction a decade ago, but he thought that he could find the way there again. However, he warned us that it was going to be difficult.

We walked for tens and tens of kilometres through coffee-forests and jungle, where you had to cut your way through dense vegetation. We made cuts with our jungle knives here and there to try to make it possible to find the way back. However, we got lost and the guide zigzagged through the bush to try to find an old mark in the terrain. Now and then, we could see old cut marks and understood that our guide kept to an old, now almost overgrown, track.

It was getting dark and we began looking for a place to spend the night, but the terrain was so undulating that we could not find an open place that was big enough to put the tents up. However, we made camp on the steep side of a ravine. Since it had become pitch black, we decided to try to sleep where we were, without tents. We put a lamp and a couple of candles up, to keep the wild animals away. We did not dare to light a big campfire, considering the risk for forest fires.

I felt like I had not even fallen asleep when one of the porters shook my shoulder. Terrified, he told me that there were several leopards close to the camp. All we could do was to wake up the others and be prepared. There is not a lot you can do as defence against leopards at night. You would be very lucky if you happened to hit one with a bullet in the dark. With a shotgun with coarse pellets you can injure them, but hardly kill them, unless you get a real hit close up.

We heard them coming closer and closer to our camp and that there were at least three or four of them. You could tell from several simultaneous growls from different directions. We sat with our rifles ready to shoot and just waited and waited and heard them quite close to us in the pitch-black darkness. The natives were so frightened that they were shaking and they were staring terrified at us and out into the darkness by turns. It felt as if we sat like that for hours and we eventually heard them move away. We did not get a lot of sleep that night, however.

The next morning we continued on our way, this time through high elephant grass and eventually we arrived in somewhat nicer terrain, where we decided to put up camp. The natives had become much more careful after last night's experience and you could tell that they were discussing the danger from leopards. They acted a bit strange when they went to gather wood. That was the last time we saw them. They had simply taken off. The guide asked to borrow my gun to try to catch them. I was not sure whether to give it to him or not, but I gave it to him anyhow. After a while, he came back, realising the futility of trying to catch them in that terrain.

Later, he suggested that he should go out in the surrounding area to see if there possibly were any native villages nearby. He did not think that the porters would dare to go away alone, unless they knew that there were people nearby, especially not after the incident last night. So, off he went. Hour after hour went by without him returning.

We finally thought that he had deserted as well and we decided to stay where we were for the night. After cooking dinner, we started sorting through the equipment. We could not carry everything with us if we hoped to manage to get back to the coffee farm. What was not absolutely essential, we took out and hid under the bushes. Not that we imagined ever coming back, but you could never know for sure. Just when we had started setting up the tents, our guide came back, together with two new natives. He had come across a small village quite a distance from our camp, but our porters were not there. However, these two had promised to take us back to the coffee farm, where they had been once before. The next morning we started the return trip, but again we got lost. We had not been able to locate our old track, since the two new natives were following other routes. The heat started to get noticeable and sometimes we would trip from fatigue and fall headlong, with the thump of the pack on your head hurting badly.

Eventually, they found the right track again and around 2 p.m., we arrived at a rippling brook, with ice-cold water. We took the chance to have a bath and fill up our water bottles. We were told that there would not be any more water holes this side of the farm.

We got lost again and we did not believe that we would reach the farm that day. It was already dusk, but we carried on. I checked on my compass that we at least were going in the right direction and after stumbling around in the dark for half an hour, we finally saw the light from fires. We had arrived! The Italian welcomed us in his big tent and very soon, we felt like human beings again. I should tell you that the "farm" consisted of the big tent, where the Italian lived himself, and a couple of small grass huts for his workers. Anyway, it was a lovely place to come to.

Next morning, the Italian was going in to the airport in Mesantafari and we decided that our female companion and Dr. Hylander's son should accompany him there and take the flight back to Addis, while Karl-Gustav and I made a new attempt to reach the area that we could not get to on our first attempt.

With new porters, a guide and two police officers, who were replacing the other two who we sent home before we entered the jungle, we set off again. For two days, we again walked towards unknown destinies and eventually arrived in populated areas. They were very primitive people, belonging to the Jambo tribe, who lived there. They told us that it was another couple of days to walk to get to the areas we were looking for, and after a lot of negotiations, they agreed to send a couple of men with us as guides.

We had put up our tent next to the chief's hut and we saw, to our surprise, that he had a couple of goats and some chickens that he had managed to keep alive in spite of the Tsetse flies. He was very proud of that.

Our police escort, who we thought were going to be more trouble than help, proved to be very valuable. When there was talk about hiring guides from the Jambo tribe, it later surfaced that it was thanks to their participation that our leader had managed to get someone to come along. The officers had pointed out, in a nice way, that it was not a good idea to refuse, since they would get paid. If they made trouble, they would have to take the job anyway, but by orders of the police.

Talking of payment, I must tell you that paper money and copper coins were rather worthless. You could possibly use silver coins, which they checked by biting on them, or best of all: salt! Our leader had asked to take 500 grams of salt that he packed in a piece of cloth and kept in his pack. If there was something he needed to buy or pay for, he paid with a few pinches of salt. It was worth more than money. He also pointed out very carefully to us, that we should not show that we had 15 kilos in our pack, with regards to our lives being in danger. If the porters knew this, they would most certainly have taken off with the packs. The salt was for salting down possible lion hides, so that they would keep on the trip back home.

We continued trying to reach the reputed lion area for another day, but now the information started getting vague, so we decided to turn back. We only had one week holiday and we had to be back in Addis on the Monday.

Thus started the retreat from the unsuccessful lion hunt. As for the lions, the trip was a disappointment, but it gave so much else. We had seen areas where probably no white man had ever set foot and we had been able to hunt some other game. We had even seen buffalos and elephants on a few occasions and had ever so exciting times with them, in spite of the fact that we did not have permission to shoot elephants or buffalos on our licence. If we had known that they were so abundant here, we would probably have obtained the full licence, which also included these animals. However, we did not know that beforehand and the full licence was 600 Ethiopian Dollars (1.200 SEK = 1955's rate approximately 200). However, you can earn that sum from one elephant, if it has big enough tusks.

Anyway, we eventually arrived back at the coffee farm and that night, when we lay there, we heard the lions roar not far from the camp. We may have had better luck if we had tried hunting lions there, instead of wandering around in the jungle for a week like we did, looking for a place that reputably had many lions.

The old Swedish saying is still valid: "Don't cross the river to fetch water"