Tracing The Tonga, Diary


Last August the two photographers Calvin Dondo from Harare and John Tylo from Harrachstal undertook an ambitious journey together with some Austrian friends. They went by train from Linz via Attnang-Puchheim and Ebensee to Bad Aussee and Grundlsee as the starting point for a walk up to Pühringerhätte in the Totes Gebirge / Dead mountain range.

Calvin Dondo was born in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1963. He studied photography at Harare Polytechnic and has exhibited at several Galleries in Zimbabwe including the National Art Gallery in 2000; abroad he exhibited at the Market Theater Gallery, Johannesburg, at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona and at the Africa Iwalewa House, Bayreuth in 2001. He conducted a Photo workshop for students at Binga Highschool and Siachilaba Primary School earlier this year in order to capacitate the young Tonga folk to represent themselves on the website.

John Tylo is a photographer/filmmaker who lives in the backwoods of the Upper Austrian Muehlviertel area where he grows his own black currant for marmelade. He is quite famous for his travel writing and filming in Sudan, Egypt, Somalia, former CCCP, neighbouring Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia and Hungary. His most recent documentary "Rivolta Globale" covered the scenery surrounding the G8 Genova summit in Italy. 

The idea instilled by AZFA was to trace the Sound of Music and hearsay left behind by the Tonga expedition in 1997. At that time Alfred Komarek, the travel writer accompanying the Tonga expedition, wrote in his diary:
"Das Tote Gebirge ragt in den Himmel von Zimbabwe, daran besteht neuerdings kein Zweifel. Die Tonga haben ihm ein neues Prielschutzhaus gezaubert und ein neues Appelhaus und so weiter. Der Karst hat endlich so geklungen, wie er immer schon klingen wollte und die Feuer von Ebensee werden in Afrika weiterbrennen."
"The Dead Mountains tower into the Zimbabwean sky, there is no doubt about it now. The Tonga's magic has created a new Prielschutzhaus and other mountain huts. Eventually the rocky mountains have started sounding as they have always intended to do so. And the fires from Ebensee will continue to shine in Africa.."

According to the pictures taken by Calvin Dondo, John Tylo, Peter and Stefan Kuthan, the group has succesfully caught a glimpse of Tonga spirit.

see photos


John Tylo's Account:

Fri 10 Aug 2001 Rain. Phone family Kuthan. Anna is very sure that they will go to the mountains today. Decide to go also. Why? Wake up Nana, 9 years old. Have to hurry to catch the train to Linz at 9:48. Meet Peter and Calvin at the trainstation restaurant. We take a train direction Salzburg. Have to change at Attnang-Puchheim. Single track line. Passes Gmunden, Ebensee, Bad Ischl, Bad Goisern, Hallstatt. Great view when there is good weather I suggest. Rain at arrival in Bad Aussee. Peter expects to meet his brother Mike at the trainstation, but him is not there. Peter decides to take a bus to the village Goessl close to the Grundlsee where the foot path to Puehringer Huette leads off. Nana, Calvin and me wait in the shelter of a firewood shed whilst Peter stays with umbrella near the road looking for the car with the rest of his family. After one and half hours and a phone call the car arrives. Stefan takes us to Gasthaus Rostiger Anker on the lake shore. It is already 16:00 hours. Have to order Schnitzel for Nana. Mike arrives. He is in a supreme mood and tells the audience that of course he will walk up to the hut 1638m, 3 and half hours of walking. Hedy and Ingrid decide to stay. Me too, but Nana wants to walk also. Surprise. Change my mind, but should have known better. We go back to the junction by car and start to walk. Nana and me have just one umbrella. Very clever. My raincoat works for about half an hour. Then the water penetrates the poor material. Same happens to the synthetic material that covers my backpack. My shoes, dried out in the nubian desert some months ago, get soaked more and more. Nana asks, when are we arriving? But we just started off and the walk shall last three and half hours. Several times the path crosses a forestry road. We still walk under trees but the thin branches can`t protect from the rain. We reach open space. Rocks. Chamois bucks in the distance. Streams dashing down. Short break near a kind of saddle before approaching the Lahngang lakes. Some small wooden huts near the shore. But the path leads a different direction. Leave Nana behind with Peter. She has got cold hands from holding the umbrella. Try to find shelter to put on a dry shirt. Can`t find. Have to do it in the rain. Get mad and shout swearwords into the neighborhood. Again wooden huts at the end of the lake. See a burning candle in one of the windows. Fata morgana? Mike, Calvin and Thomas are leading, Anna and Stefan passing. Wait for Peter and Nana. She is crying. Peter tries to warm her hands. We have to go on. Pass another small lake. Really beautiful but permanent rain. Peter has already given his sweater to Nana. He mentions some more huts 20 minutes far. Nana is desperate. Rain still pouring down, luckily less intensely. No idea how, but we get to these huts. One has got a veranda. Peter has still some dry clothes in his rucksack. Force Nana to take off her wet clothes and put on dry ones. Move again. 30 minutes more until the mountaineers hut. Get`s dark after 10 minutes. The path is flooded, changed into a small stream. Puddles. Our shoes are totally soaked. Luckily Stefan took my camera bag at the last stop. Finally we see the lights of Puehringerhuette 1638m. Somebody with a torch is walking towards us. It is Manuel, who is working up here in the hut. He brings some hot tea and a warm jacket.