“Nothing yet!” DeForest wiped the sweat from his brow as Wilhelm joined him in the bow of the skiff.

Shortly after beginning their journey two days ago, they discovered that the lower Niger River meandered with many twists and turns and had numerous small tributaries emptying into it.  That plus the dense vegetation that formed walls on each side of the river made it difficult to approximate the distance they had come.

“But I think vee are close.” Wilhelm cupped his hand to his forehead shielding his eyes from the midday sun.

The letter directed them to a tributary with ‘double twin trees’ but did not indicate which side of the river.  All of them were intently watching both sides of the river knowing that if they missed the offshoot, their quest would fail.

“There!” shouted Vilas.  “Just ahead on the left. There’s a pair of mahogany trees on each side of that tributary.”

“Ja,” Wilhelm nodded.  “Doppelzwillingsbaume!”

Jung steered the skiff into the tributary.

“Now, if this is the right stream, we should see a waterfall in about a kilometer.”  Ignatius’ voice revealed his anticipation.

But moving the skiff against the current of the tributary was slow and arduous.  The channel narrowed and rock cliffs replaced the mangrove, baobab and tamarind trees.  They were all hot and exhausted when they heard the roar from upstream. Rounding a bend, they saw water cascading over a steep rock wall.

“We’re here!”  Ruth cheered and the others joined her nearly capsizing the boat in their excitement.

Jung maneuvered the skiff to a rock ledge near the waterfall and secured it to a large stone.

Ignatius pointed at the rock face.  “That ledge continues upward and disappears behind the waterfall.”

They climbed cautiously along the ledge and entered the area behind the falling water.  The cool mist covered them and they were soon wet but their hearts raced with expectation.  Each of them slowly entered the hidden cave.

As their eyes adjusted to the dim light, DeForest called out.  “There, at the back of the cave! There’s a chest.”

The chest was closed but unlocked.  Ignatius spoke. “All together!” Each of them placed a hand on the chest lid and lifted it together.  The gold coins spilled out onto the cave floor.

Ignatius reached into his hip pocket and pulled his flask.  Holding it in the air he said, “For the Gamesmen Society!” 

“THE GAMESMEN SOCIETY!” they all cheered.

3oz straight Whiskey.


After only barren sand and rocky outcroppings visible out the windows of the train, the travelers welcomed the sight of green grasses and scrub brush appearing on the landscape outside.  It meant soon they would be seeing the tropical forest that marks the end of the Trans-Saharan rail line at Timbuktu. A few hours later, they got off the train and made their way south to the docks of the Niger River ready for the next stage of their adventure.

Vilas scanned the boats along the pier.  “Most of these are ancient or too small for what we want.”

“How about that one?”  Ruth pointed to a skiff near the end of the wharf.

“Let’s hope we can secure that one.”  Ignatius led them down the wooden pier.

Upon closer inspection, the skiff did appear to be large enough for all of them.  Midway on the boat was a canvas covered shelter.

“Hello! Is anyone aboard?” called DeForest.

A woman emerged from the canvas enclosure, straightened her jeogori and eyed them cautiously.

“We would like to rent your boat to go to the lower Niger River?”  DeForest said.  “We need to go about fifty kilometers beyond the bend.”

She shook her head assertively. “No, that’s not possible. I would lose my boat!”

“What do you mean?” asked Vilas.

After introductions were made they learned her name was Jung Ja Lee, known for mastering the currents of the Niger River, and she explained that if they went that far downstream, there would be no way to return against the current.  The only option would be to ride the current south to the Niger Delta at the Gulf of Guinea.

Ignatius gave the others one of his looks. The five of them walked a short distance up the pier.

“We must get down the river to find the gold and once we do, it is probably a good idea to have a plan to take it with us.”  He paused and looked back at Jung Ja Lee and the skiff.  “If the amount we offer could sway her to change her mind, we could load it on the boat, head south, and book passage back to civilization at the Gulf of Guinea.”  

“Listen, no amount will convince her when she would lose the boat.” Ruth reminded them.

“Being a member of our adventure society might!” Ignatius decidedly spoke up.

So, they shared their mission with Jung Ja Lee and convinced her that with her share of the gold she would not need to worry about her boat ever again.

“Your quest and your society sound intriguing…let me ponder it over a drink.”

2 Cups Soju
1/2 Cup Thinly Sliced Unpeeled Ginger
Add thinly sliced unpeeled ginger into a jar and top with 2 cups of soju. Let it infuse for 1 week. Filter out the solids using a sieve and store the infused soju in a tightly sealed container.

2 Ounces Ginger Infused Soju
1 Ounce Yuzu Juice
3-4 Ounces Alcoholic Ginger Beer
Candied Ginger
Fill a mug with ice. Add soju and yuzu juice to the cup and top with alcoholic ginger beer. Garnish with candied ginger.


The four of them swayed in unison with the rocking motion of the train as they walked dejectedly to the dining area. They quietly took places at a booth.

Ruth noted quietly,
It looks like we’re picking up speed.”

“Ja, I noticed that too,” agreed Wilhelm.

“It’s about time.” DeForest sighed.

For the last six days, the old Stephenson steam locomotive pulling the train had made frequent stops for water and fuel and although climbing steadily, had been slow to conquer the Atlas Mountains.

“I guess this means we’re finally going downhill.”

They all gazed out the window, each silently mulling their problem as the landscape slipped by.

“What are we going to do about this?” Ignatius asked. “It’s a waste of time to sit here when we know that we can’t get any farther once we reach Timbuktu!”

“I’m sorry,” Wilhelm looked down, defeated. “There are some odd phrases that make no sense.”

Ignatius took out the paper and unfolded it on the table. “This is worthless unless we can figure it out.”

Wilhelm ran his finger under the unknown phrases saying them aloud.
“Biegung im Fluss…Doppelzwillingsbaume…die Felswand hinter dem Wasserfall erclimmen…. Ach, it says to climb a waterfall but that doesn’t make any sense?!”

A young man sitting in the booth across from them stood and looked at Wilhelm. “Sorry to eavesdrop, but I think I can help you.”
He introduced himself. “I’m Vilas Belter.”

“Ok, Vilas, so how do you ‘climb a waterfall?” Ignatius jumped right into questioning him.

“You don’t. You climb a rock wall BEHIND the waterfall,” said Vilas triumphantly.

All four of them sat up straight. “Can you figure out any of the other phrases?” asked Ruth.

“I’d like to give it a try, sounds fun.” Vilas grinned.

“Would you give us a few minutes?” asked Ignatius.

“Certainly. I need to see if the bartender can mix this cocktail for me.” Vilas showed them a piece of paper with the directions for making a drink. “It’s something I discovered while traveling. Would you all like to try it?”

7 cubes of sugar
16oz water
Thinly sliced ginger
Pulp and seeds from 10 Passion Fruits
Juice and zest of 2 lemons
Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan.
Once the sugar has dissolved, add the passion fruit, ginger, and the lemon juice and zest and remove from the heat. Allow to cool.

Light Rum
Soda Water
Fresh Mint
Lemon Slices
Pour a little of the syrup into an old fashioned glass filled with ice then add 2oz light rum and fill up with soda water. Add the mint and lemon and serve.

After Vilas went to the bar, Ignatius spoke. “We need him. He seems to know the areas and can help decipher the directions for us. He has to join us! “

They all agreed. When Vilas returned with the cocktails, they told him about their quest and asked him to join their society.

“I’m actually here to study native trees but you know,” Vilas took a sip of his drink, “I’m also interested in gold.”


Nobody asks any questions in Casablanca.  It had been easy for the three men to find someone to buy the dinghy for enough money to get a room, eat dinner, and now sit down to relax and talk in a small bar.

Ignatius noticed framed pictures on the wall behind them.  They all contained the likeness of a petite woman with short dark hair.  He was curious because in every picture she was posing with a trophy deer, elk, or holding a very large rifle.  “Hmmm, Annie Oakley, I presume,” he mused pointing to the photos.

“Nope.  Ruth Smith.  That’s me.”  The female voice came from behind them.  All three men turned to see that the woman who had spoken was the same as the woman in the photos.

The men were too surprised to say anything, so Ruth continued.  “I can see the questions on your faces.  Yes, I am a noted game hunter.  I’m not hunting now because I own this bar.  And… what’ll you gents have?”

“How about something special, a surprise.”  DeForest made the request.

Ruth returned to the bar and the three men began discussing their next step.

“Ve need to get over two thousand miles south,“ Wilhelm shook his head in disbelief.  “Over the Atlas Mountains, through the Sahara Desert, and into the jungles of French Vest Africa.”

The other men nodded.

“And then try to find the cave with the gold.”  DeForest sounded doubtful.

“Unless, we could…“ Ignatius looked briefly hopeful… “but we don’t have enough money.”

“We could what?”  DeForest prodded.

“There is a rail line that runs from Casablanca to Timbuktu.  We could take the train.  But we don’t have the money for the fare, let along money to buy food or provisions for that long a journey.”

Ruth brought the drinks to the table, then, stood back to see their reactions as they sampled her ‘surprise.’

“Ach, mein Gott, das ist gut,” exclaimed Wilhelm.  Ignatius and DeForest agreed.

“That is fantastic.  What’s in it?  Asked Ignatius.

“Sorry.  Family secret.”  Ruth shook her head and smiled.

She started to walk away but she paused, looked around, and then turned back to the three men.  “You know, I’m a little tired of this place and I miss a challenging hunt.  Voices carry in this bar and I believe I might be a valuable partner in your mission.”

Ignatius looked at the other men then said, “We don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh,” Ruth said.  “Little jaunt through half of Africa, cave with gold?  How about no money to get there?  As a full partner, I can finance the expedition.”

Ignatius looked at Wilhelm and DeForest.  Wilhelm shrugged approval, DeForest nodded.

“Okay.”  Ignatius agreed.  “On one condition.”

“What’s that?” asked Ruth.

“That you tell us how to make this incredible drink.”  Ignatius held up his glass.

“To get to go on this adventure?  Well worth it.”

2 tablespoons black tea
20 cardamom pods, crushed
3 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup packed spearmint leaves, plus extra for garnish
2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
5 ounces white rum
1 ounce white rum
1 1/2 teaspoons rosewater
Soda water

make the cardamom tea concentrate:
Place the tea and crushed cardamom pods in a heatproof measuring cup, and add boiling water to bring the mixture to the 3/4 cup mark. Let steep 10-20 minutes. Strain the tea mixture into a jar, squeezing the liquid out of the tea and cardamom pods to extract all the liquid and chill. 

Muddle the mint leaves and sugar together in another measuring cup to bruise the mint. Add the lime and lemon juices, starting with the smaller amounts; stir to dissolve the sugar.

Pour chilled tea into the mint mixture and then strain the mint/tea mixture into a pitcher, squeezing the leaves to extract all the liquid. Stir in the white and dark rums and the rosewater.

Fill large tumbler with ice and several mint leaves. Pour mixture over ice, leaving room for soda water. Top  with a bit of soda water, stir, and garnish with a mint leaf.