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Hemingway Adventure

Amboseli National Park, Kenya (first day)

Amboseli National Park, Kenya 
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Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureEarly January 1999 and I’m standing, drinking my Tusker beer, in an open porch at the front of my tent at the Tortilis camp, on the edge of the Amboseli National Park in south-eastern Kenya.

My guidebook notes that ‘Mount Kilimanjaro, at 19,340 feet (5896 metres) the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world, dominates the landscape.’

I can’t see it anywhere.

I’m told that you have to be up very early to catch sight of the mountain, as her vast bulk generates an almost impenetrable layer of cloud for much of
the day.

To be able, even theoretically, to see the snows of Kilimanjaro less than twelve hours after leaving Europe adds an edge of guilt to my exhilaration. I feel I should have done a little more work to get here. Hemingway’s first sight of Kilimanjaro came after a three-week boat journey from Marseilles, an overnight train ride to Nairobi and two days’ driving. And then he fell ill almost immediately, and was forced to return to Nairobi, where, from his hospital bed, he reported back to Esquire readers as ‘Your amebic dysentery correspondent’.

Symptoms of a.d. run from weakly insidious through spectacular to phenomenal. I believe the record is held by a Mr. McDonald with 232 movements in the twenty-four hours although many old a.d.men claim the McDonald record was never properly audited.

His illness didn’t put him off. He was captivated by Africa.

A brown land like Wyoming and Montana but with greater roll and distance … Nothing that I have ever read has given any idea of the beauty of the country.

What land I can see, beyond the fence of the camp, is studded with thorn trees and a light carpet of grass. The local Masai, unmissable in brightly patterned red cloaks, pass by on their way between the villages.

The abrupt transition from a small crowded country to a big empty one lends an air of unreality which I know will, like altitude sickness, take a day or two to clear.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Amboseli National Park, Kenya (first day)
  • Country/sea: Kenya
  • Place: Amboseli National Park
  • Book page no: 162

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