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Hemingway Adventure

Chyulu Hills, Kenya

Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureAfter flying due north to look down on friends in the rich farming belt of the Kenya Highlands they turned south, inspecting the lakes and volcanoes of the Great Rift Valley, the twelve-mile-wide Ngorongoro Crater and the game-filled Serengeti Plains. After a refuelling stop at Mwanza they headed west, out over Lake Victoria and the desolate northern quarter of Rwanda and by the end of the first day they reached the Belgian Congo, putting down for the night at the town of Costermansville, now Bukavu.

The next day they flew north over the Rwenzori mountains, a spectacular snow-capped range in the very centre of Africa, known to early explorers as the Mountains of the Moon, and from there to Entebbe in Uganda. Hemingway in his article, ‘The Christmas Gift’, for Look magazine, extravagantly praised the comforts of Entebbe’s Lake Victoria Hotel, adding pointedly that he hoped ‘Miss Mary was beginning to lose the claustrophobia she had experienced while being confined to the Masai Reserve and the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.’

But Miss Mary’s claustrophobia was far from cured and once the mist cleared next morning they were in the air again heading over George and Albert, the lakes of the Western Rift Valley, and on to the Murchison Falls on the River Nile. Diving down to what Hemingway later described as ‘a reasonably legal height’, they had a good look at this spectacular torrent of white water, and were heading back to Entebbe when their tail and propeller clipped a telegraph wire and the plane hurtled down into low scrub beside the crocodile-infested waters of the Nile. This was only the start of the nightmare.

I suppose you could say it’s because of Mary that we find ourselves uprooted from our earthly paradise beside Kilimanjaro, flown north-west across the Equator and deposited, at the end of a long day, in the sticky humidity of lakeside Entebbe. No genets at night, no cups of tea to wake us in the morning, just the putrid stink of corridors sprayed against the ubiquitous lake flies, and a lavatory cistern that shoots a jet of water onto my head whenever I pull the chain.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Chyulu Hills, Kenya
  • Country/sea: Kenya
  • Place: Chyulu Hills
  • Book page no: 181

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