Book ID 438
Palin, Michael Hemingway Adventure, 1999
Extract Author: Michael Palin
Extract Date: 1999 October 30
writing in the Radio Times 30 Oct 1999 about his Hemingway Adventure program
0n 21 January 1954, the Hemingways, with a bush pilot by the name of Roy Marsh, took off from Nairobi to see the Belgian Congo. Hemingway called it his Christmas present to Mary.
After 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 12-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 being 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 plane 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.