Tuesday, February 4, 2020


Dear Fellow Travellers,

My family and friends thought I was mad when I left Cape Town on my own to criss-cross Africa hitch-hiking.
Those were the days when hospitality for strangers like me was brilliant, and lone women would have no qualms about giving me a lift.
Those were the days when I thought nothing of travelling hundreds of miles on the load in the back of a truck ducking thorn trees determined to hook me off.
These two guys were driving identical MG's like this & I
got a lift with the one in front. That's when I nearly came
to  grief before I had hardly started. The Limpopo River
on the South African/Rhodesian border was in flood & 

the driver of the car I was in went straight into the river
 pictured below. Miraculously we were not swept away. 
His mate behind us did the sensible thing and we had to
wait  two days before he could come across.

Those were the days when I sent my Mum in Cape Town a letter from Kenya saying: “You don’t need to send money. I’m getting 200 pounds a month in the Police Reserve and it only costs me 10 to live.”
Those were the days when those manning the Police post at 12 000 feet on Mount Kenya were a colourful bunch: Two White officers with Black privates – 16 Askaris. We were there to flush out the Mau Mau hiding in the jungle on the mountain.
This was the Regati Police post where I was stationed. It had
rudimentary fortifications consisting of a ditch all round it 
that was filled with sharpened wooden stakes. We only 
encountered one small Mau Mau group in the forest in the
 three months I was there.
*     *     *
 The Kenya Emergency or Mau Mau Revolt was described
as "one of the British Army's bloodiest and most 

controversial post-war conflicts." The Mau Mau led an
extremely violent rebellion against British rule that 
included terrible atrocities against it own people. 
The majority were members of the Kikuyu tribe. Only a
 mere 32 white settlers, mainly farmers, were murdered 
during the eight years of this reign of terror. On the 
other hand an estimated 1819 Kenyans were killed for 
refusing to take the Mau Mau oath, or for their tacit
acceptance of olonialism. Their most notorious 
massacre was in 1953 when they ordered everyone in the 
village of Lari into their huts and set fire to them. Those
who tried to escape were hacked to death with machetes
Those were the days when I could send my mother in Cape Town my passport from Kenya asking her to get me an Egyptian visa and within a couple of weeks I got it back complete with visa. And it wasn’t sent registered either way.
Those were the days when I paddled alone in a dugout canoe 700 miles down the Congo, the world’s deepest river, without a lifejacket when I could not swim.
My tiny dugout canoe
 At 22 you can’t be brave when you have no fear.
Those were the days when I would stop for the night to put up my tent in a clearing in the jungle where there was a village next to the river, only to find a family had moved out of their hut for me. I only had enough money for the simplest food, so the owner’s good deed went unrewarded, not that he showed any sign of wanting to be paid. It was Hospitality with the biggest H imaginable.
Those were the days when I arrived at a Catholic Mission in Spanish Rio Muni with malaria and left three days later- cured for free. Getting malaria had been inevitable because at night along that river the mosquitoes would be touching each other on the outside on my net.
Those were the days when I stayed at Dr Schweitzer’s hospital in Lambaréne` with a sense of awe only to be terribly disillusioned when I saw the way it was run was the antithesis of what I believed a hospital should be.
Those were the days when I spent Christmas day being shuttled for miles between trucks in a canoe through fields of crops flooded by the overflowing Lake Chad.
This was the canoe just behind a similar one that I was in
      Those were the days when a hitch-hiker was royally entertained by the District Commissioner at El Fasher, Sudan even though the entire nation was celebrating its actual Independence Day (1 Jan 1956) and the people were intent on flying their new flag.
Here's the letter I sent to my mother to which the District
                 Commissioner insisted on adding a postscript. (She kept all

               my letters, possibly as momentos in case I never came back)
      A year after leaving home I crossed the Mediterranean by ship from Tunis sitting right on the deck without as much as a scratch with my meagre belongings intact.
      My most memorable experience had taken me through 20 countries at a total cost of 200 pounds.
Was I really that Mad?
P.S. This is dedicated to all those fabulous people, who looked after me so well. More importantly they gave me an indelible impression of what this world could be like if we all followed their example. A very Big THANK YOU to you all, especially those of you with little or nothing to give except overnight accommodation in your HUT.

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