Michael Palin

Name ID 900

See also

1992 Publishes: Palin, Michael Pole to Pole

Extract ID: 809

See also

1992 Publishes: Palin, Michael Pole to Pole
Page Number: 225
Extract Date: Oct 1991


We've 250 miles ahead of us today, so up at 6.15 for an early start. Peer out over the balcony to see baboons swarming all over the place, taking apart the ornamental gardens.

Leave an hour later, taking the right turn at the end of the hotel drive. The safari traffic turns left and I feel a quite

poignant sense of regret at leaving the animals behind.

A rough track, uncomfortably negotiated, brings us out onto the main road from Dodoma to Arusha. This is a fine, recently constructed highway. It even has white line markings. We sizzle along it for 15 miles, as far as a large phosphate factory at Minjingu. I know it's called Minjingu because it's written several times on a roadside hoarding: 'Have You Applied Minjingu Phosphate Fertiliser?', 'Have You Taken Your Sample?' and finally 'Bon Voyage from Minjingu'. It's quite the opposite as it turns out. Mal voyage from Minjingu to Dodoma, on a road surface, once metalled but since left to break up into a cracked and pitted mess.

We're out of the dramatic scenery and bumping along between dry straw-coloured fields through which bare patches of an ash-grey rock can be glimpsed, with only the occasional 'sausage tree' to enliven the view with its long, cylindrical fruit dangling from the branches.

The villages are plain and poor, growing staple foods like banana and papaya and tomato. At the junction town of Babati we buy samosa and bread for lunch. Even the children here seem to view us with caution, a sort of guarded suspicion which we have not met anywhere else but Sudan, where xenophobia seemed like government policy. What have the children been taught here? I know that Julius Nyerere preached self-sufficiency and nonalignment which may have delivered national pride but not much in the way of economic self-confidence.

For five or six hours we progress along a winding ridge, densely wooded with acacia resplendent in colours of deep green, pale brown and golden yellow, a splash of Vermont in the fall. Then we're running down onto the plain and the baobab trees are the star turn. Some of them are believed to be 2000 years old, massively built, 20 or 30 feet around the trunk, with flanks the colour and texture of gunmetal. Birds love them and owls, hornbills, bats and buffalo weavers nest amongst them.

Over 10 hours after leaving Lake Manyara we finally reach the outskirts of Dodoma, a city of only 45,000 people, not even among the ten largest cities of Tanzania, but plum in the middle of the country. It is announced by a faded sign beside a broken road, Welcome to Dodoma, Capital City'.

This is strong missionary country. On the way in we come across the incongruous sight of orderly rows of Vines, tended by the Passionist Fathers, and producing Dodoma Red, which I am warned against.

The Vocation Centre of the Precious Blood Missionaries and the Assemblies of God Bible College beckon with their signs as does the New Limpopo Bar. A stretch of dual carriageway around the refreshingly modest Parliament building passes the Roman Catholic bookshop, the Paradise Theatre � Elliott Gould and Kate Jackson in Dirty Tricks � and the headquarters of the ruling CCM party (attached directly to the Parliament) before depositing us before the colonial fa�ade of the Dodoma Hotel. Considering this is the best hotel in a capital city it's disappointing that there is no hot water on tap, but a bucketful can be brought to you on request. In the public rooms fat armchairs with their stuffing leaking out are set around an old John Broadwood piano with middle C missing. The food is dull but the beer is cool and welcome. My bed has a huge mosquito net, though I point out to the attendant that it has three very large holes in it. He smiles helplessly and produces a can of fly-spray the size of a bazooka which he uses so freely that I am unable to breathe inside the room for at least ten minutes.

There is a disco in the hotel tonight and it's a measure of how tired I am that the music blasts me to sleep.

Extract ID: 5726

See also

Palin, Michael Hemingway Adventure
Extract Author: Michael Palin
Extract Date: 1999 October 30

with a bush pilot . . .

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.

Extract ID: 1444