MY AFRICAN DIARY Part One:

The return ticket Heathrow to Jo’burg cost £120, which included three days in the air, food, and overnight accommodation in Cairo and Entebbe (going) and Entebbe and Luxor (on the way back) plus excursions in Cairo and Luxor. The overall arrangement was ideal, for Philip and I could and did join the rest of the bunch in Entebbe on October 1st.
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The plane was a Douglas DC-4 turboprop, and there were 49 of us, all young men except one, few with any idea what kind of jobs would be provided for us in South Africa. Our luggage was stowed inside the plane, I assume for ease of access when we had overnight stops. This was a concern on the second evening in the air. The range of this plane was not much more than 6750 km. London – Jo’burg was about 9039 km. One stop was necessary: we made two (for refuelling?) in Rome and Khartoum and two overnight, see above.

June 22. Prelude: Charing Cross Underground Station (London) 8.50 p.m. A motley bunch: haversacks camping gear & odd Australian hats; suits and regimental and school &c ties. Thru Notting Hill to L Airport: Main terminus. D.g. at least 26 lb. allowed, plus green Turkeybag (a short green cylindrical cloth bag closed with a cord and carried over the shoulder, used in 1958) which now on second journey. Beer and view of viscounts (Vickers Viscount turboprop aircraft) from terrace. Insurance in slot machines. Nonsmoking bus to our plane (I had started smoking in the army, 1955), at insignificant part of airport, long wait while searching for crannies for luggage. Forewarned sweet (candy to suck while taking off). Blue lights flashing; airborne  11.30 p.m.

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June 23. C. 1 hr’s sleep before Rome; little after. A few afforested hills (Jura?). Sunrise over Alps: yok. (Turkish for “none, nothing” – here, nothing to see.) What I took to be Geneva turned out to be Nice. (Note: DC-4’s did not fly as high as more recent airplanes).
Large alone-standing flatblocks = Rome outskirts. One hour in Rome airport; postcard of painting to Aunt (Auntie Mar, my Aunt Margery). Very expensive coffee, 1st photo on ground:Screen Shot 2019-08-09 at 9.11.34 PM.png
Reboarding, Rome Airport.

More Italy, monotonous Med., only one small islet before AFRICA. One branch Nile delta: looked thin. Dark olive = fertile strip, here wide; but a few patches of real bedouin desert before Cairo – 1 p.m. Long long redtaped wait inside and outside terminus. Portraits of Nasser || (like those of) Atatürk (“father of modern Turkey”, seemingly on every wall in that country in 1958) but fewer; uglier in recompense. Uniforms uniformly baggy but less so than Turkish. Cleaner yet more exasperating than Turks.

Looking back now, I am surprised that neither my notes nor my memory have any inkling of the ill-feeling that we Brits should have expected from the Egyptians. (If this was why they were exasperating, I do not seem to have thought so). After all, It was less than 3 years since Britain, France and Israel had invaded Suez in an attempt to thwart President Nasser (see https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Suez_Crisis). I personally should have been more aware of this than most, since I had seen, on a late-1956 newsreel in a cinema, a film of my “mates” from 1955 basic infantry training  in the Queen’s Own Kent Regiment actually splashing ashore in one of the first waves of invaders… (by which time I was safe on my language course). Ah, the arrogance? the thoughtlessness? of youth…
[4].pngWaiting for the bus, Cairo Airport.

Terminus deserted from town. Barracks barracks & broad avenues and stumpy trees from bus. Neo-everything villas. To hotel: Victorian to fit name. 1 voucher for Pyramid trip, which after semi-bath-semi-shower and expensive tea-to-room, both of which shared with JREL1 (whoever he was). Tea brought by red, white and black (uniform? complexion?) waiter/page of ripe age. — Bus after beer, 1st assault of the vendors, vending toy camels, daggers whips bracelets wallets fezes. One fez, cost 4 shillings after 20 minutes (haggle). (Note: the fez did not survive the 3 months).

Cynical guide: “Victoria Hotel OK for English; Hilton OK for Americans.” (|| Hilton Oteli (The hotel in Istanbul that we had sneaked into in 1958 for the toilet facilities).) Independence Square || Taksim (Square in Istanbul); lined with sleeping independent Gippoes (sic). New Shepheard’s. (Originally the top hotel in Cairo, 1841-1952, burned down, rebuilt 1952. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepheard%27s_Hotel.

Long way to Pyramids — over Nile twice,  past Mersin-type nightclubs (Mersin: a port in Turkey, where we embarked on a ship for Izmir).

Pyramids from bus

Off bus onto camel’s back. “Lean back!” “You like my camel?” (No) “He called Moses (like all the others) . . You give money?” 2 fags (cigarettes), later, deserved more really.

Above: Ted Whitehill on camel.

Too far, past ship’s tomb (what is this?), back: off camel “Lean back!” Semi-crouching ascent to bare tomb. “You see: no cement, no mortar. You give money?” Ventilation / exit-channel for ghost. Onto camel and on to Sfinkis. “You buy scarab?” “You buy mummy?” Owl in Sphinxtemple, woman guide with bright trying voice. Good lemonade chez Ablohol [1]. Hat nearly forgotten. Back; no time for bazaars, except one antique shop after supper, gauntlet of vendors. Held aloof. “La!” Hot cucumber for supper. Night clubs disdained.
[1] This means nothing to me today but the internet says that the Arabic name for the Sphinx is  “Abul-houl” or “Abu el Hol” — sources vary —  (“Place of terror”).

Not in diary: back to bus, then the drive back to our hotel. Evening meal, including (I remember!) cooked cucumber. Exhausted, to bed.

June 24.  Up and away early — off 7.30. 4 PCs sent. Last despairing efforts of vendors. No volokita (Russian: red tape) at airport. Desert, sand, rock. Tentative photos. Nile to one side, to the other, to out o’ sight.

Midday beer stop at Khartoum after circling round town. Mirage. Stamps “2-3 minutes” — no. Later: Sudd;[1] and Juba — one-donkey (town), not worth visit?[2] Then darkness and storm and lightning — inciting cheerful conversation. Apparently got off lightly. (But one memory: during the storm many of us went to the back of the plane to take photos — so many that the pilot told us to get back to our seats, with all the luggage at the back the extra weight was making the plane fly at an angle, nose-up). — Too dark to see Kampala or any of the land of my birth till next a.m. No airport stamp in passport. Fast car to Lake Victoria Hotel, palatial v. g. right-thru-the-menu dinner not appreciated after exciting and tiring journey. Tried to ring Mrs Fraser, no luck; and too late to catch Mr. Hunter.[3] Walk over golf course towards lake.

     Better carved animals on show than in Cairo. Beer no. Early bed.

[1]    Large swamp in Southern S. Sudan.

[2]   One of my long-held ambitions was to travel the “Cape to Cairo” route, which would have involved going through Juba. See Diary, Part 8.

[3]   Friends of my parents. Mr. “Willie” Hunter, the original co-owner of the law firm (still today known in Kampala as “Hunter and Greig”!) that my father finished up owning just before his death, had visited my mother a couple of times when I was in my early teens. Mrs Fraser was someone Linda and I caught up with in West Vancouver in the late 1960s. Neither of them was in Kampala when Philip and I reached it later in the summer of 1959.

The Lake Victoria Hotel How to carry a lawnmower!

June 25.  Up late: 7. Appreciated breakfast. Saw lake — far! NB buy animals when return.

Maps now of use but tearing, but enlivened tedium. Over (Lake) Victoria Nyanza first hour, then 2 hours of Tanganyika (Tabora – Abercorn). Glimpse of Lake Tanganyika.  Over Luangwa and Zambezi.

Lake Victoria
The Zambezi River

Salisbury (= today’s Harare): spacious. Zimbabwe (ancient ruins) hidden by clouds. Getting dark v. early. Sun moving wrong way

From bus: entering Johannesburg

June 26.  Early up to see Foggitt (the contact in S.A. who made all arrange-ments) after paw-paw and thru-the-menu breakfast. News: day free in Jo’burg.

(From left: 2nd TP, 6th Philip W.)

Walkabout with Robin B and James Buchan.  Easy learning names of streets. Huge flats, most well-designed, Americanoid shops. Native bus station, European railway station. Yanks flag. Bar – beercold – half English, half ?. — Pyjamas. Back for lunch. Panoramic view of Jo’burg. Reporter from Mail.[1]Bowling alley?  Art Gallery – some excellent (Cézanne water-colour, Picasso, Signac herringbone), some mediocre (imitation Van Dyck and Hals),  some downright poor. Search for tourist centre: no. Afrikaner museum: worth another visit. Difficulty making oneself understood. Evening: bowling? No. Gin in pub.

[1]   There are several S.A. newspapers with “Mail” in the title, my best guess is the “Rand Daily Mail.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rand_Daily_Mail

(Travel arranged for group of eight, including Philip and myself, who would be working in Welkom O.F.S. (= Orange Free State))

June 27.  Up late: gulp tea. By Combi (vehicle) to Welkom with Pat and Nick, via Maccauvlei near Vereeniging, tea and sandwiches. Sand. Flat and boring.

(Above: a contemporary map. Below: my map from 1959. Note: Bechuanaland > Botswana, Basutoland > Lesotho. States have also been renamed: Orange Free State > Free State, Natal > KwaZulu-Natal, Transvaal > Gauteng, Mpumalanga, North-West and Limpopo Provinces)

(Three excursions from Welkom: to Bloemfontein, Maseru, Kimberley)

(Continuing the drive to Welkom) NO scenery! Naartjies (tangerines) passed from car to car. Kroonstad. Koppie Alleen[1]& drive-in. Steenbok (the hostel in Welkom where we would be staying) like barracks. Fruit and milk. Rugby: Barclays, tooting, search for offices. Feeling of not-being-wanted, not-known-about even; & in such an odd town. Pit(bed)-evening: Steinbeck in Steenbok.

[1] The only real hill for many miles. Name = “Hill alone”.

June 28.  (First day in Welkom). To the de Klerks’ a.m. Accent of Mrs de K (speaking on phone): “Is that yew? Gloria hee-uh. Could I spick to Jeemmy pleese? Thenkyew.” Half-bald doll. Over to the Hamiltons’, palatial, & 2 excellent dancing girls (sic). Formal walk around formal garden. Iced gin and soda OK.  Steyn (workers’ compound) dancing aft, then back to chez H. again. Slightly less formal. Tea, ping-pong and tennis without rackets (!). Good-bye.