Magazine article The Spectator

Wild Life: Aidan Hartley

Magazine article The Spectator

Wild Life: Aidan Hartley

Article excerpt

I once found myself on a lonely road in southern Ethiopia with the famous Polish author Ryszard Kapuscinski. We were travelling through bandit country when we got a puncture. We had a rendezvous at a bush airstrip with an aircraft that had to take off before night closed in. It turned out Ryszard had no clue about changing tyres and, whereas I was quite happy to break open the beers and sleep in a ditch, he fretted about missing tea with the lady relatives of Emperor Haile Selassie back in Addis Ababa. I realised he was scared. We fixed the puncture and reached the flight in time -- but later, when Kapuscinski wrote about this trip in his bestseller The Shadow of the Sun , he made it seem as though he was the only one to get scoops -- and airbrushed from the story that puncture, his travelling companions and his fit about missing his tea with the Lion of Judah's family.

My friend Ken is not as famous as Kapuscinski, but I insisted on employing him as our fixer on a difficult trip into Sudanese rebel territory. 'Are you sure he knows what he's doing?' asked the TV producer travelling with me. We were headed north, into a parched African land, with few wells of brackish, foul water. There was no food, because government bombers circling the skies had driven farmers from their fields with cluster bombings. There were no roads, no shops, no petrol stations, no electricity to recharge our batteries in the war zone. 'Yes he does,' I said.

'Aye,' said Ken. 'We'll have to be entirely self-sufficient in supplies if we're to survive.' I went off to organise two pick-up vehicles with extra jerry cans, enough to journey a thousand miles through rugged mountains. Ken said he was going to shop for our most vital provisions. The producer and I imagined he would buy pasta and cans of sardines, packets of biscuits, dried dates, bandages, insect repellent and plastic bottles of mineral water. 'Are you sure he's got it covered?' the producer asked as he went off to organise his camera equipment. 'Absolutely,' I replied.

Later, I tracked Ken down in the dusty town souk, sitting outside a chandlery, drinking sweet black tea and blowing smoke rings with contraband cigarettes. He directed me to back up the vehicles outside the shop and we began to load up. First came several crates of Tusker beer. 'Good call,' I said. 'We will need to relax in the evenings.' Next came a case of Famous Grouse whisky. 'Aye,' Ken said smacking his lips. A line of shop attendants brought out boxes of gin, vodka, rum, casks of cheap South African wine, tonics, more crates of beer, a couple of bottles of Amarula, more beer and another case of Famous Grouse. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.