Saturday, May 31, 2008

Mal's Page

A special report by Mal Evans who went on safari with Paul

Our rendezvous was outside a theatre in Bordeaux, Tuesday evening at seven o'clock. Paul had flown out from Lydd Airport ahead of me. He arrived dead on time and we began an exciting ten-day holiday which took us down through France into Spain and on from there to Africa and the National Parks of Kenya.


We took it in turns to drive Paul's dark green DB6. On the journey south we just stopped when we were ready to do so, looked around until we found a decent hotel and booked ourselves in. We took time out to see the sights--Paul went mad with his movie camera and used roll after roll of film everywhere we went. We bought souvenirs from Paul's favourite type of antique shop. Before we left France he'd picked up a fantastic old oil lamp--like something out of "Aladdin"--and I collected an antique double-barrel shotgun which the border people wouldn't allow into Spain so we left it at a little cafe just north of the actual frontier.

Our route took us through San Sebastian, Madrid, Cordoba and Malaga to Torremolinos. The original intention was to drive East all along the coastline beside the Mediterranean and meet up with John at Almeria. But by phoning London we found that John had finished work on "How I Won The War" earlier than expected and was on his way home with Cyn and Neil!

"That's torn it," exclaimed Paul, "O.K., how about a safari as compensation?"

"Spain isn't really safari country, Paul," I replied blankly.

"No, but Kenya is!" came the prompt reply.

We sorted through maps and got in touch with our very helpful travel agency. In no time the spur-of-the-moment schedule was planned. Drive to Seville and have someone get the DB6 back to London while we flew to Madrid. Then another plane from Madrid to the city of Nairobi in Kenya. By way of Rome where we spent ten hours looking at St. Peter's and everything. And taking a sightseeing bus trip which ran all through the sort of Knotty Ash of Rome and back into the centre!

At Nairobi we were introduced to our African driver, who had this shiny big Plymouth all ready to go.

"Got a radio?" Paul asked the driver.

No radio.

"I hope you can sing then!" And we all did!


First stop--Tsavo National Park, with this fabulous lodge (more like a luxury hotel complete with blue pool) as our base. Some British soldiers in the bar started talking pointedly about Beatles until we joined them. Paul admitted his identity and went on to play and win a great game of poker!

A highlight of the two days at Tsavo was a trip to the big springs and the chance to gaze through an underwater observation window and watch all these massive fish and so forth. Monkeys, elephants, hippos, alligators, deer, zebras--we saw the lot and Paul's got loads of movie to prove it.

Our next stop was a quickie visit to Ambosali Park, the least happy bit of the holiday because Paul had caught too much sun and felt really bad for a day or two. Here we were housed in individual chalet-type huts at the foot of Kilimanjaro. Driving back we were 200 yards from the huts when we came to this narrow stretch of road with high, steep banks. A whacking great elephant blocked our way. It was a bit scary because if we frightened him he could easily charge. We couldn't back up because there was another car right behind ours. And we couldn't pass--there wasn't room. Eventually, with fingers crossed, we let rip and roared past at top speed before the elephant realised what was happening!


And so, back to Nairobi and the best bit of all--our stay at the fantastic Treetops Hotel, really built in trees with massive trunks going right through the rooms! To get there we had to use a landrover--and the services of an expert hunter to guard us because this was the really wild country. The people at the Treetops were wonderful company. About 40 of us all told and it was like a big dinner party with a friendly sort of family atmosphere. On the final morning Paul and I crawled out of bed at five o'clock to film the sunrise.

One last thing--a simple memory from Nairobi. We stayed over at the YMCA before taking a Friday night flight home. I left Paul to go into the town for a few last-minute gifts. When I got back he was sitting on the grass surrounded by this "audience" of ten or twelve little kids who had a half-day school holiday. Paul got a great kick out of just chatting to them . . . now if John hadn't finished his film early those kids would never have met a very thinly disguised Beatle outside Nairobi YMCA! And I wouldn't have had the most memorable safari holiday of my life!

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