On September 29th, 1965 I flew to Nigeria for three months. I was the most fortunate recipient of a Nuffield Foundation Travelling Scholarship in Tropical Medicine and was embarking on one of the most formative experiences of my life. I wrote a diary every day for three months and took hundreds of photographs. At the moment the pictures are rather inaccessible as half-frame Kodachromes, but I’ll get them digitalised and if I add to this theme I’ll post some of those too. Here is the first entry – relatively banal today as we all fly so much, but there is real adventure to follow.
We left London somewhat late and took off steeply into a clear sky. The BOAC VC 10 really is remarkably comfortable and much quieter than any other ‘plane I’ve been in. It was, I think, completely full and quite a number of babies were stored in neat cradles that hung from the hat rack…..
Before long Africa was below and we started a long haul across the Sahara. Usually pretty featureless, it had occasional tracks running straight across and occasional mountaintops sticking through the sand. At one time it was strangely mottled, like the surface of the moon, but above all the impression of this vast waste was the main thing. It seemed to take a lot longer to fly over the Sahara than over Europe and I have never seen anywhere look so barren….
Gradually the sand gave way to more useful land but I was not near enough to the window to see well. Anyway, the cloud built up….. I was offered a window seat and the cloud did clear somewhat as we came down towards Lagos. Enough to see a Comet going very fast in the other direction a long way below us, and then as we rather steeply flew down, to see the tropical rain forest. I have never known anything so exactly as it should be than my first impression of Africa. Perhaps the New York skyline, but nothing else in practice turns out so exactly as one’s imagination has built it up. The forest, dark green with huge, sparsely foliated trees with grey trunks towering up out of the billowing green sea of lesser trees.