Thesiger, Britain's greatest modern day explorer, undertook a journey through the Danakil country of Abyssinian at the age of 22. The Danakil had killed and mutilated all members of the previous European expeditions to their tribal lands but this did not deter Thesiger, in fact it probably made him more keen to go. Thesiger completed his route through the Danakil country and this book contains the diary entries made during Thesiger's expedition. Thesiger and his entourage encountered some very hiary moments but these are dealt with in his usual modest way making the reader think that actually it must have been a bit of a breeze. Clearly it couldn't have been but therein lies the measure of the man. Any readers interested in Thesiger and his life should definitely read this book as Thesiger claims that it was this expedition that set him on his life of exploration.
Wilfred Thesiger is the last of the truly intrepid explorers. Born in Abyssinia he was familiar with the people of the region and undertook the first two journeys into completely unmapped areas in the 1930's. The two journeys described in this book shaped Thesiger's whole life. For those who have read other Thesiger books, this provides an intimate glimpse into his childhood and formative years and provides insights into his attitude to his exploring and adventures. The book is written from his diary which could make it boring, but his anecdotes, asides, letters to his mother, and observations of those around him transform it into a wonderful evocation of a time now sadly long past. A fascinating read recommended to all those hooked on travel books.
This is a sort of diary of an exploration and hunting trip led by the young Thesinger to the southern Danakil region of Abyssinia in 1934. It's fascinating to read his nonchalance, e.g. "As I was going to bed I killed two tarantulas in my tent" (p. 154); "The Abyssinians did the wedding dance... The Danakil encored them repeatedly. They don't seem to have any good dances of their own" (p. 149). "One of the negadis has had toothache. Asked us to take it out. Daniel tried with some wire cutters, but unfortunately only broke the tooth" (p. 54). One is not surprised to learn that he is entirely successful in avoiding unfortunate incidences with the natives, and even makes friends with the French. For indeed, he is the best they breed: "In 1917, owing to the war... my father took his leave in India, where his brother, Lord Chelmsford, was Viceroy... I rode about on elephants and was taken on a tiger shoot." (p. xv.) But it is strange to reflect that there then seems to have been a perfectly functioning railway from Djibouti to Addis, which is only now being reopened, and by the Chinese.