I think he died in Chelsea (don't know how that relates to Croydon). We tried to look him up on our way through Maralal but his adopted Samburu son said he had gone walkabout in the desert. Here's an extract from a piece I wrote for another magazine, "Living Africa":
The desert roads are unrelenting. On the way in, we stopped to help a man in an old Land Rover. Every single spring was broken, rubber inner tubes and frayed ropes were wrapped around blocks of wood holding the broken blades together. But that wasn't his problem. His problem was that three U-bolts had sheared off, and he could no longer keep his axle straight, so the Land Rover steered like a drunken crab. We picked up his tracks later. It looked as though a dying donkey was pulling a heavy cart through the desert sand.
We gave him three old U-bolts and drove off into the desert. A week later we saw him in Maralal, he drove off the crowds of beggars and children when he saw his friends had arrived. His Land Rover was fine, he said, with those U-bolts he would be able to drive for many more years.
Maralal is the centre of life in this part of the NFD. Zebra wander down the main street, crowds of nomadic Samburu lounge on the front porches of the sliding down trading stores looking beautiful. It is where Wilfred Thesiger, the Arabist and fearless wanderer, has made his home. In the sunset of his years he sits on his stoep and watches over the desert.
Mary Anne Fitzgerald, in "Nomad", describes how she went to visit Thesiger: "Had he, I wondered to myself, acquired insights on life that would enlighten us all? It soon became apparent Thesiger wasn't long on philosophy. Prompted to name the pinnacles and troughs of his extraordinary existence, he swatted a fly with some plastic netting tied to the end of a stick and pondered.
" 'Excitement,' he decided, and the shame of accepting a hare's liver from his Bedu companions in the Empty Quarter. 'It was more than my share,' he said with genuine regret."
We knew the feeling.
We arrived in Loiyangalani in the heat of midday. The temperature was hovering around 40 degrees. At the El Molo campsite, the man in charge was standing with three Cokes in his hand. They were lukewarm, but wet. We drained two, fast, then bought the third and shared it. Then, remembering the basic rules of African hospitality we asked him to produce more so we could buy him one too.
"Sorry, so sorry," he said, "that is the end, there are no more Coca Colas in Loiyangalani."
It wasn't quite the Empty Quarter, and it wasn't hare's liver, but we felt a kindred sense of shame.
1991 Land Rover 110 Hi-Line S/W 3.5l V8 carburettor
Cooper Discoverer STT tyres, four sleeper Echo rooftop tent
2012 Mitsubishi Outlander.
Previously Land Rover 1968 SII, 1969 SIIA, 1973 SIII, 1983 Toyota HiLux 2litre, 2006 Land Rover Freelander TD4 HSE.