Sept 8th 1974.

Dear Folks,
  Well, here’s the next chapter, or section of my diary. Since I wrote the last one from the field, I’ve been back in Addis, but only briefly, to do stuff on the ComMand. I got the letters from Dad, Mum, Rosie and Yvonne—thanks. I’ve been out in the field this time since August 20th, and I’ll probably be out here for another couple of weeks. I’m starting to like it out here, actually, though probably I’ll be glad to get back to Addis.

  I came back out to Ray-1 fly-camp on Tuesday 20th, on the DC-3, the old boneshaker. It should be about a 3¼ hour trip, normally, but this time we were still flying after 4 hours, so it was obvious that something was wrong. Eventually the pilot banked and turned, and we headed back the way we had come. After a while he turned again, and it was obvious we were lost. Nothing below us but identical-looking bush as far as the eye could see. Right, I thought, that’s it, we’re going to run out of fuel and crash. A little bit at the end of the news at home: “An Ethiopian Airlines DC-3 is missing in southern Ethiopia.” Map flashes up, so people know where that is.

  Fortunately, we had a surveyor with us, on his way to one of the crews, so he went up into the pilot’s cabin and tried to figure out where we were. The pilot was Ethiopian, and knew the country, but even for someone who knows it, it’s pretty hard to find your way about. Well, at last we sighted the landing-strip, and put down okay, 2½ hours overdue. So, I took the light plane to Ray-1, stayed about 36 hours, and then flew down to Ray-2.

  I spent about a week or so on Ray-2, though I was called to Ray-3 one day. Not really so busy this time, just keeping an eye on things. Anyway, Ray-2 has a tiny gazelle-type creature, which they are bottle-feeding at present, and a couple of monkeys. The monkeys are a nuisance, they break open cartons of cigarettes and eat them, turn any tent they get into upside-down. So, one night we discovered they liked beer, and got them drunk. They were pretty funny, turning cartwheels, missing the target when they jumped, falling about.

  Then the gazelle, which usually stays close to camp, went wandering off into the bush the next day. So, I took a pair of field glasses and set off to look for it. It had headed off north, which was the direction I took. I was fairly careful to keep myself oriented, so that I knew which direction camp was in, and after a while I actually found its tracks, and started following them. That was my big mistake. I followed the tracks for quite a while, until I caught sight of the gazelle, but he ran off. So I followed him again, and again he dodged me. So I decided to pack it in, it was about 4 p.m., and darkness falls at six. And then I realised that I didn’t have a clue where I was. Every direction I looked in was exactly the same, dry bushes, thorn trees, desert. I was completely lost.
  I headed south, as far as I could judge it, because that was the opposite direction to the one I’d originally been heading, but I knew I’d wandered off all over the place chasing the gazelle, and that I was probably heading away from camp now. I walked for over half-an-hour, but I knew it was hopeless. Any direction looked as likely as any other. I knew they would send out a plane in the morning to look for me, but meantime I was lost, with the snakes and the big cats, no water and no shelter. Naturally, I was a bit worried. Then I saw a tree I could climb (there aren’t very many), managed to get to the top and then looked all round with my field-glasses. And, very relieved, I could just make out something in the distance—not the direction I’d been moving at all—which I was fairly sure was camp. I was still worried right up to the moment that camp finally came into view; I thought I still might have wandered off course on my way there, but I got back in shortly before nightfall.

  Next I went back to Ray-3 fly-camp, where I still am, and where I’m likely to be for another week or so. I think the conditions here at the moment are the worst so far, extremely hot and almost permanent sandstorms, the shower is an oil-drum filled with cold-water and fitted with a hand-operated pump which pumps water to a tin can with holes in. At night we swelter in the tents.

  Yesterday there was a lot of shouting all of a sudden, and the locals all grabbed sticks and started running, so I went to see what was going on. A snake had wandered into camp, about four or five feet long, and quite thick. I don’t know what kind of snake it was, but apparently they can kill a man. Anyway, the locals killed it.

  The crew has now acquired three baby cheetahs, only a few weeks old. They’re fantastic little things, just like kittens, except for the wild look about them. They even purr when you stroke them. They’re still very weak, but they are now eating minced raw meat, and drinking milk. They’re just starting to be able to play-fight now.

  We’re fairly close to the Somali border here, in fact this part of Ethiopia is claimed by Somalia, so the army guard we’ve been assigned is very jumpy. The other night, quite late, I was wandering about, and passed through the cordon. But coming back, I heard a shout, and saw a sentry. So I ignored him and carried on walking, and he shouted again and aimed his rifle at me. He couldn’t understand how I was outside the line of sentries, and I had to stand with my hands up for about five minutes, until the English-speaking officer arrived and sorted it out.

  So, I’ve been having adventures. I see things are hotting up in Addis again, it looks like Selaisse will be gone in a week or two. The curfew is still on, and there was a fair bit of military activity when I was there.

  Well, that’s about it for now, I’ll write again from Addis. Thanks for Katarina’s address, I’ll drop her a line. I guess the girls will be on holiday when this arrives, so it’ll be quiet at home. And at last you’re leaving the shop, Mum, about time really. And another election next month. Ah well, I bet there’s be a low turnout. Anyway, so long for now,

  Love David.