Derek Pringle, the former English cricket international player turned cricket correspondent, talks to Nomad about the sounds and smells of his youth in Kenya, and roughing it in the Kalahari desert.
What was it like growing up in Kenya?
Early memories of Kenya fall into the three categories which stimulate them: sight, sound and smell. So, watching the Nairobi-Mombasa road unspool behind me as we drove to the Coast is one. I’d have been about five or six years old at the time and looking out from the back cubby hole of Dad’s Volkswagen Beetle. Mum says I used to sing most of the way (five hours in those days) but I don’t recall that.
Then there are the smells, two in particular. First, the mineral whiff of raindrops on parched, red soil. It is so distinct and will never leave me. Then, the heady scent of the bush, especially the pungent perfume of wild lantana under a hot sun. Similarly unforgettable.
Finally the sounds of cicadas during the day and the cacophony of pings and chirrups you hear around dusk. An atmospheric symphony you don’t really get in the UK.
Your last trip?
I don’t travel as much as I did when I was cricket correspondent of a national newspaper, but the last place I visited, which required a flight, was Sardinia for a charity golf tournament. Hot and dry, it could have been the hills south of Machakos were it not for the luxury super yachts of [Russian] oligarchs moored nearby. Prior to that, I visited Oman, where the mountains give the country a grandeur missing in places like Dubai.
The place you’ve felt happiest
I’ve just read a book which reckons happiness is nearly always fleeting and that it has little to do with place, job, salary and everything to do with biology. I recall being happy in Kenya as a child but the country as it was then does not really exist now. My Dad was killed in a car crash in Kenya so there is a sadness attached to the place as well. I live in Cambridge now, which is a beautiful city and feel reasonably content. But it has none of the thrills of Kenya at its best, even if I do prefer the beer!
Describe a memorable holiday
Holidays in Kenya were always with my parents and usually to the Coast. Under my own steam, I recall two memorable trips; one to South America (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela); the other driving around Botswana and Namibia, and the Kalahari desert, with my sister and her friends (they were teaching in Gaborone at the time). Neither journey possessed an iota of luxury but both enriched the soul.
I’ve stayed in hundreds of hotels, mostly through my jobs as a cricketer then as a journalist, and most blur into a generic idea of a room in a four-star hotel. Ones that stand out, for whatever reason, are the Sunhouse and Galle Fort Hotels in Galle, Sri Lanka; Peponi in Lamu; Taj Mahal Palace (old wing), Mumbai; and the Vineyard in Cape Town.
The view of King’s College, Cambridge from the Backs [an area behind the colleges] and the sight of Mt Kilimanjaro, snowcapped, on a cloudless day from Amboseli, preferably with a big tusker (the pachyderm, not the beer) in the foreground.
What do you never travel without?
A corkscrew cum bottle opener.
My guilty pleasure is an ipod with some of my favourite music on it. At home, I listen mostly to vinyl records but the digital revolution does have its conveniences.
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