Travels with Pegasus

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Christina Dodwell, a young Englishwoman born in Nigeria, has made a career out of traveling in inhospitable regions of the world and writing such accounts as A TRAVELLER IN CHINA and IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA. Her microlight journey with David Young began in November in Koutaba, Cameroon, and took them across the northeastern corner of Nigeria to the Air Mountains in Niger, and from there west across Mali and Mauritania before turning south down the coast to Dakar, Senegal, the following March.

Mobil Oil sponsored the trip, stashing cans of fuel at key points along their route, and most of the people they encountered were more than obliging with food and various forms of assistance— including the loan of camels, horses, canoes, for forays on the ground.

The microlight—Americans call them ultralights—generally performed well, especially after Young made carburetor adjustments to accommodate their fuel supply. Along the way, Dodwell took flying lessons from Young, learning to cope with the numerous hazards that ensue from low flight over a complicated terrain.

But the real interest of the book is anthropological, not aeronautical. Although Young suffered frequently with stomach miseries, Dodwell—who lived in Nigeria until she was sixteen—socialized intrepidly whenever she went and remembers with good cheer such daunting fare as viper soup. She writes observantly of the appearance and customs of such groups as the Tuaregs and the Dogons, among whom she immediately made herself at home. Her accounts of a wedding and of an original discovery of some enormous dinosaur bones are examples of her attentiveness to the life of the peoples and places she encounters.