Going ape in Africa

John Nichol's Bedford Army Truck; My Worst Car

BACK IN the early Eighties, I was a young buck in the Royal Air Force, serving as a technician. We were based in Mombasa, and, on one occasion, I was part of a convoy of four Bedford lorries driving to Nairobi.

Twelve hours of tedium faced us, so we decided to spice things up by swapping drivers - on the move.

With the lorries travelling at 50mph, we bunched up with about a foot between the vehicles. In the roof of the cab was a convenient escape hatch.

The idea was that the driver of the rearmost lorry would get out via the hatch (whilst his passenger took the wheel), then jump onto the vehicle in front and take over driving duties.

It was all going to plan when my driver, in the lead lorry, took his eyes off the road for a moment. At that point I had climbed out of the cab in order to work my way back across the roofs. John looked back and saw an orang-utan in the middle of the convoy, slammed on the brakes and caused a pile up. I ended up going backward through the windscreen.

Kenya is not the ideal place to have an accident. At the nearest hospital they found a dead body in the bed and an orderly who wanted to operate with half a used razor blade. So they took me to a military base where I downed six gins. The orderly dug out the glass and a few hours later on that same table I had breakfast.

John Nichol's latest novel, `Exclusion Zone', is published by Hodder & Stoughton (pounds 10). He was talking to James Ruppert.

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