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Later she would fall in with a cohort of glamorous European expats that included the Danish writer/farmer/baroness Karen Blixen, author of (written under the pen name Isak Dinesen), and the big game hunter Denys Finch Hatton—a man Markham would pursue heedlessly, like no other, for more than a decade.It was Finch Hatton who first encouraged Markham to take up flying, setting her on a course to become the first woman (in 1936, at the age of 33) to cross the Atlantic solo, nonstop, and "the hard way," east to west, harassed by storms and wicked headwinds., first published in 1942, there is a lot of pluck and derring-do in her descriptions of her transatlantic flight and other adventures.Cholmondeley is a "mere youngster of 81" and still imposing at six-foot-five, with legs that jut across the very lived-in veranda, which overlooks the sulfurous Lake Elmenteita.As his wife Anne feeds lemon cake to their Labradors, Cholmondeley tells me that when he was a teenager home on holiday from Eton in the mid-1950s, Markham came around looking for work.When I visit, the area is in the worst stretch of its dry season, and the animals are in hiding.I see mostly zebras, gazelles, and dust devils stitching the parched valley that surrounds the dormant volcano, Sleeping Warrior—also known by the local population as Delamere's Nose.

The undiscovered country seemed to correspond perfectly and mysteriously to something within that was primitive and bottomless.

Constructed between 18, in the midst of an all-out British land grab, the railway was the first strategic imperial project in Africa to push into the interior.

With it came those bold (and, yes, very probably lunatic) Anglo-Irish and European pioneers, who endeavored to make a life in this unlikely place, where malarial papyrus swamp met red murrum dust met marauding lions. A stake of 1,000 pounds could get you a thousand fertile acres and the Adamic fantasy of limitless beginning—but also tsetse flies and puff adders and ants vicious enough to take down a horse.

The early settlers' first stop was invariably the Norfolk Hotel—my first stop as well. In the veranda bar, the Cin Cin, slung with deep-cushioned rattan, I need only one bracing Negroni and a bit of squinting to see it as it was 100 years ago, settlers and hunters and dignitaries, as well as every British peer of note, gathering for gossipy high tea, or preparing to go on safari.

Built in 1904, Nairobi's first hotel was a critical player in its social history, the only toehold of "civilization," where any newcomer could get a cool bath, some nice gin, and the lay of the land. Markham danced here on her wedding night, in 1919, in ivory satin with pearl trimmings and yards of silk ninon. Before long Markham had had enough and went to train racehorses for Lord Delamere at his vast Soysambu Ranch, in the Great Rift Valley.

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