Ethiopia. I want to see those underground Churches in Lalibela. As a South African, I’ve always had interest in African art, artefact and jewellery and the Ethopians dress in the most wonderful way. Their modern jewellery, made out of recycled glass, and their traditional stuff is just heavenly.
John, my husband, has been almost everywhere and says that Ethiopia is the most fascinating place he’s ever been.
Would you make any special stops?
I’m told that Gondar, which is where the Portuguese introduced Catholicism, is a wonderful town. There is also a church in Axum which is supposed to contain the Ark of the Covenant: you see, I’m quite interested in religion, I just don’t believe it.
You can transplant your favourite pub, bar or restaurant onto the route. What is it?
I think I’d take our local pub, The Fox at Oddington in the Cotswolds. It’s a typical English pub: very comforting and nice. We go there regularly. I usually eat incredibly simple things like kidneys on toast or fishcakes – nothing exotic but they do it all so well. I drink but I don’t know how that will go down in Ethiopia because it’s a very Muslim country so I would have to smuggle booze!
Camp under the stars, or find a church hall to sleep in?
Definitely camp under the stars. Being South African, I’ve done a lot of that. The great thing to remember about sleeping outside is that you don’t sleep a wink. The sky is so fascinating and so bright, you just lie on your back and watch the shooting stars. It’s like a firework display.
Once we canoed down the Orange River which used to be infested with crocodiles, but isn’t any more. There, you just pull up on the side of the river bank to camp and it’s organised in a brilliant way – no one leaves anything behind so it feels as if you’re in this lost part of Africa because you see nothing, no campfire sites, nothing.
Which books would you take with you?
I’d take an Anthony Trollope novel to get as far away from Ethiopia when I read. The Warden is my favourite.
What Bible verse would you ponder as you walked?
The old favourites such as “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”.
I like the comforting verses that you have at school.
You stop in a church. What’s your go-to prayer?
I never pray except if I’m in danger or fear: “Oh God, oh God” – just desperation. I think I became an atheist at university: I was quite political and anti-apartheid and that became my focus.
It’s your turn to cook. What’s your speciality?
Because of my South African roots, I love corn on the cob on the barbecue (we call it the braai) or fresh fish. When I was young, my uncle would wrap a whole piece of yellowtail fish in a banana leaf then in foil on the barbecue, maybe with a bit of salt, it was absolutely amazing.
You’re allowed one luxury in your bag. What do you bring?
It’ll be a wee dram. When I used to go walking with my uncle in my childhood, when I got to about 16 or 18, I went with him and his wife on long hikes and after a while your feet ache and you want to go back to camp and sit down. He’d always brew up the tea on a fire on the stove and put what he’d call a doppie, which is a slug of whisky, into the tea or coffee and I tell you what, it doesn’t half help…
What would you most miss about ordinary life?
I have a brilliant bath which I inherited from the people who lived in this house 45 years ago. It’s huge and it has a wide tray so you can have breakfast in your bath.
What would you miss the least?
My phone. I hate social media, I feel dominated and bullied by it – not only because I get trolled but because I feel guilty because I haven’t answered people. Often people ask me really sweet questions about cooking or “are Paul Hollywood’s eyes really blue?” and I can’t keep up; I feel oppressed by it.
Prue Leith, CBE, DL is a businesswoman, journalist, novelist, cookery writer and broadcaster. Her most recent cookbook, The Vegetarian Kitchen, is out now
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