Dodwell (A Traveller on Horseback, 1989, etc.) is one of those splendid women whom only the British seem to produce--one who can cross China by inflatable canoe and drop in on pygmies with the same nonchalance that the rest of us invest in our daily commute. Here, Dodwell flies across West Africa, from Koutaba in the Cameroun to Dakar in Senegal, in a microlight plane she calls Pegasus. Though she learns to fly the plane herself, Dodwell brings along her instructor, whom she frequently leaves behind in remote villages to wrestle with mechanical problems while she borrows a horse, hires a car, or hitches a fide to see some local point of interest. The microlight plane, something like a tricycle with wings and a small engine, is particularly suited for her purpose, which is to land where she chooses--you can drive the plane up a 12-yard street with ease--and to fly low enough over the passing landscape to fully appreciate its features. As she flies over Nigeria, Niger, and on through Mali and Mauritania, Dodwell dines with pygmies, explores Lake Chad in a canoe paddled by two ten-year-olds, visits the remote Air mountains on a camel, and checks out legendary but no longer splendid Timbuktu. Never bashful, she makes a point of meeting the local people, sharing their food and accommodation, however rough, and learning about them. She is inveterately sensible, cheerful, and self-confident--she advises growling at a horse if it seems the least recalcitrant. Written at a fast clip, with bits of local lore and history tossed out in passing; but, still, Dodwell's enthusiasm and obvious delight in venturing into the unknown are most engaging. Travel writing at its most basic--and at its old-fashioned, bracing best.