Sunday, December 26, 2010
Crossing the Heart of Africa
Review courtesy of Nancy (my friend and fellow blogger)
Two men. Two women. One huge continent. This is the basis of Smith's story of the trip taken by Ewart Grogan 107 years before Smith replicated the same trail. Grogan was intent on proving to his hopefully future father-in-law that he was man enough to marry Gertrude Watt. He started off just prior to Christmas, 1899, by foot with food, rifles and a team of African porters. Along the way he met Arthur Sharp, a renowned explorer who became his fast friend. He shot elephants, hippos, snakes and, occasionally native men who tried to attack Grogan's expedition. Always the end in sight was to make it to Cairo and wire Gertude that he still loved her and wanted to marry her. It took him over two years and 7000 miles.
Smith, on the other hand, was three months from his wedding day. His understanding fiance, Laura, had given her blessing to the trip and he had enough money, film and inner strength to go for it. His travels were done by foot, bicycle (riding on a platform while someone else pedaled), motorbike and boat. The same goals in sight but a bit easier passage. However, the political scene in Africa at the time hadn't changed in many ways from that of Grogan's trip and Smith had to constantly keep an eye and ear open to the news when he was where he could listen.
This was an outstanding book! I loved learning the then and now of West Africa and, while I hadn't heard of Grogan prior and I certainly glad I've heartd of him now. The writing was easy to follow, with the "old to new and back" done in a way that didn't disturb the storyline at all. A journey to be read but maybe not taken - yet. Politics are always at the forefront in Africa and, in some ways, Grogan had it better.