A couple’s adventurous journey through Africa

2011-09-07 00:00

ON the first day of January, 2001 — the dawn of the new millennium — the French husband-and-wife team of Sonia and Alexandre Poussin set out to symbolically recreate the first journey made by man, by walking the entire length of the African continent.

Beginning in the Cape of Good Hope and ending more than three-years later at the Mount of Beatitudes on the Sea of Galilee, their itinerary would take them through eleven countries, while covering a distance of over 14 000 kilometres.

Picking up on where they left off in their previous volume — the ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro — Africa Trek 2 follows the pairs’ progress as they slog their way up the Great Rift Valley and into Ethiopia, the Sudan and then along the Nile to Egypt.

Walking in all seasons and in many weathers through a huge variety of terrain, from forest to desert, mountain to savannah, their journey would prove to be arduous, colourful, funny and at times wildly dangerous, as they did their best to dodge prides of hungry lion and gangs of armed bandits.

For the most part, the Poussins seem to have been received with considerable kindness wherever they went, even if their bemused hosts often could not understand why anyone would voluntarily choose to undertake so strange a mission.

Translated into English by Phillip Stewart, Africa Trek 2 is, like its predecessor, a chunky, nourishing soup of a book full of adventures and observations, philosophy and humour.

Poussin’s description of individual places are rife with enticing phrases and gleaned insights, and he manages to conjure up not only the shapes and dynamics of the land but also the experience of being absorbed by it.

Reading it makes you want to get out and get walking and looking — although perhaps not quite on the scale they did.

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