The following is a guest post by Julian Smith, author of Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure. If you’d like to guest post on Go Backpacking, please read our submission guidelines.
In 2007, I traveled 4,500 miles from South Africa to Sudan on the trail of a virtually unknown British explorer named Ewart Grogan. Why? Well, in 1900 he became the first person to walk the length of Africa, south to north, to prove to his beloved’s stepfather that he was worth marrying.
I was about to get married myself, but I still had a serious case of cold feet. So I spent two of the last three months before marrying my fiancée chasing a ghost from one end of Africa to the other, in the hopes of somehow along the way coming to terms with my own anxiety over making a lifetime commitment—and to see how much the continent had changed in the past hundred years, by comparing the modern reality to what Grogan wrote about in his book, From the Cape to Cairo: The First Traverse of Africa from South to North. No one had ever retraced his route before.
Obviously my experience was very different from his. Grogan’s trip was two years of vicious animals, hungry cannibals, porter revolts, biblical weather and near-constant sickness. He traveled by foot and ferry up the chain of lakes and volcanoes that mark the East African Rift, and almost died too many times to count. I traveled alone from South Africa through Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Sudan, all by public transportation: buses, trucks, bush taxis, boats, bicycles and motorcycles.
About the Author: Julian Smith is the author of Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure, available now from Harper Perennial.
For more maps, photos, and information, visit his website.