But the civil wars that began in 1996 resulted in more than five million deaths and left an enduring legacy of violence and criminality. The Foreign Office warns of street crime and armed robbery and visitors are warned to ‘be prepared to move at short notice and lock down for a period of time’.
So why would three Britons with ‘a PhD, two Oxbridge degrees and a batch of Masters degrees’ between them, undertake a 2,500-mile journey in a 25-year-old Land-Rover across this menacing land? This was a return from an African tour, so in fact it is the story of getting home. The idea of ‘discovery’ is central to the narrative, partly in understanding a little-known land, but also as ‘an exploration of our personal limits and the depths of our convictions’. Robin Hanbury-Tenison stresses this in his preface: ‘Often the main landscape being mapped by explorers is the internal one.’
Abandoning the security and comforts of home can bring about a sense of freedom, particularly when moving through an environment unencumbered by the rule of law.
Such was the case of the adventurers who made it safely back from a harrowing north-south crossing of the DRC river basin, from Kinshasa to Juba in South Sudan. Their success, as it unfolds in this lively narrative, reflects a unique combination of skills – an Army veteran of Afghanistan to deal with logistics, a doctor to look after medical issues and a photojournalist to set it down for the record in a splendid set of illustrations.
This review was published in the October 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.