Theres been plenty of stories and publicity over the search for the source of the Nile (Africas longest river) and the European exploreres who risked life and limb to discover it. The source was actually two rivers, the Blue Nile flowing out of Ethiopia's Lake Tana, discovered early in the 1600s, and the White Nile whose source was determined by John Speke in 1858 to be Uganda's Lake Victoria confirmed by Henry Stanley in 1875. The Blue and the White join up in Sudan forming the mighty Nile that eventually flows north into the Mediterranean Sea at Alexandria.
Stanley is also credited in 1875 with finding the source of Africa's second longest river, the Congo (or Zaire)-- the Chambeshi River out of the highlands of NE Zambia between Lakes Tanganyika and Malawi.
As for Africa's third longest river, the Niger, it was a question not of finding the source, southeast Guinea Bissau, but the end. Here is where a Scott named Mungo Park (1771-1806) enters the history books. At the age of 23(23!!) he embarked on a two year expedition--alone-- down the Niger, making it as far as its northern most point, Timbuktu in Mali, approximately the mid point of its length. In so doing he became perhaps the first European to set eyes on the Middle Niger.
Mungo returned home, to a career as a surgeon and in his spare time, from his extensive journal notes, penned his famous book, "Travels into the Interior", the subject of this review.
In 1804 at the age of 33,he led an expedition of 40 men back to the Niger. This time he made it just 150 miles short of the Niger's termination point, the Niger Delta in the Gulf of Guinea of the Atlantic Ocean. It was here that he and the entire expedition perished in a torrent of river rapids and falls--drowned all.
"Travels into the Interior" was not meant to be a literary masterpiece--simply a first person account of yet one more man's courageous journey into the unknown. Along the way he rolled with the blows, did what he had to do to stay alive and somehow, at the same time, managed to take notes on what he saw and experienced. More than 200 years later, we are the beneficiaries of his life-sacrificing mission, recounting it in the comfort of our living rooms.
His accounts are fascinating, heart-rending, horrifying and astounding.
This book is the real deal--a pure, authentic, and unvarnished look at men, both white and black, and their often-times pathetic attempts at living in and understanding the world in which they live.
DH Koester--"And There I Was" And There I Was Volume IV: A Backpacking Adventure In Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar