AFRICA SOLO by Kevin Kertscher


A Journey Across the Sahara, Sahel, and Congo
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In a narrative that is among the better recent additions to the genre, a personable and resourceful modern-day Henry Stanley traverses half of the African continent by thumb, afoot, and aboard riverboat. Comfort was not among his considerations when Kertscher, an independent filmmaker, set out from the Algerian port of Oran heading into the Sahara. He hitches rides with North Africans and a quarrelsome group of Europeans, traveling in a four-car caravan led by an unstable egomaniac. Upon entering the Sahel, to the south of the Sahara, Kertscher heads west via a series of slow and unreliable conveyances to reach a Peace Corps friend in Timbuktu. His account of one incredibly long and breakdown- filled trip aboard a truck overloaded with passengers sitting atop sacks of dates is especially representative of the state of local transport, and even more of the Africans’ and eventually Kertscher’s good-humored resignation to the pace of travel. Guiltily, but faced with the prospect of crossing the Congo during the rainy season, Kertscher flies from the Ivory Coast to the Central African Republic, hitches south to the Congo River, and catches the boat (really a floating city replete with merchants, crime, and police) to Kisangani—certainly one of the most picturesque, crowded, and uncomfortable excursions anywhere. Soon after, Kertscher contracts a severe malarial infection; only through the kindness of the local Congolese villagers does he pull through. The final stage of his journey through east Africa includes encounters with mountain gorillas and a visit to Tanzania’s Ngorongoro Crater. While the journey is hardly unique, Kertscher is refreshingly unassuming and open to nuances of human nature (his own included), and while his occasional explanations of the motivations behind his trip seem canned and tired, he draws a colorful and vibrant portrait of this marvelous landscape and of its warmhearted people.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-883642-94-9
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Steerforth
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998