Book Review: Blood River: A Journey to Africa’s Broken Heart

February 15, 2012  By: Gretchen

This was a fantastic read of a remarkable journey into Africa’s ‘broken heart’ – the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The author was brave and idealistic at best to attempt the journey, and at worst he was self indulgent and stupid.  That said, his journey makes for spectacular armchair travel.

Tim Butcher became interested in following in Henry Morton Stanley’s footsteps in charting the Congo River during a trip to Africa in 2000.  He spent months and years planning and finally set off with a backpack and a few thousand in cash stuffed in his shoes.  During his journey, he uses motorbikes, dugout canoes, a riverboat and his own two feet to travel thousands of kilometres through lands that are essentially off limits to most of the western world.

He meets a fascinating cast of characters along the way, some of whom help him immeasurably and with great risk to themselves, and some who are unsavory and bordering on the dangerous.  Butcher weaves in history along the way, giving context to this modern day Congo; from colonial times to the free-for-all mineral based scramble for wealth that takes place today.  It all makes for a gripping story that leaves you wondering if he will make it out alive (or at least intact).

Highly recommended!