Destination: Democratic Republic of Congo

Travel Movie Watch: ‘Soul Power’

Most folks have heard of the Rumble in the Jungle, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman’s 1974 showdown in Kinshasa, but the accompanying concert—in which James Brown was one of several starring acts—is less well remembered. Now, though, Brown’s time in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) is the focus of a new documentary, “Soul Power.”

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Shrinking Planet Headline of the Day: ‘Facebook Swahili Version Launched’

Facebook is now available in roughly 50 languages, and Swahili was the second African language to get its own version of the social networking site, the BBC reports.

Face-Off on the Congo

Face-Off on the Congo REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Jeffrey Tayler was cooking lunch along the Congo River when armed men approached, making demands. Enter the Big Man.

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The Water Is Wide

Bronwen Dickey considers Tim Butcher's "Blood River: A Journey to Africa's Broken Heart," which takes readers deep into the Congo

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Suffering and Smiling: Vanity Fair Does Africa

Africa is hot. Why? So we can save it? Frank Bures deconstructs the magazine's latest issue and what it says about Western views of the continent.

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No. 28: “Facing the Congo” by Jeffrey Tayler

To mark our five-year anniversary, we’re counting down the top 30 travel books of all time, adding a new title each day this month.
Published: 2000
Territory covered: Democratic Republic of the Congo, Central Africa

Though “adventure” travel writing has come to the point where it often blurs with extreme sports coverage, Tayler’s chronicle of his 1995 pirogue trip down the Congo River proves that the most engrossing adventure tales don’t involve corporate sponsors and television crews. Frustrated with a dead-end life as a Moscow-based expatriate, the author travels to what was then Zaire to re-create British explorer Henry Stanley’s trip down the legendary Central African river in a dugout canoe. Tayler’s underlying impetus for the journey is to find meaning in his life by testing its limits—which proves to be no problem, as the author continually faces smothering heat, corrupt soldiers, lawlessness, hunger, swarms of insects, and a creeping sense of fear. Though Tayler occasionally illuminates moments of natural beauty, he never glosses over the reality of his journey, which is marked by an uncertain relationship with his guide, Desi, and ongoing suspicion from locals who, perhaps understandably, can’t understand why an outsider would want to submit himself to such a dangerous adventure. Drawn into Tayler’s heart of darkness, the reader feels the dread (and slaps at the mosquitoes) as the harrowing journey plays out.

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