No. 5: “No Mercy: A Journey to the Heart of the Congo” by Redmond O’Hanlon

Travel Blog  •  Michael Shapiro  •  05.27.06 | 7:41 PM ET

imageTo 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: 1997
Territory covered: Central Africa

Following in the literary footsteps of Joseph Conrad, Redmond O’Hanlon makes a downright dangerous (some might say foolhardy) journey into the heart of Africa. His chronicle of the adventure, No Mercy, is at times frightening,  and at other times laugh-out-loud funny. O’Hanlon’s quest is the legendary dinosaur of Lake Télé. Naturally, he takes the long way to the lake and nearly gets killed by a village headman who holds a longstanding grudge against his guide. Along the way, O’Hanlon tries to save an abandoned baby gorilla and battles his demons and the haunting spirits of Central Africa. One wonders if O’Hanlon will ever return from this long, dark night of the soul. In a sense, he doesn’t: the O’Hanlon who emerges from the central African jungle is not the same O’Hanlon who went in.

Outtake from No Mercy:

“I’ve been thinking,” said Lary…“Why bother to go way up through the northern forests when all you really want to do is check out Lake Télé?  Why not just go west.  Get it over with?”
“I don’t know,” I said, caught off-guard. “I just have this feeling, I have an idea that once we’ve moved through those villages, found the pygmies in the forest, seen gorillas and chimps and guenons and elephants, when we’ve caught a glimpse of how people think—we’ll know what’s in Lake Télé before we even get there.”

For more on Redmond O’Hanlon, see interviews with him on Salon, Wisconsin Public Radio, and in my book, A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About Their Craft, Lives and Inspiration.


Michael Shapiro is the author of A Sense of Place: Great Travel Writers Talk About Their Craft, Lives, and Inspiration (Travelers' Tales) and wrote the text for the pictorial book, Guatemala: A Journey Through the Land of the Maya. His article on Jan Morris’s Wales was a cover story for National Geographic Traveler -- he also writes for such publications as Islands, Hemispheres, American Way, Mariner, The Sun, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, and San Francisco Chronicle. Shapiro volunteers as a guide for Environmental Traveling Companions, an outfitter that takes disabled people on whitewater rafting and sea kayak trips. He can be reached through www.michaelshapiro.net.


1 Comment for No. 5: “No Mercy: A Journey to the Heart of the Congo” by Redmond O’Hanlon

Kelly Milner Halls 06.25.06 | 3:43 AM ET

Mine isn’t one of the top 30, perhaps, but it’s a great resource for families hoping to travel to exotic places close to home.  It’s the RANDOM HOUSE DINOSAUR TRAVEL GUIDE, released in April of 2006, and it’s a great guide to fossil stops across the United States and in Canada.  I hope you’ll consider taking a look at it as you peruse the top 30.  Always room for a new kid, right?

Thanks.

Kelly Milner Halls
Freelance Children’s Writer
http://www.kellymilnerhalls.com

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