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AFRICA

EAST ALONG THE EQUATOR:
A Journey Up the Congo and into Zaire

Author: Helen Winternitz

Winternitz, a seasoned African traveller, persuaded fellow Baltimore Sun journalist Timothy Phelps to travel (the hard way) 2,000 miles up the Congo River and through some of the most remote and breathtaking regions of the world. In this brilliant mix of political journalism and travel writing they witness what few Westerners have: life in the ecologically rich though financially impoverished American-backed dictatorship of Zaire, the former Belgian Congo.

The journey starts from Kinshasa, east along the equator aboard a dilapidated and extravagantly overcrowded riverboat replete with hippopotamus hunters, government spies, tough women, whiskey-drinking clerics, and Congo fishermen. From the geographic center of the continent the pair strikes out overland to the Ituri rain forest (home of the pygmies), through the legendary snow-capped Mountains of the Moon, and then down to the volcano-studded savannas of the Great Rift Valley. Along the way Winternitz and Phelps fight tropical fever, the nocturnal screaming of tree hyraxes, and mud holes as deep as cargo trucks, but their most serious challenge comes when they are arrested by Mobutu's security police. Their adventure lays bare the heart of Africa—a heart filled not with darkness but with struggle and life.

Originally published in 1987

From Publishers Weekly
One of the first of the publisher's (Atlantic Montly Press) travel series, this vivid account details a trip the author and her boyfriendboth journaliststook four years ago on the Congo (and eventually overland to the border of Uganda). Their route by river from the capital of Kinshasa to Kisangani followed the path of Conrad's Heart of Darkness and shows that, in a sense, little has changedthe earlier colonial brutality has been replaced by the corruption and exploitation of President Mobutu. Winternitz proved to be happily gregarious, mixing with Zaireans, learning the local language, passing on wonderful impressions and quotations to the readeras when she describes the universal excitement when a hippopotamus is caught and butchered. She also illustrates the shattered state of Zaire's economy (for example, the radio station in Kisangani, one of Zaire's largest cities, no longer broadcasts because scavengers kept stealing valuable wire and cablesavailable only on the black market if at alluntil the transmitting tower collapsed). The journey ends on an appropriately bitter note: Winternitz and her boyfriend are arrested by Zairean secret police and grilled on and off for more than a weekthus experiencing firsthand Mobutu's machinery of repression. Despite a tendency to overstate an already convincing case and sometimes sloppy language, Winternitz offers an eye-opening tour of Zaire.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
$9.95 (softcover)
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