Facing the Congo
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Facing the Congo - Jeffrey Tayler
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.