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Africa Trek 2, In the footsteps of Mankind
by Sonia & Alexandre Poussin
(Jacana, R220 )
When I saw the size of the book (nearly 5cm thick), I did not think I would finish reading it.
I did not read the first volume of Africa Trek, which is the first half of the journey taken by French couple Sonia and Alexandre Poussin from Mount Kilimanjaro to the Sea of Galilee following the Great Rift Valley of East Africa, symbolically retracing the passage of early humans from Australopithecus to modern man.
Each chapter covers a different country. They walk alone, there is no camera team and they take only what they can carry. They sleep in a tent and eat instant soup if they do not find somebody to put them up for the night. Finding drinking water is sometimes a problem, especially as they walk across deserts.
Mixing with the local folk and sharing their lives is what the trip is about. Poverty is everywhere, but most offer what they have. They always stay with the first person to offer them accommodation for the night and always start walking from the same spot, allowing themselves sideward trips to see the sights.
Seeing Africa through their eyes was a surprise. We hear about the wars and the crime and the poverty, but we forget that there are ordinary people living there with the same needs as us. The mothers want the same thing for their children as we do, but their lives are very different. Life in Africa is hard, especially for the women. The work is backbreaking, often with little reward, and poverty and sickness are constants.
In Sudan, Sonia took part in the doukhan – the three-hour painful cleansing ceremony that all women go through in preparation to spending the night with their husbands.
This would not go down very well with women I know.
After walking 13 000km, in Egypt they ask permission to climb Cheops (pictured), but are turned down. Nobody has been allowed since 1974. Later, they do get permission.
Here they must make a decision to either end the trip or walk to the end of the rift.
Alexandre has cycled with his best friend around the world – 25 000km through 35 countries in a year. Sonia joined them to cross the Andes between Argentina and Chile in 1996.
Alexandre also walked 5 000km in 1998 in the Himalayas. He has written books on his trips and he was a TV presenter for a moun- taineering magazine.
Sonia is a social studies graduate and has worked in an orphanage in Kathmandu.
She backpacked through India and worked for the French TV channel Voyage.
This was their first trip together.
I enjoyed reading this book, maybe because I recently did a 4x4 trip through seven African countries. – Dianne Low