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Thread: Canoeing The Congo by Phil Harwood

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    Lochwinnoch, West Central Scotland
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    Default Canoeing The Congo by Phil Harwood

    Some weeks ago Magikelly kindly passed me a copy of Phil Harwood's new book Canoeing the Congo, on condition that I write a short review for the forum....so here goes!

    This book is a real corker. Phil writes with a realism and grittiness that catches your imagination and puts you into the canoe beside him on this amazing (and bloody dangerous!) adventure. It is an easy read with some great photos that convincingly conveys the joys and perils of the journey.

    Phil, an ex-Royal Marine (don't judge him by the cross-dressing standards of others of his former service), is an experienced expedition leader with previous trips through central Africa along with many years' as an Outward Bound instructor. In this book he describes, in a very personal and sometimes truly intimate fashion, an epic five-month solo successful attempt to be the first person ever to canoe the Congo from its source in the highlands of Zambia, through the Democratic Republic of Congo, all the way to the mangrove swamps on the Atlantic coast.

    For those not familiar with the river, or the terrible conflicts and endemic corruption that has blighted this part of the world, Phil's tale of paddling 3,000 miles down the eighth longest river in the world, with a flow rate second only to the Amazon, will be an education as well as a captivating 'Boy's Own' page-turning thriller. From tales of the natural challenges like crocodiles, hippos, mosquitoes and terrifying rapids to be mastered in steaming temperatures, to the human challenges of lawless banditry and constant demands for payment from corrupt officials, you really come to admire what a great adventurer and skilled paddler Phil is.

    Although his story is one of almost unending hazards, Phil interweaves this with his sense of wonder at the natural environment, beautiful wildlife and dramatic and ever-changing landscape. More than this however, Phil's tale is one of the kindness of strangers. He clearly has a personable way about him that allows the quick building of trust and mutual respect with the local people he meets along the way, many of whom become his guides and mentors. In particular, he paints a colourful and respectful portrait of the fishermen who ply the waters of the river beside him in dugout canoes and line the banks with hand-made fish traps, nets and lines. Their integrity and quiet hospitality leap from the pages of Phil's book and help the reader to see beyond the headlines of war and criminality that tend to colour our view of this most under-reported corner of Africa.

    As you'll have gathered, I really enjoyed this book and would strongly recommend it. Don't just take my word for it though; be impressed more by the fact that this journey, along with his account of it, saw him receive the Mike Jones Canoeing Award and a Fellowship for the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust - just praise indeed for such an endeavour.

    I hope you go on to enjoy it as much as I did.
    Robbie & Steph

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Lochwinnoch, West Central Scotland
    Posts
    339

    Default Canoeing the Congo - The Movie!

    Just finished watching Phil Harwood's 45 minute film of his trip down the Congo. Great entertainment, fascinating and really added to the narrative of the book. The scene where the snake, possibly a mamba sp., tries to get into the canoe is a bit hair raising. Thoroughly recommend it - whether or not you read the book.
    Robbie & Steph

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Lochwinnoch, Scotland
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    17,228

    Default

    I really enjoyed the DVD and am looking forward to reading the book when I get a chance. Although knowing my schedule that could be years
    John

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