A British journalist retraces the legendary 1874 expedition of H. M. Stanley in this “remarkable marriage of travelogue and history” (Max Hastings, author of Armageddon).
When Daily Telegraph correspondent Tim Butcher was sent to Africa in 2000,. he quickly became obsessed with the Congo River and the idea of recreating H. M. Stanley’s nineteenth-century journey along the nearly three-thousand-mile waterway. Despite repeated warnings that his plan was suicidal, Butcher set out for the Congo’s eastern border with just a backpack and a few thousand dollars hidden in his boots.
Making his way in an assortment of vehicles, including a motorbike and a dugout canoe, helped along by a cast of characters from UN aid workers to a pygmy rights advocate, he follows in the footsteps of the great Victorian adventurer. Butcher’s forty-four-day journey along the Congo River is an unforgettable story of exploration, survival, and history come to life.
“Quite superb . . . a masterpiece.” —John le Carré, #1 New York Times–bestselling author
“Do NOT try to repeat Tim Butcher’s audacious and terrifying Congo journey. If you do, you will probably die.” —The Guardian
“[Blood River] keeps the heart beating and the attention fixed from beginning to end.”—Fergal Keane, international bestselling author of Wounds
“It is the wit and passion of the writing that keeps you engrossed.”—Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland
"For me terror manifests itself through clear physical symptoms, an ache that grows behind my knees and a choking dryness in my throat," writes British journalist Butcher in the preface of this devastating yet strangely exhilarating account of his six-week ordeal retracing the steps of 19th-century explorer H.M. Stanley's Victorian-era travels through the present-day hell that is the Republic of Congo. Setting out into the war-torn, disease-infested backcountry of Congo in 2000 against the wishes of just about everyone in his life family, friends, editors and a wild assortment of government officials (the corrupt and the more corrupt) Butcher quickly finds more horror than he'd previously experienced in his 10 years as a war correspondent ("With my own eyes I had peered into a hidden African world where human bones too numerous to bury were left lying on the ground"). His tale is chock-a-block with gruesome details about the brutal Belgian rule of the late 19th century as well as the casual disregard for life on the contemporary scene. Part travelogue, part straight-forward reportage, Butcher's story is a full-throated lament for large-scale human potential wasted with no reasonable end in sight.