Book Title: On Foot Through Africa
Author: Ffyona Campbell
Promotional Blurb: When Ffyona Campbell vowed to walk around the world, she was only sixteen. By far the hardest stage of this incredible journey was Africa which she completed in September 1993.
This personal account of her achievement tells of her relationship with the women of the villages she passed through, how she learnt their traditions and skills; how she was nearly murdered, almost raped, taken for a cannibal spirit, stoned and mobbed when they suspected she was a slave merchant.
And it tells how her anger turned to contentment as she found peace within herself and how each evening her campsite became a home when she fell in love with one of her drivers. Source.
My Thoughts: This book had come highly recommended through a Facebook walking group I am a member of. While it is quite old, published in 1994, it is still an interesting read, and my interest is equally focused on the physical adventure as well as her internal journey throughout the long, hard kilometres.
What makes a young woman decide that she wants to walk around the World? Does she wake up one day and decide that this would be a ‘fun’ thing to do? While I have covered some longish distances myself over the past 9 years or so, it has been done in far greater comfort, with far less pressure and with absolutely no risk to my body or life.
It came to my mind that these sorts of epic adventures are essentially selfish. I acknowledge her super-human effort and strength, but I can’t help but wonder – at what cost? What cost to her health, finances and relationships? At what cost does she risk her own life and that of her support crew as she edges ever nearer to her goal through bandit territory and disease-infected forests?
Are the sacrifices to personal health and safety, and that of the people who support her, worth it? And what is the clear benefit?
As far as I can see, she doesn’t solve any problems and the majority of the money that she chases goes to fund her own walks. She doesn’t raise awareness or bring about positive long-term change for the people and countries she walks through, or maybe in my ignorance, in her own small way she actually did do some of these things and I simply wasn’t aware of them or they have been lost in the mists of time.
Is the goal of bagging a World record, benefit enough? Perhaps, I am simply overthinking this book.
It is an interesting and enjoyable read and Campbell can definitely write. She includes many atmospheric descriptions of the countryside she walks through and captures the beauty and joy of some of the people. She also doesn’t skip the blisters, dehydration, biting bugs, dysentery, exhaustion, filth and physical assaults. Ffyona is one tough bird!
I admire her determination, stamina and ability to walk 40-50km per day, every day for weeks on end. That really is quite astounding. Even if I was her age (at the time of the walk), I don’t think I would have the fitness or the ticker to face up to that massive challenge on a daily basis.
More power to her, but she can have that adventure to herself. I gave it 7/10.
Author Bio: Ffyona Campbell, born 1967, is an English long-distance walker who walked around the world. She covered 32,000 kilometres (20,000 mi) over 11 years and raised £180,000 for charity. She wrote about her experience in a series of three books.
After leaving home and school at 16, she raised the necessary sponsorship to enable her to walk from John o’ Groats to Lands End (the length of the United Kingdom). Walking 32-40km a day six days a week, she completed the journey in 49 days and was the youngest person at that time to have done it.
At 18, she set off from New York City crossing the United States towards Los Angeles. At 21 she walked across Australia, 80km a day for 5,149km from Sydney to Perth in 95 days, beating the men’s record for this journey. She suffered severe sunburn, dehydration as well as intense blistering of the feet, but was determined not to miss out any kilometres. She wrote about this journey in her book Feet of Clay.
On 2 April 1991, she left Cape Town, South Africa and walked the length of Africa covering over 16,000 km (9,900 mi) before arriving in Tangiers, Morocco two years later on 1 September 1993. She wrote about this journey in her book On Foot through Africa.
In April 1994, she left Algeciras, Spain and walked through Europe on the Via de la Plata through Spain, through France, crossing to Britain at Dover. She then completed the last 1,300 km (810 mi) walking from Dover back to John o’ Groats, arriving at John o’ Groats, the World’s End, on 14 October 1994. At the time, Campbell was hailed as the first woman to walk around the World.
Author Blog or Website:
Available from: Amazon or Abe Books. Look out for it at your local second hand book store.
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