Not for the faint-hearted…

Book Title: On Foot Through Africa

Cover of On Foot Through Africa. Source:

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.

Ffyona Campbell. Source: Alchetron
Ffyona Campbell. Source: Alchetron

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:

Website: HERE

Facebook: HERE

Pages: 414

Publisher: Orion

Available from: Amazon or Abe Books. Look out for it at your local second hand book store.

#travelreads  #longdistancewalking #travelinspo #thegreatoutdoors #armchairtravel #bookreview #womenwalking #africa #epicadventure #walksthroughafrica #africanadventures #worldrecords

24 thoughts on “Not for the faint-hearted…

  1. The husband and I recently watched Tracks about the young woman who walked from Alice Springs to the Indian Ocean with some camels and her dog. We actually watched it twice. Very moving. Also bought the soundtrack. This book you’re reviewing reminds me of that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Her book is very good too and, as often is the case, is better than the movie. Ffyona also walked across Australia and covered HUGE distances each day. I haven’t tracked down this book yet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I got the book from the library but haven’t read it yet….

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Another fabulous Aussie book is one called A Fortunate Life by AB Facey. A real insight into growing up poor in rural Australia, especially WA. It makes you so appreciate the life we have today.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. I’ll see if I can find it – thanks!

            Liked by 1 person

          2. My pleasure – happy to share some book love!

            Liked by 1 person

  2. No idea what makes people like that tick, Mel! I walk to see places and if there’s a hill or two involved, so be it. Endurance stuff is outside my sphere of understanding.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You and me both. There was little joy or fun in her walk. Give me coffee and cake any day! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmmm … I think not! Meaning, I will not mind reading the book, but walking through Africa – nope!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have no doubt that Africa has tonnes of fabulous of walks, but there is no need to put them end to end! 🙂


  4. Her abilities are pretty unbelievable, though she’s reckless too.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m not attracted to this type of ‘adventure’. Like you I struggle to see the point. For me hiking/walking is either as a means of transportation or more often to see a view, lake, mountain etc. Walking for days on end when you don’t have to is more of a sufferfest than a real adventure. And your 7/10 rating makes me think I won’t read the book. Thanks for the review. 😊 Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think your word – ‘sufferfest’ – is the perfect description for this book!


  6. I can’t think of anything worse – there is nothing I’d like to do less than push myself in the name of ‘adventure’ to be seriously ill, physically assaulted, almost raped….it definitely feels reckless. Albeit the physical achievement is clearly amazing, and it’s an incredible feat to say you’ve done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. I just couldn’t see the ‘fun’ in that adventure. Have a good weekend. Mel


  7. Thanks for the review. We as well will not read it. Don’t really get the point of her doing all that walking, although it’s admirable. There are better things to do. Cheers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I will try to share a better one next time! 😉


  8. Thanks for this idea..I should not read her book. Anita

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh dear, I hope I haven’t been too negative. It was just a story that I could not identify with.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for sharing this story. I had heard of her but not read her books, and, like you, question her intense motivation to do such a thing. I guess there are many people out to beat records and challenge themselves. Did she not go through Asia? As the largest continent, it seems to be skirted, although walking Africa is quite a feat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, not through Asia. So I am not sure how that works when claiming a walk around the World.

      Liked by 1 person

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