Marie Javin’s Stalking the Wild Diki-Dik was the first book I’ve read in awhile that I just couldn’t seem to put down. My curiosity with a continent I know little about made me pick it up, but I never guessed how captivated I would become by Marie’s horrific and hilarious tales of bus, truck and ferry rides through Africa. I just kept thinking to myself “You go girl!” as the predicaments and roadblocks Marie faced seemed to intensify the farther north she traveled. And to think that this was just one part of Marie’s 2001 World Tour! I wonder what stories she has up her sleeve for the next book?!
I was traveling by bus from the ‘burbs to NYC while reading several chapters of Marie’s book, and I realized that I really have absolutely NO CLUE what it means to feel uncomfortable while traveling. But Marie does. How about this example, during a truck ride in Sudan near the end of her journey:
Every time we hit a pothole or bump, I (along with everyone else) became airborne. Upon landing, my bruised ribs ached sharply. A Muslim man dressed in a long white cotton robe and trendy sneakers grabbed my arms and hauled me back into the truck every time I seemed to be about to fly away. A knee was in my back, a crotch by my ear, and I was putting my hands in inappropriate spots on other people. My butt was wedged between two sacks and my underwear hung out for all to see. So much for Muslim modesty, I thought.
Yup. Never again will I complain about the luxurious comfort of Greyhound and NJ Transit buses when compared to the transportation nightmares of an African overland journey. You can read another excerpt from Marie’s book here.
Besides laughing at her zany escapades, Marie’s story made me think. By traveling close to the ground she reveals insight about cultural sensitivities and tales of the dangerous realities of life throughout the African nations she visited. I finished the book with a strong desire to memorize the map of Africa and better understand the history of certain countries, beginning with Uganda.
A few months ago I read The Last Safari by Mark Ross (in The Best American Travel Writing 2000), which recounts the horrible tragedy and murders that took place there in 1999 when Rwandan rebels attacked a safari party. Marie mentions this incident in her book while she herself braves gorilla trekking in Bwindi. To learn more about the extremist fighting and violent history of this region, my next lesson will include a trip to see the much talked about film The Last King of Scotland, which tells the story of Idi Amin’s terrifying dictatorship in Uganda in the 1970s. Conveniently, Marie just saw the film and posted a review on her blog, No Hurry in JC.