Wednesday 22 October 2014

The White Nile Diaries by John Hopkins

The book follows the travel of two Princeton Graduates called John Hopkins and Joe McPhillips. They are typical affluent men of their time with a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed view of the world.

It is written, as the title aptly says in diary form and also filled with correspondence between themselves, some of their hosts and the contacts, who enabled part of their difficult travels.

You can feel the innocence of youth, the burning desire to conquer the unknown and the flame of independence. The two of them plod on through armed borders, endless deserts, tropical diseases and even the occasional dangerous group of rebels. Often the escape conflict, death and prison by the skin of their teeth.

Their travels take place during the 1960's, a time of  great upheaval and development. At the same time they are able to experience certain places in a way you can't any more.

One of their more bizarre experiences is at Sam Small's Impala Ranch. I think that particular passage in the book gives the reader an excellent feeling of the vast space and feeling of loneliness foreigners, who chose to settle there, experienced.

That feeling of being surrounded by nothing but wild country and despite the fact the native inhabitants put up with the pesky colonialists, there was always the underlying feeling of not belonging.

Hopkins gives a realistic flair, taste and colour to the places they travel through. It is almost as if the reader is sat on the back of the sturdy motorcycle they called The White Nile.

This is a ride through history written by Hopkins during the actual travels with a great dollop of energy and the devil-may-care attitude of  youth

I received a copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and I.B. Tauris

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