Blood River by Tim Butcher is a true account of the authors journey through Africa via the Congo River in 2004. Butcher’s goal is to take the same path a fellow Telegraph writer, Stanley, took nearly 100 years earlier to see what’s become of the Congo River and neighboring towns since. Once bustling towns in the 1950’s and 60’s, they have become 3rd world communities with no running water or electricity since civil wars broke out in the 60’s.
The journey Butcher takes is filled with the constant danger of being attacked by rebels, yet his desire to complete this quest keeps him moving forward despite everyone warning him that he will never make it out in the bush. He encounters many interesting people along the way, from tribal chiefs to Catholic priests, all helping him piece together what exactly happened to the bustling towns that could be reached by train or port in the 50’s.
No one seems to be able to explain where it all went wrong and the future looks even more bleak as there is absolutely no control over the people in the region. Nothing to stop the rebels from entering towns time and time again, causing the people to flee to the bush, while they ransack their goods. The townspeople simply wait for the rebels to leave and rebuild time and time again. It definitely makes you appreciate their tenacity to keep going, despite these constant setbacks. I was left feeling the hopelessness of it all after reading the book and definitely wouldn’t say it’s a “light” read.