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Hi, I'm Nicola - welcome to a blog about family travel around the world, without leaving the UK.
I love travel adventures, but to save cash and keep my family's carbon footprint lower, I dreamt up a unique stay-at-home travel experience. So far I've visited 110 countries... without leaving the UK. Join me exploring the next 86! Or have a look at the "countries" you can discover within the UK by scrolling the labels (below right). Here's to happy travel from our doorsteps. See www.nicolabaird.com for info about the seven books I've written, a link to my other blog on thrifty, creative childcare (homemadekids.wordpress.com) or to contact me.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

If the Congo was in Hertfordshire

Dr Livingstone I presume?
The journalist Henry Stanley became obsessed with the Congo after he won the race to track down “missing” explorer, Dr Livingstone. This was back in the 1870s but it turned his life around – he then went on to explore the heart of Africa’s longest river.

Although the Congo has inspired some great fiction, such as Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible, replicating Livingstone or H M Stanley’s adventures has been all but impossible. It’s not just the size of the rainforest or the lack of roads, it’s the numerous rebels that take refuge there – and the conflict over the countries’ mineral wealth (eg, copper, cobalt and gold). There’s some good facts about this in Tim Butcher’s book, Blood River (Vintage), where he shows clearly that Congo exploration is always a no go trip.

More recently we have had the western corner of the Congo being sanctuary for rebels and besieged during the Rwandan conflict. And now the TV pictures show that the area’s exploding again as rebels push displaced people - 200,000? - towards Goma, where the UN is no doubt sweating buckets after the debacle it (and tens of thousands of innocent people) experienced only a decade ago in nearby Rwanda.

Which is why Nell, now 7, and I went on a trip to the Congo via an overhung stream that snakes through the flood meadows of the River Ash behind the pretty (and mostly safe) Hertfordshire village of Much Hadham. Nell’s been studying rainforests at school and become impressively obsessed. So we borrowed a fallen tree to make our dug out canoe and then chillily paddled down Africa’s longest river watching out for okapi and other shy beasties.

We could hear the chainsaw in the distance, imagine the humidity and had the realistic pleasure of swatting fat mosquitoes. And then we drove home in the car club car, stopping only to buy an ice cream and wave hello at a man I presume is my mum’s former GP.

That’s how a journey to the Congo should be I guess.

If you want to help support the humanitarian appeal, check out Oxfam or Christian Aid here.

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