Crazy River: Exploration, Misadventure and Folly in East Africa
US Free Press (October 2011)
UK & Comm Little, Brown & Company
For twenty years, Richard Grant collected journals and biographies of explorers, fascinated by these men who set off to understand other cultures and, almost inevitably, irrevocably change them. What were these places like before men came in with charts and journals? Grant thought this interest would be limited to reading the tales of others, but in 2006 he discovered a river in Africa that had yet to be explored: the Malagarasi River, the second longest river in Tanzania which eventually led to the source of the Nile. This was his chance to write his own adventure.
With a couple of books, a few somewhat inaccurate maps and a cursory knowledge of Swahili, Grant set out to conquer the Malagarasi. This book is the story of what happened next, the journey that emerged when his ill-laid plans collided with African reality in all its messy, complicated, unpredictable glory. And while the voyage wasn’t an unmitigated success, and while perhaps too much time was spent in bars and nightclubs, this is a true, old-fashioned adventure story at its best. Because what could be more dull and pointless than an expedition that achieved all its goals, ignored passing distractions, and went exactly according to plan?