TRAVELS WITH KING KONG: Overland Across Africa by James Henderson
In 1974 my best friend John talked me into joining him for a trip around the world after I completed my master’s degree. Our journey really began when we stepped off the ferry in Tangiers and found ourselves surrounded by an army of small children hustling us with places to stay, places to eat, and things to buy.
A few days later we met up with an overland expedition traveling from London to Nairobi in two old British Army vehicles. One of the vehicles was an old bus named King Kong, and over the next two months we experienced almost daily mechanical problems that slowed our pace of travel significantly. Then came the day when Kong died in the middle of the Sahara Desert when a valve went through the top of a piston. Suddenly we were stranded 200 miles from the nearest town. It took two weeks to get replacement parts flown out from London and to rebuild the engine.
Not only was this a monumental mechanical breakdown, it was also a physical and mental breakdown for many of us on the trip. We were already suffering from the oppressive heat in the desert, sickness, and unsanitary conditions. Back on the road, we made our way through the Sub-Sahara Sahel, the thick jungle and mud of the Congo, before arriving on the plains of East Africa, with the ghost of mechanical failure ever lurking around the next bend in the road.
Along the way there were unforgettable people and places that constantly challenged our curiosity and emotions. There was the enjoyment of savoring fresh chocolate served on a banana leaf, shopping in colorful local village markets where everything from beetle nuts to insect larvae were for sale, a celebration for a new village chief in the heart of the Congo, camping below Stanley Falls, the sounds of lions in the night, and a hundred other special moments that I captured with my pen and camera.
It was literally the experience of a lifetime that I want to share with all those who dream of visiting strange and far off places!