Gosh, I can’t believe it’s over a month since I posted. As always, I have intentions to post more often, but unfortunately all too often, those intentions fall flat, and all too soon another Christmas is almost upon us. However, I have read a few books since Taylor’s Gift, and I have just finished Chasing the Devil by Tim Butcher, which stands out as the best of them.
chasing the devil

After reading his previous travel book, Blood River, A journey to Africa’s Broken Heart and enjoying it, I finally got around to reading Chasing the Devil and likewise enjoyed it. Brave man indeed. In Blood River he sets out to traverse the length of the Congo River as the Victorian explorer Henry Morton Stanley had done so in his 1876-77 expedition and like Chasing the Devil, this book is not just about himself and his travels, but of the average citizen on the ground and the lives they live in order to survive in such politically unstable & often war torn environments.

In Chasing the Devil, he treks through Sierra Leone and Liberia, and briefly Guinea, but mostly it’s about his trek on foot through Sierra Leone and Liberia. He follows author Graham Greene’s trail, who trekked through the countryside and jungles, with his cousin Barbara in 1935, through those countries. He describes well Graham Greene’s journey and their hardships and of course the differences in 1935, compared to that of the late 2000′s.

Before reading Chasing the Devil, I knew little of the two countries, besides the brutal “diamond war” in Sierra Leone, watching Blood Diamond with Leonardo Di Caprio, and the Charles Taylor trial at the Hague. I did know that Liberia was never colonized, but had been “given” to freed American slaves, but other than that I never knew of the deeper history of these two countries and Tim Butcher does a good job of explaining their histories and also gives you a good understanding of why there has been such conflict/war in those countries.

Of course Mr Butcher details his own trip and his hardships with his travel companion and their two guides/assistants (compared to about a dozen or so porters that the Greene’s used), but he describes well how the people out in the harsh countryside and jungle survive, not only facing the natural dangers, but eking out their living and doing the best they can, in the face of recovering from war, and living in a such poverty stricken countries, that are still somewhat politically unstable. Not only that, he describes well their traditional beliefs and again gives one a good understanding of such matters and at times brutal acts. Where there is little Western interference, such beliefs that Westerners may consider backward and evil, remain dominant and a part of everyday life. Along the way he meets interesting characters, many local, good and bad, and a few foreigners whether involved in aid, or trying to do their bit to spread “light” to this part of Africa that has seen so much brutality.

I found this a thoroughly interesting and engrossing book.