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Customer Review

Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on September 30, 2016
This guy is so full of himself it's hard to take him seriously sometimes. Ex-military, ex-Iraq veteran (as if that's something to be particularly proud of) Phil Harwood has set him mind to the ultimate macho challenge, paddling the Congo river in a small canoe from the hills of Zambia to the Atlantic Ocean. It's one hell of an adventure and a challenge few people would be able to accomplish, so hats off for the brave traveller. Strictly speaking he didn't paddle the whole river, as he took the bus from Kinshasa to another point way downstream, so maybe he shouldn't use those particular words, but hey - it's still a pretty admirable feat.

As travel literature it falls flat, as our man paddles a lot better than he can write. Most of it comes out as a rather boring blog - "then I did this and then I did that", but that's not the worst. Cause no matter what challenges and terrors Our Guy has to face, rest assured that he's invincible. Hippos, snakes and poisonous spiders? Takes them in his stride. Greedy officials with guns? No problem, just look them in the eyes, shake their hands and they all go away. Bandits, muggers, sinister savages and just about anything that might lie in wait around the next bend? Just paddle hard to get rid of them, and if that doesn't work: Stand up in your canoe, scream and shout and send a barrage of the worst words the English language has to offer their way, and they will scamper.

Our Man isn't afraid of anything. And if he is, he doesn't really mind, as he's out there on the waters to TEST HIMSELF. It's HIM against the bad guys, the animals and the entire failed state of Congo. Then you get heaps of sentences like these: "I paused, staring at him, trying to keep my cool. He wore an obscenelyl loud Hawaiian shirt, and his look smacked of utter contempt. This alone made me want to punch him in the face":

Or here: "They started with the good cop, bad cop routine, then they all sat around, cramped into a small office and listened to me talk about my journey with growing respect and nodding heads".

Not (absolutely) all the Congolese are crooked, loud, drunk or very greedy, and there are some fine passages in-between, where Our Man bonds with locals, takes them along as guides or trades with them. Here and there the readers feels as if he's sharing an adventure. But way to often we're just placed in the back seat of Superman, who looks hard at everyone he meets, shakes hands, gives the poor buggers a bag of rice and refuses to budge when they come crawling out for money.

Don't get me wrong. I believe the DR Congo is an almost impossible country to travel in. But this guy doesn't show anything like his innermost feelings and thoughts, instead we're just led to believe that he has the attitude, the guts and the cool to get out of any situation imaginable. And who knows, maybe he can? After all Rambo defeated the entire Red Army single-handedly.
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