Canoeing the Congo narrates the journey of Phil Harwood, who undertook an epic five-month solo attempt to canoe the Congo River in war-torn Central Africa. It was a historic first descent from the true source in the highlands of Zambia. Just short of 3,000 miles long, the Congo River is the eighth longest in the world and the deepest river in the world, with a flow rate second only to the Amazon. Along the way, Phil encountered numerous waterfalls, huge rapids, man-eating crocodiles, hippos, aggressive snakes and spiders' webs the size of houses. He faced endemic corruption, was arrested, intimidated, bullied, chased and he received numerous death threats. He also collapsed from malaria.
The people were mostly friendly, however, and Phil received tremendous hospitality from a proud and brave people, especially from the riverside fishermen who helped him wherever they could. On one stretch of river known as The Abattoir due to its past history of cannibalism and current reputation for criminal activity, he hired four brothers with a shotgun to accompany him as bodyguards. They paddled and floated for five days and nights on the river. Common questions from locals were, ‘why haven't you cut his throat yet?’ and ‘if you don't want to do it, tell us where your camping and we'll come and do it for you ...We'll share his money.’ It was an exhilarating, terrifying and wonderful journey but Phil managed to survive, despite the odds, to tell his story.
Canoeing the Congo will appeal to fans of adventurous travel writing and people who love the nature and wilderness. Phil, who is a fan of adventure stories himself, enjoys the work of Ranulph Fiennes and Bill Bryson. Phil has worked all over the world as an ex-Royal Marine Commando, ski-guide, expedition leader, outdoor instructor and development trainer. He is qualified as mountain leader, a level 4 canoe coach, a level 3 kayak coach, a rock climbing instructor, a wilderness emergency medical technician and a first aid instructor. Phil's passions are adventure and challenge, in particular canoeing remote wilderness rivers - the more wild the better!
©2013 Phil Harwood (P)2013 Audible Ltd
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Critic reviews

"An exhilarating account of former Royal Marine Commando Phil Harwood's epic solo journey from the Congo's source in Zambia through war-torn Central Africa." (ABTA Magazine)
"Harwood's epic tale of his solo journey from the Congo's source in Zambia through war-torn Central Africa." (National Geographic Traveller)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Mr D J W Evans on 17-06-15


What an adventure. Well described and a good story. Having been to Africa on a couple of occasions I agree with many of his assertions about the goodness of the majority of the people with a few bad eggs in amongst but at the same time I'm sure that most people wouldn't survive this journey. Great respect!

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By missfrizzy on 04-05-15

Essex boy's adventure

Read, hilariously, by a plummy voiced Shakespearean actor. The adventure itself was exciting and the experiences and local colour was well conveyed.
The simplicity of language and conversational tone, which was charming in the paper version was jarring to the point of embarrassment when forced out of the RADA vocal chords of the reader.
Still enjoyed it nonetheless.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By McCoffee on 26-10-13

Adventure travel is human harassment

Very good book. Phil Harwood comes across as a reasonable and friendly badass. He's ready with a smile and a handshake, but he's not going to be pushed around. There's not a lot of nature encounters in the book: it is mostly a tale of alternating harassment from venal officials and kindness from fishermen and their families. But Harwood does a good job capturing the feel of the river--while convincing you that no matter who cool this trip sounds, you don't really want to do it.

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6 of 7 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By matthew on 07-10-13

Something best left to the confines of a book

Phil is an ex military elite from England and his stories of handling the customs officers with their Blackberries and white shirts are really amazing. We get to hear about all the intimidation that goes on in DRC. He buys into none of it, and always makes the immigration guys shake his hand and make eye contact with him before he gives in to their requests.

The more interesting part of the story is his interaction with the native fishermen, who are very poor and lead very austere lives, but know their way through the jungle quite well. Phil speaks French, Swahili and practices other languages along the way while he plies his canoe up to 12 hours a day.

In some ways it reminded me of Kira Salak's book where she kayaks 600 miles through Mali to the city of Timbuktu. She is treated well in some places and with great hostility in other places.

Both adventurers are fantastic athletes, and both are a bit crazy in my opinion, to put themselves in knowingly dangerous parts of the world. It must be part of their psyche to tempt fate and test their abilities beyond what most of us would consider reasonable.

This man's five month journey from Zambia to the Atlantic Ocean is a harrowing tale where we are treated to his deepest thoughts during stressful situations.

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5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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