In Teleki’s Footsteps, A Walk Across East Africa by Tom Heaton
I’ve been meaning to write a short book review for a while as a means of sourcing new Africana book recommendations from the wonderful people who might read this. Hopefully you might also be inspired to read the book. I thought I would start with a suitably obscure one that most folks have probably never come across. Don’t worry though, I have seen some ancient copies floating around on the interwebs. No you can’t have my copy (I might consider a swapsies).
I used to know Tom Heaton when he was still working at the BBC in Nairobi. Everyone had a story to tell about him, from being forced to join the Hitler youth to spending 10 years in Somalia. When me and my mum first got to Kenya he took us out walking in the Ngong Hills with all his ridgebacks. Two of them got bitten by a puff adder (I was nearly the third), and a few weeks later a lady was chased up a tree by a buffalo there. Not an auspicious start for us but this was the sort of fun you could have hanging around with Tom for long enough.
Anyway, long before that Tom had decided to retrace the explorations of Count Samual Teleki. Teleki was a Hungarian aristocrat who in 1887, growing tired of looking after all his money, decided to undertake an epic journey through Tanzania and Kenya. Along with 400 porters, he was the first European to reach the snow line on Mount Kilimanjaro and set foot on Mount Kenya. He then continued through the great lake system of Kenya, finally reaching the Jade Sea, which he named after his pal Prince Rudolf (now Lake Turkana, after the people that live there and knew about it all along).
Tom decided to try and repeat this 3,500 mile journey by bicycle. There is a touching and amusing dedication in the first pages of the book that says: ‘To Jackie, for believing it was a good idea.’ He soon had to ditch the bicycle and continue on foot. Needless to say his journey becomes like all great travel tales, a story about discoveries, dangers, disasters and incredible achievement. Naturally interwoven with plenty of particularly East African fascinations for the causal interest and fundi alike.
Track it down and enjoy!