Why all the whining?

Next time, just check "unsatisfactory" on the trip evaluation form.

This tedious account of a purported first descent of the Lugenda River in Mozambique reads more like a bad two-week kayaking vacation than its billing as "an exploration of the last African wilderness."

With the wrong equipment (sea kayaks instead of inflatable whitewater kayaks), not enough food and surly guides, the trip wasn't a lot of fun. That's despite encountering mostly friendly natives, elephants, hippos and not being eaten by crocodiles in some beautiful countryside.

The author tells us he cried from homesickness, moped about self-esteem issues related to his paddling ability and wondered why man explores. In Stark's case it's because he was paid to write an article about the trip for Outside magazine.

Proving that good writing isn't always scaleable, the author has padded his original, very readable, article with historical accounts of African exploration and philosophic musing on the nature of wilderness by everyone from Herodotus to Thoreau.

In the epilogue Stark admits that his might not even be the first descent of the Lugenda. A Portuguese crocodile hunter and his wife reportedly made the trip in the 1950s and also wrote a book about it.

Hopefully they had a better adventure.

— Bill Becher

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