About The Book
Helen Winternitz, a seasoned African traveler, persuaded fellow Baltimore Sun journalist Timothy Phelps to travel (the hard way) 2,000 miles up the Congo River and through some of the most remote and breathtaking regions of the world. In this brilliant mix of political journalism and travel writing they witness what few Westerners have: life in the ecologically rich though financially impoverished American-backed dictatorship of Zaire, the former Belgian Congo.
The journey starts from Kinshasa, east along the equator aboard a dilapidated and extravagantly overcrowded riverboat replete with hippopotamus hunters, government spies, tough women, whiskey-drinking clerics, and Congo fishermen.” From the geographic center of the continent the pair strikes out overland to the Ituri rain forest (home of the pygmies), through the legendary snow-capped Mountains of the Moon, and then down to the volcano-studded savannas of the Great Rift Valley.” Along the way Winternitz and Phelps fight tropical fever, the nocturnal screaming of tree hyraxes, and mud holes as deep as cargo trucks, but their most serious challenge comes when they are arrested by Mobutu’s security police. Their adventure lays bare the heart of Africa—a heart filled not with darkness but with struggle and life.
“East Along the Equator is at the same time an adventure story and a first-hand political introduction to a barbaric government. Here, written plain, is what President Reagan called “a voice of good sense and good will”: Mobutu, the pro-American tyrant of Zaire, in all his cruelty and corruption.” —Anthony Lewis