Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure

Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure

by Julian Smith

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Overview

Banff Mountain Book Awards WINNER

The spellbinding true story of retracing the extraordinary trek of Ewart "the Leopard" Grogan—the legendary British explorer who, in order to win the woman he loved, attempted to become the first person to cross Africa

In 1898 the dashing British adventurer Ewart Grogan fell head-over-heels in love—but before he could marry, he needed the approval of his beloved's skeptical, aristocratic stepfather. Grogan, seeking to prove his worth and earn his love's hand, then set out on an epic quest to become the first man to cross the entire length of Africa, from Cape Town to Cairo, "a feat hitherto thought by many explorers to be impossible" (New York Times).

A little more than a century later, American journalist Julian Smith also found himself madly in love with his girlfriend of seven years... but he was terrified by the prospect of marraige. Inspired by Grogan's story, which he discovered by chance, Smith decided to face his fears of commitment by retracing the explorer's amazing—but now forgotten—4,500-mile journey for love and glory through Africa. Crossing the Heart of Africa is the unforgettable account of these twin adventures, as Smith beautifully ineterweaves his own contemporary journey with Grogan's larger-than-life tale of cannibal attacks, charging elephants, deadly jungles, and romantic triumph.

SOCIETY OF AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITERS WESTERN WRITING AWARDS WINNER: GOLD PRIZE (TRAVEL)

BANFF MOUNTAIN BOOK COMPETITION WINNER: SPECIAL JURY MENTION

AMERICAN SOCIETY OF JOURNALISTS AND AUTHORS AWARDS BEST-BOOK WINNER: MEMOIR

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061873478
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/07/2010
Pages: 328
Sales rank: 734,325
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

JULIAN SMITH received a Banff Mountain Book Award and a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award for Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure. The coauthor of Smokejumper: A Memoir by One of America's Most Select Airborne Firefighters, he has written for Smithsonian, National Geographic Traveler, Wired, Outside, and the Washington Post, among other publications. Julian lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Crossing the Heart of Africa: An Odyssey of Love and Adventure 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Anonymous 7 months ago
I thoroughly enjoyed learning about Grogan, the last great Explorer who died during my lifetime. what a fascinating character. I loved the quotations from grogan's journals which included everything from blood-curdling Adventures two moments of hilarity.
macygma on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Two men. Two women. One huge continent. This is the basis of Smith's story of the trip taken by Ewart Grogan 107 years before Smith replicated the same trail. Grogan was intent on proving to his hopefully future father-in-law that he was man enough to marry Gertrude Watt. He started off just prior to Christmas, 1899, by foot with food, rifles and a team of African porters. Along the way he met Arthur Sharp, a renowned explorer who became his fast friend. He shot elephants, hippos, snakes and, occasionally native men who tried to attack Grogan's expedition. Always the end in sight was to make it to Cairo and wire Gertude that he still loved her and wanted to marry her. It took him over two years and 7000 miles.Smith, on the other hand, was three months from his wedding day. His understanding fiance, Laura, had given her blessing to the trip and he had enough money, film and inner strength to go for it. His travels were done by foot, bicycle (riding on a platform while someone else pedaled), motorbike and boat. The same goals in sight but a bit easier passage. However, the political scene in Africa at the time hadn't changed in many ways from that of Grogan's trip and Smith had to constantly keep an eye and ear open to the news when he was where he could listen. This was an outstanding book! I loved learning the then and now of West Africa and, while I hadn't heard of Grogan prior and I certainly glad I've heartd of him now. The writing was easy to follow, with the "old to new and back" done in a way that didn't disturb the storyline at all. A journey to be read but maybe not taken - yet. Politics are always at the forefront in Africa and, in some ways, Grogan had it better.
mountie9 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Good Stuff * Fascinating and unusual story * Loved how the story goes back and forth from Julian's journey to Grogan's - even if Julian's journey isn't as harrowing, but was impressed with Julian's honesty and emotional growth * Historical information interspersed within the story, and done in such an intriguing and interesting way * Grogan was a fascinating man and would be interested in reading more about him * Mentions one of my favorite movies "The African Queen" and I learned a little more about the facts that inspired the book - must go watch again this weekend - I LOVE that movie! * Enjoyed Julian's description of his experience with the Gorilla's * Julian travels through Rwanda and discusses his experiences and how the country has changed since the horrific events of the genocide.The Not so Good Stuff * It was a little dry at times * Seriously disturbed and grossed out during the scenes with the Cannibals * The story of Grogan is so fascinating and mesmerizing that Julian's journey sort of pales in comparison * I know it was the time, but I still can't understand why men feel the need to stalk and kill such majestic animals as Lions and Elephants * Cannibals -- sorry that description was nasty!Favorite Quotes/Passages"Vicious animals, biblical weather, ferocious native tribes, incurable diseases unknown to science. There were more ways to die in Africa than there were crocodiles in her rivers on lions on her savannahs.""Grogan thought missionaries upset Africa's traditional cultures more than they helped. Such men should be caged, or at least prevented from running loose amongst the natives.""I think of Bogart and Hepburn at the end of The African Queen, getting married by the captain of the Luisa, the fictional version of the Graf van Gotzen. They're about to be hung as spies by the Germans, but they're beaming. What matters is that they're being joined forever, even if their lives are about to end. Romeo and Juliet, Heathcliff and Catherine, Roxanne and Cyrano--death always seems to shadow true love in fiction, as if the only way to earn the perfect partner is by paying the ultimate price."What I Learned * I accidentally requested this one, and wasn't really into reading it, but was pleasantly surprised * Tons of fascinating historical information about Africa * How horrific the AIDS problem is in AfricaWho should/shouldn't read * I would recommend that you read this one over a period of time in order to enjoy it more * Fans of travel memoirs will enjoy3.5 Dewey's I received this from Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review -- don't remember requesting it, bet you I put the X in the wrong spot ; )
fyrefly98 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary: In 1898, Ewart Grogan fell in love with a woman named Gertrude. Gertrude's step-father was convinced Grogan wasn't good enough for her, so in order to prove himself, Grogan embarked on a nearly impossible journey: to be the first white man to transverse the entire continent of Africa from south to north. Along the way he had to deal with troublesome employees, debilitating tropical fevers, rampaging wildlife, and savage native tribes. A century later, Julian Smith also fell in love. He's getting married to Laura in a few months' time, and is starting to get cold feet. Inspired by Grogan's example, he heads to Africa to retrace Grogan's route. There he finds not only the changes wrought in the continent by the passage of time, but also a sense of himself, and what he wants out of life - and love.Review: This book was a mix of three threads of story: one-third Grogan's biography, one-third Smith's modern travelogue, and one-third memoir of Smith's relationship with Laura. On this basis, 2/3s of the book was great. Grogan's story had been mostly lost to history - I certainly had never heard his name mentioned with his fellow African explorers - and it's a fascinating tale, full of adventure and danger and excitement. It filled in a gap in my knowledge of African history that I didn't even know was missing, and provided a very vivid sense of the many trials that early explorers had to endure. I also enjoyed Smith's sections of his modern-day journey through Africa. He's a natural travel writer, capturing the details and idiosyncrasies of his trip and smoothly integrating them into a larger political and historical framework. Where this book lost me were the segments telling the history of his relationship. I understand that they need to be there as a means of motivating his trip, and in trying to better parallel Smith's journey with Grogan's. But after a few sections of him dissecting his rocky relationship history and his fear of commitment and his cold feet, I started to lose patience with the whole enterprise. I mean, I am neither his therapist nor his marriage counselor, and the story of their relationship, while obviously of great importance to him, didn't strike me as anything particularly noteworthy, and was actually kind of uncomfortably personal to read. Another few picky points: There is a bibliography, but it's not broken up by chapter or topic, and there's no end notes at the back, which would have provided an excellent opportunity for some more detail. Similarly, there is a map at the beginning, but it only shows Grogan's route, without any of the modern country borders or place names, which made following Smith's parts of the story more difficult. Overall, I enjoyed this book quite a bit - much more so than my last book about African exploration - largely due to Smith's easygoing prose and fascinating topic. I just wish he'd left some of the self-analysis at home. 4 out of 5 stars.Recommendation: If you liked The Lost City of Z, you'll probably like this one too, as it's the same story - Victorian explorer; modern journalist following in his footsteps - just on a different continent.
yourotherleft on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Crossing the Heart of Africa author Julian Smith tells two intertwined stories. The first is that of somewhat lesser-known African explorer Ewart Grogan, who, in 1889, pledged that he would make the first crossing of the African continent from south to north in order to win the hand of his true love, Gertrude, a woman well above his social station. Smith gives us a version Grogan's treacherous journey which will end with Gertrude's uncle's blessing upon their matrimony. Alongside Grogan's story is Smith's recounting of his own journey across modern-day Africa following Grogan's route, a journey that despite the passage of more than a hundred years, is still fraught with danger and difficulty, but for entirely different reasons. Rather than earning his love's hand, though, Smith's journey is his last act as a "free" unmarried man. As he traverses the continent, Smith also reflects upon his 7 year relationship with Laura, the woman who is about to become his wife.Smith's relationship reflections are easily my least favorite part of the book and, in my opinion, add little to it. Smith's disclosures are never inappropriate, but in ways they feel almost too personal to the point that I worry that if it had been me Smith was getting married to, I'd have been uncomfortable to have the nooks and crannies of our relationship dissected on the page. Smith, in his reflections, also reveals himself to be the sort of total commitment-phobe that I find difficult to understand. I found it difficult to wrap my mind around someone who, after 7 years and numerous "Aha! I love you!" moments would still be dragging his feet about the part with the rings. I'm afraid these things distracted me from what is, on the whole, a very good book.I'd never heard Ewart Grogan's story before, and Smith does an excellent job of giving Grogan's story new life. He captures the highs and lows of Grogan's trip, a journey made difficult by everything from disease to cannibals to volcanic wasteland to lack of supplies and hostile natives at every turn, but also a journey made spectacular by its opportunities for seeing incredible, virtually untouched wilderness, the thrill of the hunt of species that were practically the stuff of legends, and, of course, the reaching of the ultimate goal - a marriage to Gertrude. Smith reveals, in Grogan, a still young man of extreme determination and intelligent, practical leadership, and, in Africa, a still wild land of tribes both friendly and unfriendly, laboring under the great and lesser burdens of colonialism.Weaved into Grogan's story is Smith's own journey through Africa via a similar route to Grogan's. Smith's journey is fraught with trials of its own, though his near-death experiences are considerably more limited than Grogan's. Smith's is a story of still-rugged wilderness, packed and undependable "public" transportation, friendly eager-to-please people who might just be friendly or might just be so desparate to get out of Africa that any American looks like a walking chance at a U.S. visa. On his trip, Smith finds an Africa riddled by violent conflicts that keep him from following Grogan's route exactly and an African continent marked by countries with struggling economies that offer few opportunities to their citizens, no matter how industrious.Crossing the Heart of Africa is an entertaining re-telling of a death-defying adventure and a study in contrasts. Smith gives an interesting side-by-side look a Africa's past and its present that allows us to draw our own conclusions about what has really changed in Africa in a century marked by struggle and corruption. At the same time, Smith offers us a snapshot of practical modern love juxtaposed against the romantic ideas of a different time that might well have us longing for days when a woman's heart and her hand in marriage was considered something worth earning.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I have rarely read a book such as this. It blends explorer history as it tells the amazing history of GROGAN, the ultimate African traveller in the last years of the nineteenth century. He endures the most unbelievable events trying to be the first one to travel northwards from Cape Town to Cairo, and he does it for the love of a woman. I love African adventures and I hung on every word. And better than this, the talented travel author decides to revisit Grogan's trail and do the same thing Grogan did, travel the same trail in Africa over 100 years later.
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it was a neat story but kinda boring
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