Explorer and anthropologist Julian Monroe Fisher has completed the first trek of the entire length of a new hiking trail in Africa. His journey, which was Phase Three of RailRiders 2012-16 Great African Expedition, covered approximately 805 km (500 miles), as he walked the Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail. The journey took him through South Sudan and Uganda, and marked the 150th anniversary of the Bakers’ exploration of that region.
The new trail, which only just opened in January, begins in the South Sudanese village of Gondokoro, located near Juba, the capital of the country. From there, it runs south to Baker’s View, overlooking Lake Albert in western Uganda, before pressing on to the top of Murchison Falls on the Nile River. In order to properly identify the route, historical markers were placed in fifteen local communities that fall on the trail. Those villages also represent the locations where Sir Samuel Baker, and his wife Lady Florence, camped on their historic expeditions through Central Africa during the 1860’s and 70’s.
Fisher embarked on this latest expedition back in January, just as the trail had opened. Having planned his expedition for months, he could not have foreseen that civil war would break out in South Sudan just a few weeks prior to his departure. While visiting the portion of the trail that falls in the Eastern Equatoria State, he was only allowed to travel by vehicle, and with an armed government escort. That allowed him to complete the task of delivering the historical markers to the six communities in that region however.
The civil war brought a series of challenges that had not been planned for. “There were tanks on the streets of the capital of Juba, checkpoints along the road where blurry eyed dicey soldiers were a bit too trigger happy and a 6pm to 6am curfew in place which insured nightly gunfire throughout the
city making it impossible to get a good nights rest,” Fisher said. He also added “My fixer north of Juba in the land of the Mundari herdsmen was nowhere tobe found. I have never heard from him again.”
Things calmed down after he was able to pass across the border into Uganda, and in mid-February Julian was joined by his teenage son Charley, who walked the rest of the trail with him. They reached Murchison Falls on February 24th, officially completing their trek on the Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Historical Trail.
While out on the trail, Fisher gathered content for OutWildTV.com, providing regular dispatches and images from the journey. Those dispatches give readers a sense of what this expedition was like, and what to expect on the new hiking trail. That content can be accessed by clicking here.
This new trail is meant to not only highlight the efforts of the Bakers, but also become a new form economic development for the villages that fall on its length. Sadly, the ongoing conflict in South Sudan will make that a challenge for now. But, the trail is open in Uganda, and safe for trekkers to explore.
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