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Photograph by Ocean, Corbis
Hiker: Julian Monroe Fisher, explorer, filmmaker, and anthropologist
In His Words
I am about to make one trail on my bucket list become a reality. In January-February 2013 we trekked into the bush country of Eastern Equatoria in the new nation of South Sudan. Starting in June 2013, we are establishing trail markers for a new trail that will run from Gondokora near Juba, South Sudan, to Baker’s View, overlooking Lake Albert, Uganda. The trail will follow the route Sir Samuel Baker and Lady Florence Baker followed during their expedition to Lake Albert in the 1860s. In 2014, we will launch a walking and mountain bike trail from Juba, South Sudan, to Baker’s View, Uganda. The fourteen stops will encompass spots along the route where the Bakers camped as they used exploration to abolish slavery. —Julian Monroe Fisher
Length: 360 miles
The Details: South Sudan was born in 2011, breaking away from Sudan in a nearly unanimous referendum. Independence has not solved all of the fledgling nation’s ills, however; the aftereffects of decades of civil war and military atrocities and ongoing fighting between the government and rebel groups make it one of the most dangerous and needy spots on the globe.
The hope is that the trail can play some small part in stabilizing the region, much as the Bakers hoped their 19th-century expedition could play a part in helping to end the horrors of the slave trade. Most of the trail goes through Uganda, which is relatively safe for hikers. A bit of danger is inherent in the history of the walk; Sir Samuel Baker himself was kidnapped on one of his expeditions.
Meticulously researched for historical accuracy, the trail begins in South Sudan’s current capital city of Juba and follows the Bakers’ routes along the White Nile into Uganda, ending at Baker’s View, the spot Fisher determined to be where Sir Samuel Baker first gazed out on Lake Albert and named it after Queen Victoria’s consort in 1864. Along the way, the trail follows the shores of Lake Albert and takes in wonders like the Victoria Nile’s Murchison Falls, a thunderous gush through a 20-foot-wide gap in a gorge with a 131-foot drop.
Fisher is in the process of establishing the trail now so that it can officially open to thru-hikers in January 2014, the 150th anniversary of when the Bakers first made the trek. Right now, Fisher’s markers show where current-day hikers can camp along the route in the same spots as the Bakers, though the trip requires expert logistical planning since it traverses spots that rarely see foreign visitors. The trail will also be open to adventure-hungry mountain bikers.
When to Go: Winter months will be best. You can be one of the first to make the trek in January 2014.
About Fisher: A TED Talks speaker and a flag-carrying member of the famed Explorers Club, Julian Monroe Fisher undertook a 345,000-mile trek from 1996 to 2003 that crossed Central America from Mexico to South America, Southeast Asia, Nepal, India, Africa, Australia, and the Middle East to Russia. He even summited Kilimanjaro on a seldom-used route.
Fisher’s expeditions across the planet have done far more than tick off feats of mega-trekking prowess, however—they are essential aspects of his ethnological and geographic research. His 2007 Colorado African expedition traced the 1928 to 1929 route of Hollywood cinematographer Paul Louis Hoefler. His 2009 to 2010 Katanga Province expeditions in the Democratic Republic of Congo will help establish the Bunkeya Cultural Village that will celebrate and share the culture of the Garanganze with the world and provide economic sustainability for the people. In 2011, Fisher walked coast-to-coast across Africa from Mozambique to Angola, and his 2012-16 RailRiders Great African Expedition will trace the long routes of Victorian explorers on the continent, comparing their documentation of native cultures with the current state of the African world.
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Wilfred Thesiger was one of the greatest British adventurers and travel writers of the past century. He was one of my earliest heroes. His tough expeditions to the planet's wildest corners and his crisp, sparse writing style both appealed to me in the early days when I first began setting off on adventures of my own.
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