-Photo's by Christopher List
In fact, in most cases, they believe they were poorer than the average African, who can at least produce his own food and knows where to get water. Their journey helped them feel a lot closer to people, having experienced first-hand how it feels to be poor, and to receive the charity of others.
Giom and Enora travelled without electronics aside from a camera: no mobiles, laptops or GPS, using only a map to navigate. “We realised that nothing was essential, only potentially useful. You soon start seeing everything purely as weight”, they laughed.
“We started out carrying paper and pens, but found even that was unnecessary, that any memories worth keeping we’d remember. The camera, a Canon G9, was our biggest burden, we’d take turns to carry it!”
Claiming their shoes were their most treasured possession, Giom and Enora went through about nine pairs of trainers between them, wearing out the tread every 3000 km or so.
“We were pretty strict about what we carried, everything needed to have two or three uses”, Enora said.
Green travel pioneers: A burgeoning interest in the environment
- Photo by Christopher List
However, locals would see that they were tourists and only offer bottled water, not understanding that their budget didn’t stretch that far!
Surprisingly, the two hardly got sick either. Amoeba sickness (a type of dysentery caused by eating contaminated water or food) struck them once every two or three months, but unless it was severe they let their bodies fight it off naturally. Metronidazole pills, an antibiotic used to fight bacteria, were kept on hand for serious cases.
Giom and Enora tell me a story of how they were offered water out of benzene cans, and with no and with no other choice they were forced to drink it. “It tasted horrible”, Guillaume said, shuddering involuntarily at the memory, “and we’d struggle to get it down, but other than getting a headache, we were fine”.
During their walk, they didn’t know where they’d be sleeping or how many kilometres they’d walk (miles) until they reached the next village and could eat and drink again. “We just accepted it and enjoyed each moment for what it was”, Guillaume said.
Giom and Enora tell me that the slow, steady rhythm of each step put them into an almost meditative state, and led to many philosophical discussions about the meaning of life, and what makes us human. “The biggest journey is inside yourself”, Enora continued.
Enora relates how in Sudan, they’d sometimes cross 75 kilometres with no villages in sight. “But when we met people they were so friendly, even though they were impoverished. They survived on bread and ful (fava beans), but we’d be invited into their home and they’d rush off to buy coca-cola and biscuits to serve us”.
“It was knowing that they have nothing which makes the sacrifice so much more meaningful”, Enora said. Indeed, it was accepting this hospitality that made them realise the simple power of shared humanity and the connectedness of us all.
A true adventure seeker, Giom has past experience as a paratrooper, training to be a monk in a Canadian monastery, and forest management, to name a few.
So it’s no surprise that he walked alone (it was deemed unsafe by both for Enora to continue) through south Sudan, a region still recovering from a civil war with the north and known for its ongoing conflict with rebels.
“I was stopped around 10 to 14 times day and asked why I was walking”, said Giom, “while in one of the more remote villages, they asked me to eat something to prove that I wasn’t a ghost!”
But the most dangerous time was when he was held captive by Kalashnikov-wielding policemen who chained him to a tree for the night, only releasing him the next day. “They screamed at me at first”, he told me, “but after a while I was joking with them and they shared their coca-cola with me”.
Though the two faced many dangers including having no water or food, being threatened and harassed as well as suffering bouts of illness, they state that the true magic in the trip lay in experiencing the freedom of having nothing.
On being asked whether there were times they ever considered giving up, the two paused for a moment and laughed. “Many! But there wasn’t anything else to do, this was our goal”. “To stop would have been harder than going on, because to live with that kind of (personal) shame and sense of failure was not an option”, Enora continued.
Giom related how he wanted to find out how far he could push himself, as “just an ordinary guy”.
He tells us how inspired he was by Sonia and Alexandre Poussin, a French couple who walked through Africa nine years ago and wrote two books about it: Africa Trek and Africa Trek II. “I thought they were extraordinary, but in doing this, I realised that everyone can do it”.
“It’s become more than just a trip, but a lifestyle”, Giom continued. “I might consider travelling the world by foot at a later stage, but my main drive is a desire to add value”.
Meanwhile Enora tells me that she’s going to walk more in future: “The experience has definitely changed me”, she continued, “I now feel more confident, more able to face any of life’s challenges”.
Guillaume advises fellow travellers to slow down and enjoy the journey. “It’s so easy to travel throughout Africa without connecting with people”, he said.
“They think you are from another planet! If you have too many possessions, they won’t treat you in the same way and become hard to approach. So, try and reduce your needs, your living standards, and live like an African. You’ll find you have a much more valuable experience”.
“The most important lesson we’ve learnt on this trip is about people”, the green travel pioneer continued. “We have discovered that people are all essentially the same. We all have the same dreams, the same hopes, the same fears. No matter what our upbringing, no matter what our income, we all have the same capacity for happiness”.
The two then went their separate ways, with Enora doing some more travelling (by more conventional means), before flying to Canada, where she will complete her studies to be a midwife, while Guillaume will be raising funds before completing the 7,000 km trek to Paris alone.
To find out more about Guillaume and Enora’s African adventure, and his solo walk to Paris, visit his website www.20000km.com.
Or discover the adventures of Eco-travel guru's Chris and Elayne Clash, who have driven through 86 countries, and over 200, 000 km around the world in Victor, a buggy made out of junkyard scrap.
Hi, my name is Melissa and I created this site together with photographer Christopher List to help spread awareness about green lifestyles and travel, so everyone can learn how easy it is to live in a sustainable way. Enjoy!
I wasn't sure what a permaculture design course was about, until I read through Melissa's fantastic blog! I've signed up and soon I'll be a PDC graduate too.
Kelly Richardson - Arizona
The link between personal responsibility and preserving our environment is becoming increasingly clear to me. Reading up on simple ways to be more eco-friendly in my life and travels has really helped me practice what I preach.
Dennis Howley - Namibia
I can't wait to follow Melissa and Chris' adventures in the Middle East and Africa. You guys inspire me!
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