Swimming the Congo
Most of the word’s major rivers have already been swum in their entirety, from the Mississippi to the Yangtze. The notable exceptions are Nile and the Congo — the number one and two longest rivers in Africa, respectively. Of the two, the more powerful Congo remains the bigger challenge. The 2,900-mile long river has the second-largest flow in the world, behind the Amazon. Heavy rainfall soaks the Congo basin at an average of 60 inches per year, and the river flows through one of the largest rainforests on the planet.
While the Congo River is no longer as isolated as it was in, say Joseph Conrad’s 1899 novel, Heart of Darkness, the area remains one continuing on the verge of erupting in violence (due to ethnic violence and the ongoing ivory trade), not to mention the deadly hippos, crocodiles, poisonous snakes, and piranhas teeming in the waters. The one ultra swimmer with the skill, experience, and verve to heed the Congo’s call is Martin Strel. The Slovenian already has the Amazon under his belt — completing his 3,274-mile swim in 66 days in 2007. He has also swum the Danube, the Mississippi, and the Yangtze. But so far, he’s yet to express interest in the Congo.
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