National Geographic : 1955 May
69; BUBBLING up at our feet in 10 tiny springs, the Nile, longest river in the world, leaped to life from its southern most source and ran down a grassy hillside. With two French friends I stood 6,700 feet above sea level in the central African high lands of Ruanda Urundi, watching the trickle that stretches itself out at last to 4,100 miles. My companions, Jean Laporte and Andre Davy, and I clambered up a 10-foot pyramid erected in 1938 by a German explorer, Dr. Burkhart Waldecker, to honor all who had sought the Nile's source (page 699). For this splashing brooklet and for us who had jeeped, hiked, and bushwhacked to find it, a turbulent tomorrow lay in store. Torn to froth in rapids and flayed by rain, wind, and parching heat, the swelling stream was to be our unpredictable host as we paddled and portaged cockleshell kayaks from source to mouth, a distance equal to that from my home in Los Angeles, California, to the shores of eastern Greenland. There, that November day on a windy hill 40 south of the Equator, began the realiza tion of a dream that had haunted me for 15 years-the dream of exploring the river of the Pharaohs, of Cleopatra, Kitchener, and Speke (map, page 700). I was drawn by the lure of this great stream that blends the unfenced zoos of Africa's upland plains with the ancient cul tures of Egypt and the Mediterranean, com pounding history and natural history un matched on this globe. For thousands of years the Nile has chal lenged explorers, historians, and scientists. I think it is not too extreme to say that the Nile has influenced, somehow, every person living in our Western World today.* Near-disaster struck at the very start of our journey. Bedded down at our first camp site near Kakitumba on the Kagera (page * See "Safari from Congo to Cairo," by Elsie May Bell Grosvenor, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, De cember, 1954.