Long distance hikers searching for a new challenge will have their wish granted early next year. That’s when the new Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail is set to open allowing backpackers to trek through the African bush while following in the footsteps of the legendary explorer.
The trail, which is officially slated to open in January, will begin in the town of Gondokoro, which is near Juba, the capital of South Sudan. From there the route will wander southward through the wild and untamed countryside before crossing the border into Uganda. Hikers can wander the path all the way to the shores of Lake Albert, where they’ll catch a glimpse of that large body of water just as Baker did nearly a century and a half ago. He and his men were the first Europeans to lay eyes on the lake, spotting it for the first time at a place that is now called Baker’s View. All told, the trail will cover approximately 360 miles, passing through remote villages and open countryside, before ending at the spectacular Murchison Falls, which can be seen in the photo above.
Baker earned himself a reputation as an daring explorer by leading several expeditions into central Africa during the 1860’s and 70’s. In addition to discovering Lake Albert, he was also instrumental in mapping what is now Uganda, Sudan and some of the other surrounding countries. He was one of the first men to follow the path of the White Nile and ascertain its importance as a source of water to the region. Baker was often accompanied on his many adventures by Lady Florence Baker, who by most accounts was as brave and intrepid as her husband. The couple also happened to be outspoken opponents of the slave trade as well, which wasn’t a particularly popular opinion in their time.
The Sir Samuel Baker and Lady Florence Baker Trail is the brainchild of modern day explorer Julian Monroe Fisher, an anthropologist and fan of the explorer. Over the course of his career, Fisher’s expeditions have taken him across east and central Africa, often following in the footsteps of the Bakers. Earlier this year, Fisher walked the entire length of the new trail, first establishing the route and later placing historical markers at locations that were key to Baker’s expeditions 150 years ago. Fisher says that when the route opens next year, it’ll be perfect for hiking, mountain biking and even 4×4’s. He also believes that it will be an economic boon to the local villages, drawing more tourism to the area.
Fisher also believes that eventually the new trail will be compared favorably to the famous Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trails in the U.S. That is high praise indeed as both of them are considered to be amongst the finest trails anywhere in the world.