When James Bruce planned an eight month journey through Europe and Africa, he didn’t realise he would retrace some very famous footsteps.
James happened to find himself setting off from Blantyre, near Glasgow, the birthplace of Victorian explorer David Livingstone, just as the bicentenary of the famous missionary was being marked.
The trek saw James, from Berwick, walk in 14 different countries between March and December last year. He has been on long walks before, including journeys from France to Jerusalem and around the Pacific rim, but said this was “the big one”. This journey took him southwards from Scotland, through Ireland,France, Spain and Portugal.
From there he went on into Africa, through Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Liberia, the Ivory Coast and Zambia.
Finally he arrived in the ‘other’ Blantyre, a city in Malawi.
This was all to raise over £11,000 for children’s charity Mary’s Meals, which provides school dinners to over 800,00 African children.
At the end of his journey, on Christmas Eve, James gave a present to Malawi’s Mary’s Meals volunteers - a large porridge spoon.
“Porridge is the main meal given to children at school there,” he explained.
“Providing meals at school is vital, because if kids cannot eat there, they won’t turn up. They’ll go off somewhere else looking for something to eat.
“I came to Mary’s Meals through my cousin, who helped set the charity up. It’s managed to go on to build schools in places like Liberia, which are vital as the country recovers from years of civil war.”
James said that the experience of walking changed how he saw Africa. “I’d always wanted to go, ever since I was very young,” he said. “It wasn’t filled with zebras and lions and things, although I did see a chameleon, which was incredible.
“You don’t realise just how your personal security will change as you walk through some of these countries.”
But that is changing, and James is hopeful for the continent’s future.
In particular he was struck by a quotation written below a cafe’s sign: ‘If you think that education is expensive, try ignorance.’ “That summed it up for me,” he said.
James is hoping to write about his experiences on his travels, and will be presenting a talk at St Cuthbert’s Parish Centre, Walkergate, Berwick, on Saturday 22 February at 7.15pm.