One Woman Seeks Adventure

Adventure in Congo
Today is International Women’s Day so we thought it apropos to write about Kira Salak, an adventurous woman who’s been pushing the boundaries of travel writing since she was 24. She got her start writing as a young girl and attended Emerson College, the University of Arizona, and the University of Missouri, ultimately earning a Ph.D. in English.

Salak started her adventures by being the first woman to travel across Papua New Guinea and wrote a novel about her experience in Four Corners: One Woman’s Journey into the Heart of Papua New Guinea. After her book was published, an editor at National Geographic Adventure magazine asked her to write for the magazine.

But don’t let this fool you into thinking she’s just another nomadic woman, traveling from one country to the next. Salak travels and writes to investigate. Her biggest adventure so far was in 2003 when she convinced Ukrainian gun-runners to smuggle her into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She stayed in Bunia and watched a violent takeover by the Lendu rebel group, mostly made up of child soldiers. Her mission in the Congo was twofold: find the mountain gorillas and get into the story of what happens when people are “hell-bent”, as she puts it, on destroying themselves when they are charged with taking care of a global treasure.

For women, there are still many places in the world that are completely off limits, like parts of the Middle East and war torn countries where women are taken captive as near chattel. Salak writes in her article “Places of Darkness”:

Our minivan groans and perseveres down the boulder-strewn tract past small villages of round thatched huts and banana trees. Women walk along the road, wearing wraps of printed cloth and carrying washtubs or cords of firewood on their heads. They are not the least bit interested in my presence in the passing van, in the strangeness of a white woman out here. Rather, their eyes settle nervously on the RCD soldiers inside, a shock wave of fear passing over their faces. All you can taste in this country is fear. An inescapable vortex of it. I hope these gorillas will be spectacular, more fantastic than anything I could have imagined.

Salak certainly doesn’t let any boundaries stop her. We can’t wait to see where her adventures take her next (and what gear she’s using).

You can read her full story about being in Congo and searching for the mountain gorillas at Salak’s website.

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