Backpackers and mountain bikers will be interested to learn that a new long distance trail is set to open in Africa in early 2014. The new trail will give adventure seekers the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of a legendary explorer while visiting the newest country on the planet–South Sudan. Along the way, they'll get the chance to experience parts of Africa that remain wild and undeveloped, passing through landscapes that have remained largely unchanged for centuries.
The Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail will stretch from Juba in South Sudan to Baker's View, which overlooks Lake Albert in western Uganda. The route will cover approximately 575 km (357 miles) along the same path that the Bakers followed on their two expeditions to Africa, which took place in the 1860's and 70's. The route will end at the point where Sir Samuel became the first European to ever set eyes on Lake Albert, which he named after Prince Albert.
The trail is being created through the efforts of anthropologist and explorer Julian Monroe Fisher who is working closely with the Uganda Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife & Antiquities, The Uganda Wildlife Authority and the Ministry of Wildlife, Conservation & Tourism for South Sudan. The descendants of Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker are also taking part in the creation of this new route, which is being developed with the support of RailRiders Adventure Clothing and Costa Del Mar Sunglasses, both of which are sponsors of Fisher's Great African Expedition. It was during Phase Two of that expedition that he discovered the exact location of Baker's View and he is credited by the Ugandan Government with correcting key locations on maps. Fisher will return to Uganda in June to begin placing historical markers along the trail which will designate places that the Bakers camped while they were exploring the region.
During the 1860's and 70's, Samuel Baker explored much of central Africa and, later, areas along the path of the Nile. His wife, Lady Florence, traveled with him on his expeditions as he wandered throughout much of what is now Uganda and South Sudan. One of his early adventures took him to the shores of Lake Albert, which he discovered in 1864. In addition to their contributions toward filling in the blank spots on the map, the Bakers were also staunchly against slavery. The couple publicly called for the abolition of the slave trade, a fact that is not forgotten in the region even in the 21st century.
The new trail is set to officially open in January of 2014 in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of Baker's expedition. Unlike many trails of this kind, access will not only be granted to hikers, but also mountain bikers and eventually 4x4 vehicles as well. Future extensions to the trail will expand on its length, including a long loop in South Sudan that will lead to the summit of Mount Kinyeti, the tallest peak in the region at 3,187 meters (10,456 feet).
The trail is also being seen as an economic boon for both Uganda and South Sudan. The hope is that the scenic route will lure trekkers to the area bring much needed in flux of tourism dollars.