Friday, March 8, 2013

On The Road

Discovering South Sudan, the end of Africa’s longest war sees the first tourists arrive in the world’s newest country. By Peter Martell is the BBC correspondent for South Sudan. He has lived in the capital, Juba since 2008

The first whitewater rafts pulled into the green and steamy banks of South Sudan’s ramshackle capital to cheers. It was no really about the achievement itself-the five-day journey down the slow waters of the White Nile river, travelling through the wild forests from the Ugandan border ,wad disturbed only by snorting hippos and an occasional elephant. The celebration was because of a greater achievement, a sing that for a land still reeling from Africa’s longest war, the south is, very slowly, opening up to tourists.

It wasn’t all straightforward. The paddlers, who included one of the most senior UN peacekeeping officials in the south, were even briefly held by soldiers suspicious of their boats.

South Sudan is the world’s newest nation, splitting from former civil war enemies in the north and dividing Sudan in two. Holidaying in a grossly underdeveloped land like this is not for the faint-hearted, light of pocket or unprepared. But there is huge potential. Over 60 different ethnic groups live here. There are jungles, wetlands and vast grasslands that host the world’s second largest migration of mammals, made by gazelles and antelopes. 

Much remains practically inaccessible. For now, easiest to access is perhaps the south’s most important asset – a people happy with independence, ready to welcome adventurous visitors to their fledgling state.

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