In Heart of Darkness, Marlow travels to the Congo region to begin work as the skipper of a trading ship.
Prior to beginning his work, Marlow has to sign documents promising not to reveal any of his employer's trade secrets. The latter consist of internal practices and processes that afford his employer a competitive advantage. After signing the requisite documents, Marlow undergoes a physical examination.
The last thing Marlow does before leaving is to bid his aunt farewell. During tea with his aunt, he discovers the leverage his aunt exerted to gain him an appointment with the Belgian trading company: his aunt had recommended him (and his skills) to a diverse group of dignitaries and company officials. Marlow is flabbergasted that his aunt made such a monumental effort to ensure his appointment on steamboat.
Still, Marlow is grateful for his aunt's intervention. He relates that he left for the Congo region on a French steamer. The ship stopped at nearly every port on the way to its intended destination. Marlow says that it took thirty days of traveling before he caught a glimpse of the mouth of the Big River.
Only then did it dawn on Marlow that his work wouldn't begin until some 200 miles upstream from the mouth of the Big River. The steamer first took him to the Company's Outer Station, where he saw natives in chains. When he came across a group of natives dying of disease, starvation, and neglect, Marlow recalls his disgust and sense of discomfort. He had to wait at this station for ten days before being taken to another post.