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Old 09-23-09, 03:56 AM   #1
guadzilla
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Couple of touring-related books

I just read a couple of touring related books, and thought I'd post some comments on them, in case anyone else wants to read them.

One was "The Man Who Cycled the World" by Mark Beaumont, who set some sort of pointless Guinness World Record for.. wait for it... cycling around the world. His route took him to some very interesting places (Iran, Pakistan, Eastern Europe etc) and I was looking forward to reading about his experiences there. Sadly, this book is extremely disappointing. If you want to read a day-by-day detail of the minutiae of his trip, it's fine. But for any insights into the places he visits, it is extremely shallow and indicates a level of self-absorption that is amazing - even allowing for the author's young age and relative lack of exposure to the world. For example, he cycles through Pakistan - which is having enough problems at the moment - and some cops are assigned to follow him and make sure he is safe. Apparently, there are some miscommunications and they try to get him to ride in their jeep a few times instead of cycling through some unsafe regions of Pakistan.. pretty much a whole chapter is dedicated to his complaining how those people do not understand the importance of what he is trying to do (nevermind the fact that his cocooned desires are putting the lives of these underpaid policemen at potential risk, all for some obscure world record).

Similarly, when someone in Iran spends a full day with him and then tries to get him to follow a safer option, his reaction is one of outrage and can be summed up as being "well, if you are going to help me, do it on my terms" - again, while I can understand his concerns, a little graciousness towards those who are trying to help him would not be amiss, atleast in print.

As a travelogue, it is ugly, judgmental and shallow, and frankly, left a very poor taste in my mouth.

The second book is "Into Thick Air" by Jim Malusa and narrates the accounts of his travels to the lowest points in each of the continents. A very well-written book, which chronicles his experiences both positive and negative, but without being judgmental (the way any travel book ought to be). Some sections - especially Australia - are a bit heavy in describing the ambience and lacking a little when it comes to the actual travel, but the section on Russia and Djibouti are absolutely superb - especially the author's interactions with the people.

This was a far more enjoyable book and would be worth a read before going off on an international tour, IMO. Certainly, it is tempting me to consider going back to Africa but on a cycle this time...

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Old 09-23-09, 06:09 AM   #2
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thanks for the reviews.

Youll be happy to know that the Beaumont record was beaten handily by another fellow who just finished his RTW trek.

And, youll also be happy to know that Malusa posts here from time to time... he helped me plan a ride through Arizona a year or so ago. Thanks for reminding me to buy his book, and I'm glad its worth reading/supporting.
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Old 09-23-09, 05:25 PM   #3
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We had a pretty good thread going about touring books last fall:

Read any good books lately?
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Old 09-23-09, 06:10 PM   #4
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I read and thoroughly enjoyed Jim Malusa's book, "Into Thick Air", too. He's a very good writer. I've toured in some of the places he visited for the book, and his descriptions seemed accurate to me. Some purists might not like his willingness to use other forms of transportation, but that didn't bother me at all. I was interested in his experiences and observations, and his engaging writing style.
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Old 09-23-09, 06:42 PM   #5
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Thomas Stevens who traveled to Iran in the 19th c by penny farthing, on his way around the world, also seemed to have strange reactions. Saw some guy getting tortured, and seemed to think it was reasonably funny. Iran might just bring stuff out. His comments about how Iran had just enough street lights to entertain the royal personage, were also interesting. Not like it was something one would do to help people see in the dark.
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Old 09-24-09, 05:19 AM   #6
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I just got Thomas Steven's book on my Kindle... am looking forward to reading it, sounds quite interesting. That sounds like one wild adventure!

7Speed - thanks for that link. Will go through it shortly...

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Old 09-27-09, 10:33 AM   #7
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moods of future joy

I read alaister humprey's book and really enjoyed it. I also am reading cold beer and crocodiles about a tour around australia and it's pretty top notch among the one's I've read. It's actually written by a writer which really shows through. Poor Mark Beaumont, loosing the record so quickly. I'm sure the more press it gets the sooner someone else will break this record.
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Old 09-27-09, 01:25 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by vkalia View Post
One was "The Man Who Cycled the World" by Mark Beaumont, who set some sort of pointless Guinness World Record for.. wait for it... cycling around the world. His route took him to some very interesting places (Iran, Pakistan, Eastern Europe etc) and I was looking forward to reading about his experiences there. Sadly, this book is extremely disappointing. If you want to read a day-by-day detail of the minutiae of his trip, it's fine. But for any insights into the places he visits, it is extremely shallow and indicates a level of self-absorption that is amazing - even allowing for the author's young age and relative lack of exposure to the world. For example, he cycles through Pakistan - which is having enough problems at the moment - and some cops are assigned to follow him and make sure he is safe. Apparently, there are some miscommunications and they try to get him to ride in their jeep a few times instead of cycling through some unsafe regions of Pakistan.. pretty much a whole chapter is dedicated to his complaining how those people do not understand the importance of what he is trying to do (nevermind the fact that his cocooned desires are putting the lives of these underpaid policemen at potential risk, all for some obscure world record).
It appears that Beaumont's goal was to set the world record. Given that goal, it seems reasonable to expect that the book lacks "insights into the places he visits" because, he really isn't "visiting" these places (he's just passing through). It also isn't exactly unreasonable to expect that he didn't exactly cooperate with people who were working against that goal. "Riding in a jeep" has nothing to do with setting the record. "Self absorption" seems completely reasonable given his goal!
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