Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: A small tropical island
Bikes: Damocles, Shiv, Lynskey, X-Fire, LHT, +
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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...