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Travel books for the adventurous traveller (part 22)

When I am at home I love to curl up with a good book. And most of the reading I do is about travel. Whether it is to prepare for my next trip, relive one I did, or just to learn about new cultures and countries, here is our next instalment of travel books for the adventurous traveller.

News from Tartary - Peter Fleming

For most travellers, and all merchants, the road from China to India lies as it has lain for centuries, through Singkiang along that ancient Silk Road which is the most romantic and culturally the most important trade route in the history of the world. In 1935 Peter Fleming set out to travel that route, from Peking to Kashmir. It was a journey which swept him and his companion 3500 miles across the roof of the world. It took them seven months to complete the journey.

They travelled across deserts and mountains, through ice and sand and into some of the most beautiful, mysterious and dangerous areas in the world. His account of that journey is filled with endurance and adventure, with strange encounters in the wilderness, with tales of Chinese, Mongol tribesmem and Indians, and with a spirited sense of humour and courage.

Adventure Coordinators review: while the narrative can get a little monotonous at times I credit this book with my wanting to travel to the Hunza Valley in Pakistan. 7 out of 10

An African in Greenland - Tété-Michel Kpomassie

Tété-Michel Kpomassie was a teenager in Togo when he discovered a book about Greenland—and knew that he must go there. Working his way north over nearly a decade, Kpomassie finally arrived in the country of his dreams. This brilliantly observed and superbly entertaining record of his adventures among the Inuit is a testament to the wonderful strangeness of humans and to the surprising sympathies that bind us all.

Adventure Coordinators review: less a book about an African travelling in Greenland as what it is like to live as an outsider among Inuit, this book is informative about Inuit culture and life in Greenland in a not-so-distant part. 7 out of 10

The Salt Path - Raynor Winn

Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home and livelihood is taken away. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path in the UK.

They have almost no money for food or shelter and must carry only the essentials for survival on their backs as they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.

The Salt Path is an honest and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt, and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways.

Adventure Coordinators review: a beautifully written inspiring travelogue that makes you question what is important in life and how humans should treat each other. 9 out of 10

The wild silence - Raynor Winn

After walking 630 homeless miles along The Salt Path (see above), the cliffs, the sky and the chalky earth now feel like their home. Moth has a terminal diagnosis, but seems revitalized in nature.

Now, life beyond The Salt Path awaits and they come back to four walls, but the sense of home is illusive and returning to normality is proving difficult. A chance to breathe life back into a beautiful farmhouse nestled deep in the Cornish hills, rewilding the land and returning nature to its hedgerows becomes their saving grace and their new path to follow.

Adventure Coordinators review: having read The Salt Path I couldn't wait to read the sequel. I was disappointed. The book feels as if the publishers told the author she should really publish another book. The problem is this kind of story, of people moving back to the country, is a dime-a-dozen, although I did enjoy the description of the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland. 6.5 out of 10

Rowed trip - Colin and Julie Angus

One sunny day in 2006, Julie and Colin Angus were examining a road atlas and in particular the labyrinth of European inland waterways it revealed. Julie traced a route of interconnected canals, rivers, and coastlines that led from Colin’s parents’ homeland of Scotland past her mother’s homeland, Germany, and on to her father’s, Syria. She said, half-seriously: We could row all the way from Scotland to Syria to visit our relatives. It was a reckless sort of joke to make, given the couple’s addiction to adventure. The result is Rowed Trip, an odyssey by oar (and bike) from Caithness, Scotland, across the English Channel, through France, across the Rhine, the Main-Donau Canal to the Danube, the Black Sea and Turkey. Julie and Colin each describe how the trip allowed them to test their relationship, to explore their roots, and to indulge to the max their shared taste for adventure.

Adventure Coordinators review: the concept could have worked but the authors are better at adventuring than they are at writing. The story is heavy on facts and observations but light on human interest. 6.5 out of 10

Dalvi - Six years in the Arctic tundra - Laura Galloway

Part memoir, part travelogue, this is the story of one woman's six years living in a reindeer-herding village in the Arctic Tundra, forging a life on her own as the only American among one of the most unknowable cultures on earth.

An affair with a Sámi reindeer herder ultimately led the author to leave New York for the tiny town of Kautokeino, Norway. When her new boyfriend left her unexpectedly after six months, it would have been easy, and perhaps prudent, to return home. But she stayed for six years.

Dálvi is the story of Laura's time in a reindeer-herding village in the Arctic, forging a solitary existence as she struggled to learn the language and make her way in a remote community for which there were no guidebooks or manuals for how to fit in. Her time in the North opened her to a new world. And it brought something else as well: reconciliation and peace with the traumatic events that had previously defined her - the sudden death of her mother when she was three, a difficult childhood and her lifelong search for connection and a sense of home. Both a heart-rending memoir and a love letter to the singular landscape of the region, Dálvi explores with great warmth and humility what it means to truly belong.

Adventure Coordinators review: a little heavily "woe is me" this book is nevertheless a candid read, made all the more beautiful through the vulnerability of the author. 8 out of 10

Dodging elephants - Alice Morrison

Flung off the corporate hamster wheel by impending redundancy, Alice decided to sign up for the longest bike race on earth, 8000 miles from Cairo to Cape Town. Under-trained and over-optimistic she set off with 62 fellow lycra-clad racers to tackle the adventure of a lifetime.

Having imagined a leisurely ride across the continent with plenty of time to rest under a boabab tree and contemplate her navel, she was rudely awakened as the peloton raced across Egypt at full speed and the dream became a reality.

There are thrills and spills aplenty in this romp down Africa from wild elephant charges to being held up by armed bandits in northern Kenya.

She faces the burning 50 degree heat in the deserts of Sudan; swarms of biting tsetse flies in the muds of Tanzania; the whip-wielding children of Ethiopia and toilet tents that would make a grown man cry,

Her book takes us through the highs and lows of this amazing adventure with wit and charm. Self-deprecating and funny but with some keen observations and a fast-paced writing style, you will feel like you are racing across Africa with her.

Adventure Coordinators review: a light read about a bike trip through Africa which is more about the race itself than about the places she visits of the people she meets. Some may find the sexist and alcohol-infused humour troubling. 7 out of 10.

The Danube - a journey upriver from the Black Sea to the Black Forest - Nick Thorpe

The magnificent Danube both cuts across and connects central Europe, flowing through and alongside ten countries. Travelling its full length from east to west, against the river’s flow, Nick Thorpe embarks on an inspiring year-long journey that leads to a new perspective on Europe today. Thorpe’s account is personal, conversational, funny, immediate, and uniquely observant—everything a reader expects in the best travel writing. Immersing himself in the Danube’s waters during daily morning swims, Thorpe likewise becomes immersed in the histories of the lands linked by the river. He observes the river’s ecological conditions, some discouraging and others hopeful, and encounters archaeological remains that whisper of human communities sustained by the river over eight millennia. Most fascinating of all are the ordinary and extraordinary people along the way—the ferrymen and fishermen, workers in the fields, shopkeepers, beekeepers, waitresses, smugglers and border policemen, legal and illegal migrants, and many more. For readers who anticipate their own journeys on the Danube, as well as those who only dream of seeing the great river, this book will be a unique and treasured guide.

Adventure Coordinators review: The author does a wonderful job at meeting people and letting them tell their stories. 8 out of 10


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