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Mogs Travels: Book reviews

Mogs Travels

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Book reviews

As you may have gathered we're having indifferent weather & a fairly quiet time at the moment so I thought I'd review a couple of books that I've read in the past few weeks. They're both about travel in Africa so writing about them is going to be a bit like answering a "compare & contrast" question whilst doing English O level! Also I've not attempted this since the aforesaid English O level 40 years ago so don't expect brilliant literary criticism! Anyway, here goes.

Red Tape and White Knuckles - Lois Pryce

Lois Pryce's first book was the pithily named Lois on the Loose describing her solo motorcycle trip from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. This, her second book, might not have such a catchy title but is better written whilst maintaining an easy reading style. It is a humourous, simple chronological description of her travels, her companions en route and the countries she rides through. Contact with local people is generally rather brief and superficial but raises interesting questions regarding the role of women. At several points in her journey she was told that women couldn't ride bikes across country, not that they weren't allowed to but couldn't, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. The political situation in some of the countries she passes through also causes her difficulties although again she does not discuss the underlying problems in any detail. Despite this it is an enjoyable read.

I find this epic journey even more impressive having met Lois personally. She has been giving talks on her travels at various places around the country & I met her when was at Bedwas Rugby Club, some months ago, promoting the book. She's in her 30's, smaller than me and is a very nice normal girl. I don't know what an adventurer should look like but you'd never guess her capabilities just by looking at her! This is a very enjoyable travel book which will be of particular interest to other bikers. Take a look at her website here.

Blood River - Tim Butcher

This book also has its own website Blood River
The country Lois most feared and took the quickest route through was the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tim Butcher traveled the length of this, arguably, the most dangerous country in Africa. He had long had a desire to follow in the footsteps of Stanley who, some time after discovering Livingstone, set out to follow the course of the Congo River from Lake Tanganyika in the east to the Atlantic Ocean. This very thought provoking book recounts the tale of Butcher's journey, intermixed with Stanley's. The two epic trips form the basis of a discussion of the political problems arising from the brutality and inequality introduced by colonialism, both in the world in general and in Africa and the Congo in particular. The success of the journeys, despite the danger and hardship, contrasts with the despair at the chaos of the political situation. This book could not be classed as an easy read but once started is hard to put down. You will leave it with an immense admiration for Tim Butchers dogged determination to follow the route of the river, together with an understanding of the complex, corrupt politics of the country.


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At August 7, 2008 at 10:29 PM , Blogger singletrack said...

I met Lois a few weeks ago - at the local IAM meeting. She was giving a talk, along with her husband, Austin Vince.
She was very interesting and it made me want to read more about her travels.
I finished reading "Red tape and white knuckles" a couple of days ago and really enjoyed it! What an inspiration!
Thanks for the review. I might read "Blood River" next!


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