Silk Dreams, Troubled Road – Jonny Bealby

A great story of Jonny’s travels, on horse back as far a possible, from Islamabad to the Caspian via Kashgar and the wilds of Central Asia.

As he acknowledges throughout the book, Jonny brought some of the trials and tribulations on himself, embarking on the trip still raw from the breakup with the girlfriend with whom he’d planned the adventure. Instead he is accompanied by 23 year old Londoner Sarah, who he’d selected at short notice – the TV company funding the trip were doing so on the premise that it would result in video diaries and a documentary featuring Jonny, his girlfriend and the romance of the old Silk Road.

There are great anecdotes and adventures, with vivid descriptions of the characters they meet and the difficulties they all face, but perhaps the biggest story is the fragile relationship between Jonny and Sarah. Inevitably this book shows Jonny’s take on things – which makes me want to track down the series that did eventually get broadcast. link: Silk Dreams, Troubled Road – Jonny Bealby

For a Pagan Song – Jonny Bealby

I really wasn’t sure about reading Jonny Bealby’s account of his first trip to Pakistan/Afghanistan – I’d borrowed it from the library before going on the Wild Frontiers’ trip to the Hindu Kush, and not read it for fear of spoiling my own first encounters, or jinxing the long awaited and much looked forward to adventure.

Fortunately I decided to give it a whirl after the event, and I am very glad that I did too. This book is not merely an account of Jonny’s trip to a difficult part of the world, but it’s also an account of his ongoing personal journey to come to terms with his girlfriend’s death many years before. The combination is extremely powerful and I am sure I’m not the only reader who cried at various poignant moments.

It was lovely hearing Jonny describe his first meeting with Saifullah and the Kalash at the end of his journeys, and his descriptions of the arduous route he took there – from Dehli to Peshawar, over the Khyber Pass and into the Afghan side of the North West Frontier – deliberately echo Kipling’s tale of The Man Who Would Be King, which first inspired the trip. It provides a fascinating insight into the region in the period preceeding 11 September 2001, and leaves you even more aware of how remote and independent the area is, and its people too.

A fantastic book. link: For a Pagan Song: In the Footsteps of the Man Who Would Be King – Travels in India, Pakistan and Afghanistan – Jonny Bealby