The Kindness of Strangers – Kate Adie

One of my favourite books of the year.

I had to ration my reading as this was one of only 2 books I took to last me through 4 weeks travelling in Chile. It got me through the flights from London to Santiago (I’m not at my most relaxed at 36,000 ft), and a cold and rainy afternoon in Puerto Natales.

Kate Adie is a TV News Reporter I remember well from my teenage years – she always seems so cool, calm and collected in the most amazing situations – and her “From our own correspondant” programme on Radio 4 is one that I often find myself trying to organise my Saturday mornings around. In fact, I frequently find myself envying her and her job, which has taken her to so many far flung places and into many of the 20th century’s key events. All the more so after reading this autobiography, learning more about her early years in the BBC, and of her encounters with politicians and world leaders – official and unofficial – over the past 4 decades.

Buy it: Amazon link

Rough Guide to Chile

… planning for my 4 weeks travelling in Chile with Hazel. 33 days to go. I can’t wait – I’ve really had enough of my projects right now, the takeover one in particular. If it wasn’t for Phil, I honestly think I’d be pondering heading off for longer.

None of which has *anything* to do with reading the Rough Guide!! I’ve spent some of this evening mapping the transport routes south of Puerto Montt using Phil’s Omnigraffle – the Mac equivalent of Visio. It all looks increasingly enticing, but I can’t spot a way of getting between Coiahaique/Puerta Aisen and Punta Arenas/Puerto Natales and Tierra del Fuego. I really wish the guide books would show transport routes on a single map….

River Dog – Mark Shand

This book is Mark Shand’s tale of his walk along part the Brahmaputra river, which rises in the Himalayas and flows through Tibet before turning south into India and Bangladesh, where it flows out into the Bay of Bengal.

The tale takes you from the expedition’s the genesis in a meeting with one of his explorer/adventurer heros, Charles Allen, to suffering altitude sickness in the Himalayas and 2 years of working relentlessly through British and Indian bureaucracy… and that’s before he even starts his walk.

The epic is dented rather by the long Tibetan stretches of the river being made out of bounds to foreigners by the Chinese, but the tale changes tone and focus somewhat when the river walk does begin, high in the mountains of Assam, where Mark meets Bhaiti, who becomes his River Dog.

An enjoyable tale, with lots of characters and lovely photos in the centre section. Mark Shand does not mince his words or mask his emotions, particularly where bureaucrats or officials thwart his plans. At times he can come across as a rather arrogant, imperious Gentleman Traveller, but perhaps those are required characteristics if such travels in Asia are to succeed.

Buy it: Amazon link

Frontiers of Heaven – Stanley Stewart

A Journey Beyond The Great Wall

Another traveller’s tale recounting their adventures in the vastness of China that lies beyond Beijing. This time, it’s a westerner (although one who seems to be able to converse and communicate to a sufficient degree for independent travel), and Stanley Stewart’s route takes him by boat, train and bus from Shanghai to Taxila, Pakistan, following the Great Wall and the Silk Road, in a 20th century take on the fabled Journey To The West.

Fascinating, pleasantly unpatronising, a lovely final paragraph, and, if i’m honest, it’s got the China-and-the-‘Stans travel bug agitating again….

Buy it: Amazon link