News from No Man’s Land: Reporting the World – John Simpson

This is the other roving reporter autobiography that I took to Chile with me, and reading it after Kate Adie’s provided some interesting contrasts, and I enjoyed it just as much, although for different reasons. I’m not sure I’d enjoy meeting John Simpson, as he comes across as rather too despotic for my tastes, but then again, determination and self-assurance are two traits which I suspect are essential to success as a reporter, particularly one who frequently reports on wars and unrest around the world.

The subject matter of this third volume of John Simpson’s autobiography is the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, and the fall of Kabul. It’s a fascinating read, taking you into the mechanics of journalism, and the workings of the BBC as well as giving you the political long view so often lacking in TV news reporting.

Buy it: Amazon link

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