Travel Book Reviews: 2019

Amman, Jordan (May 2019)

Post written by Laura

Only a hand-full of books read in 2019 and with the exception of one, the rest are Levison Wood adventure books! So I’ll begin with the exception and then crack on with Levison…

Chris cycling around ancient ruins in Sukhothai, Thailand (Mar 2016)

Book read: Mainly by Bike: A Senior Cyclist Tours the World by Ann Wilson

Wow! Ann is a massively inspiring lady who was 59 when she set off on her own to cycle tour the world!

The book eases gently into Ann’s trip as she cycles through northern France getting lost and trying to find campsites and places to sleep. Things get physically tougher as she negotiates Switzerland and the Alps and cycles through Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia and into Bulgaria. I was gutted for her when her precious bike was stolen while in Bulgaria and she had to sort another one.

Ann had more challenges to deal with in particular while cycling through the mayhem of India and then Malaysia where she suffered terribly with illness. Thankfully things improved in Japan and North America!

As suggested by the title ‘Mainly’ by bike, Ann takes the occasional train journey as part of her trip which is fantastic. Travelling around the world is a unique and individual experience and I have nothing but admiration for her. It was so interesting to read about her adventures, her thoughts and feelings and how she dealt with everything.

Onto Levison…

Levison Wood signing my copy of ‘Arabia’ (Feb 2019)

Book read Arabia by Levison Wood

Starting with the man himself! I brought this book while visiting the Travel and Destinations Show in Olympia with my friends Bridget and Roger. The show takes place in early February each year and we watched a live presentation from Levison and were then fortunate to meet him when we all purchased a copy of his book. I saved my signed copy and took it with me to Jordan when I did the Trek Jordan trip with tour company Intrepid, three months later.

Throughout the week it was fascinating to learn about the cultures and history of the Middle East from our Jordanian tour guide Muhammad while also getting Levison’s perspective from the book! This multi faceted learning experience was brought to life as I travelled through the stunning landscapes of Jordan on foot and in a minibus!

In terms of the book, it is an account of Levison’s adventures as he circumnavigates the Arabian peninsula, opening my eyes to exciting new places that I had previously known little about. Walking for 5,000 miles in 6 months, Levison is very much a ‘hard core’ adventurer who doesn’t shy away from war zones or harsh desert environments.

A highly recommended book for an interesting and detailed insight into the realities of the Middle East.

‘The Mouth of Hell’ the Masaya Volcano, Nicaragua (Sep 2016)

Book read: Walking the Americas: Levison Wood

I saw the TV series when it was first screened in 2017 before reading the book. Chris and I did a very similar route as we spent two months travelling through Central America in 2016 although while Levison walked for 1800 miles we did very little trekking! We made our way from Cancun, Mexico to Panama City by a variety of means including boats, busses and a couple of short plane journeys.

However from reading the book it seems our paths nearly crossed in Belize as I worked out that Levison would have been on the island of Ambergris Caye at roughly the same time as we were there, by the way he described the devastation caused by Hurricane Earl two weeks after it happened.

Levison describes the anxiety he felt as he walked through the El Peten region of Guatemala. This area is notorious for its high rate of crime with muggings and thefts from cars being common. For example, as mentioned by Fodors, vehicles can be stopped by armed bandits and their passengers robbed. Even the great ruins of Tikal have had incidents and we were advised to visit the national park with a guide and not to be there after dark.

Above is a short video of the Masaya Volcano also mentioned in Levisons book. This is one of the most active volcanos in Nicaragua and Levison described how local tribes believed it was home to a lava-spitting devil, appeased by the sacrifice of women and children! The volcano has the potential to erupt at any time causing a serious threat to the locals who live in nearby villages. It was certainly awesome to look down into the raging fiery mass of the caldera.

All in all the book is pretty gripping especially when he crossed the Darien Gap, the dangerous intersection between North and South America, somewhere we chose to fly across!

River Nile (Egypt 2005)

Book read: Walking the Nile by Levison Wood

Another epic journey! It is incredible that Levison actually walked for nearly 4,000 miles, the entire length of the Nile. Starting in Rwanda and finishing in Egypt, his journey took 9 months and during that time he encountered swamps, deserts, war zones and a devastating and unexpected tragedy.

Throughout the book, Levison provides history, interest and context and so is appealing to anyone who is interested in learning much more about the African continent and countries adjacent to the Nile.

My experience of the River Nile was a week long Nile Cruise between Luxor and Aswan in 2005; very tame in comparison however my memories enabled me to visualise the mighty river as I followed Levisons incredible journey.

Sunrise in the Himalayas (Oct 2019)

Book read: Walking the Himalayas by Levison Wood

As I had booked a trip to Nepal in October 2019 to walk in the Himalayas, and having by now read most of Levison’s books this was a must have to take with me!

Following his flight into Kabul, Levison begins in Afghanistan from where he is flown by helicopter through the Pamir mountains and dropped in the remote Wakhan corridor. (Being full of Taliban it was too dangerous to take this route by car).

Levison takes us with him on his journey as he treks for 1700 miles through Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet. I’m keen to explore these countries at some point, when we can regain our freedom to travel.

Again, it was great to have the book with me as I trekked in Nepal. Being driven around the notorious mountain passes of Nepal which are well known for their high rates of accidents I could relate to Levison’s dramatic and life threatening incident!

Another excellent book which gives an interesting insight into each of these fascinating countries.

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