I have always been a famous walker; it's another gift from Guv, I think; he who walked the five-mile Lakewalk every day, even with a brain tumor. (Well, there were days when he couldn't manage the whole five miles. But he always tried.)
The incredible P.Miller and I used to go backpacking on Isle Royale, back when we both lived in Duluth. I loved the self-contained feeling of carrying everything I needed on my back, of making camp, and of leaving absolutely nothing behind. I love getting around at slow, steady speed, under my own power. And so I have been drawn to walking adventure books.
Off the top of my head, I can think of three in particular that I like. Maybe you can think of others; if so, please leave them in your comments. I am more or less housebound today, so the idea of escaping through someone else's adventure appeals to me.
Here are my three:
A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, by Eric Newby
Newby is the best travel writer I know. He's funnier than Bill Bryson, but in a much more dry, self-deprecating way (as opposed to Bryson's slapstick and sometimes snide humor). Newby is the master of the understatement, as this title suggests. His "short walk" was actually an arduous, near-death mountain climbing experience in the rough and jagged peaks of Afghanistan back in the 1950s. He had never been mountain climbing before he and his friend decided to quit their jobs and go to Afghanistan; they took a little mountaineering course in Wales, failed miserably, and then headed east. A great, classic adventure.
Tracks, by Robyn Davidson
She who walked across the Australian outback with four camels and a dog. Step by step, in heat and dust. I read this and wanted to fly to Australia immediately, but knew I could never get Riley on a plane.
The Places in Between, by Rory Stewart
This book tells one leg of Stewart's amazing journey across the Middle East. He walked across India and Iran and elsewhere, but wasn't allowed into Afghanistan until right after 9/11. He seized the moment and walked from Herat to Kabul in the dead of winter. Stewart speaks a number of languages, and so was able to communicate with the villagers he met along the way. Some were incredibly kind -- their culture requires them to accompany travelers safely to the next town, and so he often had companions -- and some were downright scary. But he viewed, and depicted, them all as individuals, not as symbols of a culture. This is a wonderful and illuminating book.
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