Over my years of reviewing I have enjoyed travelling across the world with several authors, while most of us are re-thinking our holiday options, I thought I’d take another look at a selection of my favourite travelogues.
Salt Water and Spear Tips by Thor F. Jensen. Thor’s world-record circumnavigation of the island of New Guinea in a traditional sailing canoe. Read my review here or find it on Goodreads here.
The Green Unknown: Travels in the Khasi Hills by Patrick Rogers. Patrick goes to Northeast Indian in search of the people who grow living bridges from the roots of trees. Read my review here or find it on Goodreads here.
Hit the road Jac!: Seven years, twenty countries, no plan by Jacqui Furneaux. On her fiftieth birthday Jacquie took off travelling the world on an Enfield motorbike. Read my review here or find it on Goodreads here.
In Foreign Fields: How Not To Move To France by Susie Kelly. Susie and her husband hoped to find paradise in the French countryside. Read my review here or find it on Goodreads here.
A Visit to Gansu Province for the Chinese New Year by Helen Wallimann. Helen visited rural China and the man-made cave dwellings known as yaodong. Read my review here or find it on Goodreads here.
Fifty Miles Wide by Julian Sayarer. Julian cycled through Israel and Palestine meeting people from both sides of a troubled region. Read my review here or find it on Goodreads here.
Among Friends: Travels in Cuba by Heather Murray. An interesting look at Cuba from the author’s multiple trips which began in 2009. Read my review here or find it on Goodreads here.
Immersed in West Africa: A Solo Journey Across Senegal, Mauritania, The Gambia, Guinea and Guinea Bissau by Terry Lister. Read my review here or find it on Goodreads here.
Adventure by Chicken Bus by Janet Losole is the memoir of a family who spent three years backpacking through central America. Read my review here or find it on Goodreads here.
Toubab Tales: The Joys and Trials of Expat Life in Africa by Rob Baker is set in Mali. Rob tours the country in search of its music and musical instruments. Read my review here or find it on Goodreads here.
From A Wonky Path To An Open Road: A short book about a long journey join Janey de Nordwall, her cat and her 1970s VW campervan as they journey around Scotland. Read my review here or find it on Goodreads here.
Toubab Tales is a travelogue set in Mali between 2009 to 2012. Musician Rob Baker and his family lived in Bamako, Mali’s capital city. Rob studied Mali’s musical traditions as an ethnomusicologist, while his wife taught international children in a school.
The reader gets to ‘see’ Mali through Rob’s eyes as he travels around the country investigating local music, instruments and songs. It offered an unusual theme to a travel style book. Through Rob’s work we get to learn about everyday living in the city of Bamako and about travelling to more remote places. Rob is offered a free flight to Timbuktu where he discovers a music festival in the desert. He travels by leaking boat to another remote area to study local music and takes a long train journey to Kayes, where the high temperatures bake everything. Other times Rob drives his Toyota Hilux along sand tracks which are full of pot holes, journeys for hours on the back of a motorbike and accepts that taxis often have just one working headlight, broken wing mirrors, no seatbelts and holes in their floors.
Toubab means ‘white man’ in the local Bambara language and Rob was constantly greeted this way. Local people never saw it as racist or impolite; to them it was a word which stated the obvious. Learning about how the people lived and what they thought of their own country were parts which interested me the most in this book. I wished Rob and his family could have stayed in Mali longer, however, a coup forced them to leave when it became dangerous for foreigners to remain in the country. An interesting book and one which had me reaching for an atlas to understand more about Mali and its neighbouring countries.
“Go to Mali,” they said. “The music is amazing,” they said. “And you get ten hours of sunshine every day.” So I did, and this is the story of my three years in a poor yet incredibly rich West African country; a story of hope, warmth and positivity in the face of adversity. As a Toubab (Westerner) in Mali, I acquired many new skills: how to deal with persistent street sellers, how to use a ‘long drop’ toilet, surviving malaria and dysentery, enduring a climate constantly hotter than my own body, breaking down hours from anywhere, and making a 17-hour river journey on the roof of an oversized canoe. And all in the aid of ethnomusicology: the science of music in culture. My story closes amidst machine-gun fire, curfews and sudden farewells as the country spirals into chaos following a military coup; not the best weeks my life, but certainly among the most interesting.