Countries around the world are increasingly being forced to take steps to isolate their populations. If you are now confined at home as part of efforts to tackle the spread of Coronavirus, why not get inspired through one of these great travel books?
Jeffrey Tayler: The Lost Kingdoms of Africa
Jeffrey Tayler’s passion for Africa shines through the pages of this exceptional book. The journey takes him on a path westwards across the Sahel from Chad to Senegal. It’s a fascinating region, though parts of it make for challenging travelling even outside these extraordinary times. Some places, though, are a joy to visit, and this book will provide many ideas. Tayler sums up Dakar, the Senegalese capital, thus:
“Women dressed in elaborate banana headscarves and tight-waisted floral dresses strolled the sidewalks. The wind set loose clothes flapping, but it carried no dust; it was pure, coming from the Atlantic, intoxicatingly fresh.”
The author spent six months travelling in Chile and the result is this captivating book which captures the essence of the country. Chile’s a diverse country with plenty to attract the visitor, not least its incredible desert and mountain landscapes. In the Torres del Paine National Park, Wheeler discovers that Chileans and Argentinians might be neighbours, but they are very different in temperament:
“I asked if they could sum up the difference between Chilean Patagonia and Argentinian Patagonia in one sentence. “Absolutely none at all except the Chilean bit has mountains,” said the Argentinian. “Quite,” said Fabien (her Chilean guide) and that was that.”
Proving travel books don’t have to be non-fiction, Dinah Jeffries writes with a vivid sense of place. This book, set in Sri Lanka, will have you reaching for the guide book to find out more about this delightful South Asian nation. The characters are well-rounded but it’s the setting that is the star of the show:
“She took a deep breath of what she’d expected would be salty air, and marvelled at the scent of something stronger than salt… Cinnamon and probably sandalwood.”
“There’s something sweet.”
“Jasmine flowers. There are many flowers in Ceylon.” “How lovely,” she said. But even then, she knew it was more than that.
One of the joys of visiting Japan is its welcoming people who go out of their way to minimise the difficulties you might encounter when faced with not only a different language, but a different alphabet as well. Throughout the book, Ferguson’s insights demonstrate the enthusiasm you’ll find for making you feel at home:
“The trick was to answer with equally arbitrary statements, until you sound like a couple of spies conversing in code.
“Yes, I can eat Japanese food. Baltimore is very big.”
“How long will you stay in Japan?”
“Until tomorrow, forever. It is very cold in Baltimore.”
He shook my hand. We smiled warmly at each other, clearly this was an International Moment.”
Peru’s come a long way since Parris wrote this account of his trip to Peru. But although it’s dated, it’s a thrilling read, full of narrow scrapes and laugh out loud humour. I’ve read and re-read this book so many times it’s dog-eared and fragile, and one of my favourite parts is the account of Lima’s traffic which opens the book:
“Go to any scrapyard in Europe and command the wrecks to rise like Lazarus from the slab: you will have launched a fleet of the finest and newest Lima has to offer!”