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"This Breathtaking World: Around the World by Bicycle" - Reviews

 

   It is extremely dangerous to read adventure travel literature whilst on a commuter train on a rainy day in October. The temptation to divert to the airport and head off to Esfehan or Pokhara is huge. Tim Doherty did just that thirteen years ago, although without the airport bit. He epically pedalled east from Sheffield, on a bike made in that city, managing in several stages to pick out a route through central Europe, Turkey, Syria, South East Asia, Australasia and Canada, returning to Sheffield over 2 years later. Tim has finally set his journey down into an insightful and judiciously selected 273 pages. The heart-wrenching task of editing down his trip diary must have consumed much of the intervening decade. 

   This was a journey taken in another age: pre-9/11, Pakistan a go-to rather than a no-go area, and most tellingly, communication with home by fax - not an internet cafe in sight. It's also quaintly pre-Euro, Tim kicks off with a 110 mile punt across Holland in a single day to avoid changing any money into Guilders. 

   His body undecided between asthma and eczema, Tim suffers dog attacks, knife-wielding Indians, and a bike theft in Turkey that results in a gun-toting local militia descending on the offending hapless shepherd. His writing delivers effectively, painting the task of cycling 22,000 global miles as a combination of high adrenaline excitement, danger, and near-transcendental euphoria, along with the relentless tedium of crossing wildernesses such as northeastern Australia. His jauntiest device is the extraction of a tease paragraph to the front of each chapter. e.g. 'He pulled the sheath from the blade and stood there swaying...'. This is left sitting in your mind until you reach the relevant passage, giving you the satisfaction of identifying where it was lifted from. Respect for the reader's intelligence is never to be be ignored, and is always appreciated. 

   This being no record-busting circumnavigation, like many of late, Tim spends plenty of time with characters like the Sikh guru who tells him to give up eggs, the Thai egg seller urging the opposite, and numerous hospitable Middle Eastern Arabs, whose womenfolk generally withdraw before the food is shared. Largely the less developed the country, the greater the understanding of the travellers needs, with Tim's nadir on the main roads of Canada where the trucks force him into the ditch or worse. He delights in the cries of Indonesian children ('HELLO MRS!') and presciently describes pre-Slumdog Mumbai as 'a film set for an inner city drama'. The whole account is interspersed with letters between his girlfriend and his mother, with Tim being the subject of their worried missives. 

   For anyone familiar with long distance cycling, this account holds all the tropes of the pleasure, pain, and pure serendipity of that endeavour, for others it will be the vivid tale of a young man driven to finish his quest, despite risking new-found love, saddle sores, malaria and hypothermia. Perhaps the rainy commuter train is a safer place to be after all.

James Marson, Ringing Roger Publication, October 2010 (this review was also posted onto amazon.co.uk)

 

...Although Tim finished his trip more than 10 years ago his report is timeless, as is cycling around the globe.  The black and white pictures and some drawings add a personal touch to this book.  A nice read for cyclists and arm chair travellers.

Paul van Roekel, cyclingaroundtheworld.nl

 

   This is a moving story in more ways than one. It's a fascinating journal of a solo journey from Sheffield, England, across Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Ireland, with all the drama, dangers and triumphs that a solo traveller encounters; the sense of loneliness and deep contentment, fear, doubt, gratitude, astonishment and wonder changing from day to day, hour to hour, It's exciting and funny; you get a strong sense of the author's personality as he mimes his way out of difficult encounters and jokes and smiles his way through impromptu gatherings in his honour. Also it's a story about overcoming physical pain and discomfort - the author suffers from asthma and eczema. And more than anything, it's a powerful love story.

Review posted on amazon.co.uk by "Beatrix"

 

 

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