I was intimidated by ‘Bearback’ and don’t mind admitting its bulk is what delayed this review. I’d looked at the intriguing images on the 22 colour pages and at the various regional route maps, but somehow the size of the book had put me off getting started, which is a real shame. It’s a terrific read and there’s a lot that can happen during 4 years on the road, so perhaps it’s no wonder there are 521 pages.
Well-travelled and already in love with Africa, doctors Pat Garrod and Vanessa Lewis rode 100,007 miles two-up aboard ‘The Bear’ their R100GS, down Africa, up the Americas and then overland back from Australia. There are breakdowns, shredded tyres and every type of terrain is encountered, but it’s the off-bike asides that really contribute to this story; the trip to the Galapagos, the leeches encountered while hiking in the Malaysian jungle…
There is no pretence, no need to be attached to the bike, no desire to fit any stereo-type or fulfil any motorcycling norm. It may seem superfluous to say so, but this book celebrates travel, the discovery of people and place and does so in an articulate engaging way.
We experience the social adjustments that the couple find themselves make as life on the road changes them and their outlook, and we gain insight into the difficulties and awkwardness they feel returning to the western culture that should in theory have been more familiar. This is perhaps the adventure we all dream of and if personal circumstance currently precludes the possibility of your embarking on something similar, you could do an awful lot worse than settle down with ‘Bearback. The world overland.’
Paperback 521pp, £13.95
22 pages of colour inserts.
Published by Matador 2013