Good accounts of adventurous travel should be timeless. Well written, they create their own contemporary context within which they never age. They remain valid and accessible even though the world they describe may have moved on, and the only real barrier to enjoyment is actually finding a copy.
Full Circle is such a book. Only ever published once, in 1989, its hardback cover, colour plates and assorted B&W images manage to transport you to some other age even before discovering how well it’s written. Thoroughly English by name and nature, this is a beautifully crafted tale of a couple who spent four and a half years covering 90,000 miles on a Triumph sidecar outfit, when the world didn’t seem quite as dangerous and when a British passport was a jolly good thing to carry within your waxed cotton jacket.
It was the mid-eighties; the factory that supplied their bike went bust while they were away; it was much easier to pick up work when you ran out of funds; different borders were closed to travellers as the Cold War still raged, but somehow there was an innocence that meant you could just ask a chap down the boat club whether or not you and your sidecar could join his ship in the morning. And if you thought the port fees in SE Asia were a little steep, you asked the authorities if they could be sporting and just waive them.
And yet this isn’t a story of toffs on the road, far from it. It’s exciting yet doesn’t exaggerate, insightful yet doesn’t brood. This couple remain patriotically attached to a bike that continually fails. From the UK they ride to India shedding luggage continually. Then Australia, SE Asia and Japan before North, Central and South America followed by a meandering route back up Africa.
I first read this book in ’91 and I’m delighted to have rediscovered it, as following Jupiter’s Travels, this is one of the books that cemented my decision to start overlanding and I’ve never looked back. I urge you to find a copy.
Hardback 183pp 16pp colour insert
Haynes Publishing Group (1989)