This isn’t a new book (2004) and it certainly doesn’t fit within the current niche of adventure riding, but if you just like travel books and especially ones which use a motorcycle as an anchor, then this should be a fair contender for your time. When you factor in that it’s now starting to appear secondhand in Oxfam bookshops and that it’ll probably be the only book you read that features a 650cc Suzuki Freewind, it becomes even more attractive. Ignore the Harley on the cover, I doubt Evans had anything to do with the cover design as this is a Bantam Books publication, part of the massive Random House Group. But then that’s why it’s easily available!
The country being explored is New Zealand – a diverse and unbelievably beautiful place. This does come across in the writing, which is engaging, accessible and enjoyable, but the ‘hook’ on which the book centres, is a search for the genuine, unreformed, hard as nails, resourceful, KIWI bloke. It’s an endangered species apparently, as evolution seems to be steering them away from the ingenuity of using number 8 wire to repair an aeroplane or mend a dam and into the arms of talking therapies and allergies. Are they really more focussed on environmentalism and eco-tourism than controlling the land and chopping down trees? And are the sheep safe?
It’s not a theme that may interest you and it is written from a feminine perspective, but that doesn’t detract from the exploration of, and revelations about New Zealand, nor should it. And the theme does not of course affect the quality of the writing, which is bouyant, engaging and well crafted.
If you are a motorcyclist you may find that Evans labours the point a bit about ‘difficult’ riding conditions – rain or a gravel road – but you shouldn’t let this upset you. It’s a great read, superbly edited, and a wonderful introduction to a place apart if you’ve never been. And after all, she has just got her bike licence, has no riding experience, is travelling alone, yet soon realises the joy of motorcycling and how it beats any other adrenelin fuelled tourist activity.
Surely, on relection, that is the essence of adventure travel, 650 Freewind or not?
332 pages £6.99
Published by Bantam Books 2004