3 years travelling on a motorbike; a further 8 years RTW using an old Land Rover and now currently back on the road with his bike, qualifies Chris Many to entitle his book something as nebulous and directionally indistinct as he has. And just like Peter Pan, he seems to be living a life of constant adventure, communing with nature and the local populace as closely as he can wherever he goes.
This is a terrific book, and although a best seller in Germany (8 editions since 2011), it has only just been released in English. It follows his four-wheeled years, not his two, but that should make no difference to readers if it’s the overland travel that’s paramount. This story is informative, entertaining and unbelievably engaging and perhaps that’s because this is not a translation, but in fact, the original manuscript. Chris is multi-lingual but prefers to write in English.
It’s a linear narrative inasmuch as it begins with the purchase of a derelict Land Rover in a field in Scotland, (where the decision is made to set off as soon as the engine is running because he has a passport and what else do you really need?), and ends back at home in Germany, uncovering his old Ténéré in his parent’s garage. But that is where ‘normal’ travel book ends.
This is a wonderful assessment of the globe and humanity within it. It asks questions, stimulates the reader, informs and perhaps infuriates, but always in a reasoned and intelligent way. Some of his arguments may insense liberal sensibilities, especially within Africa, but his case is always a strong one even if a little unpalatable, and certainly born out of experience. This is no more the case than when he has the experience of managing a horse farm in South Africa for a month.
It’s this ability to travel slowly and really get under the skin of a place that marks this book out. No matter where he is, if there’s an opportunity to engage in a little local work for no more than a place to sleep, he does. And it always pays off with huge rewards.
This is a story of personal relationships, glorious wild camping, living off the land, travelling slowly enough to smell the flowers, to adopt the wildlife and to really discover each country through conversation, all interspersed with a little serial monogamy. It’s over eight years after all. In many ways it’s exactly what the vagabond within us all believes could one day be possible: to live and love and have the greatest back garden and most exquisite views the world can offer.
But there’s mechanical excitement here too: accidents, brake failure on Bolivia’s ‘Death road’, jammed steering on switchback roads in Chile, lighting fires beneath the engine’s sump in -50°C temperatures to get started in Siberia and of course a chassis broken completely in half in Africa…
We all carry prejudice – it helps us make sense of the world – but anything that stops you considering this text because one main character is a Land Rover instead of a motorcycle, is something you should be ashamed of. It’s excellent, and where else will you read of mouth-to-mouth with a hyena?!
Gatefold sleeves contain maps and cutaway drawings of Matilda the landy and there are 39 coloured images on two inserts.
334pp, 16pp colour insert
Published by Delius Klasing (2015)