The sub-header of this book; ‘Crossing 50 borders on the road to global understanding’, really does place the content in context. It’s Heggstad’s second book on the subject of overland motorcycle travel but is of a trip inspired by his traumatic experiences during a ride down the Americas: being kidnapped and chained to a tree in Colombia for weeks. Many people would have savoured release and returned to the sanctuary of home, but for Glen it was the catalyst to sell everything and explore the rest of the world to discover humanity. And that’s what makes this book so refreshing; landscape is but a beautifully described backdrop.
Amid the somewhat excessive collection of adjectives is an inspiring and stimulating story of communities and individuals, of what happens when you stretch yourself to try to communicate and when you are prepared to leave yourself truly open to chance.
It’s a moving and immensely enjoyable account of a trip through Asia, Europe, Africa and the Middle East aboard an F650 Dakar. There’s mechanical failure, the odd accident, minor crisis, love interest, shipping and visa dramas and much of what you might expect could happen during two years on the road. But his route is not at all familiar and nor is his return home to California. I know of no other motorcycling writer who has invested such effort to ensure access to Gaza and the way that his writing captures the experience of entering and leaving Palestine is incredibly powerful. Similarly, he circumnavigates Borneo and takes weeks doing so as the route is the toughest he encounters. The rewards of course, meeting isolated peoples and discovering so much about them, are worth all the hardship.
But this is not about endurance or challenge for its own sake; the ability to say ‘I rode there first’ or ‘look at me riding with medical complications’. It is about asking big questions and acknowledging truths.
The only mildly infuriating aspect of his writing is the way that it flips between tenses which must surely relate to being based on diary and blog entries which have been adapted for print. Don’t let that put you off. This is adventure par excellence and is probably what we all imagine we’d love to experience. As Glen says, his only regret is that he didn’t spend one more day everywhere.
This is a North American publication but import copies are available here.
Paperback 422pp, 16pp colour images, some B&W images and maps throughout (£15.99)
Published by ECW Press (2009)