This is the only motorcycle travel book I’m aware of that’s been written by a rider from Uruguay and like many that are surfacing now, it’s the story of a trip taken some time ago, peppered with original journal entries as an anchor.
Setting off in 1964 from his home in the then prosperous Montevideo, the young Carlos used his 1947 Indian Chief to travel northwards to San Francisco, before crossing the ‘States, sailing to Ireland and spending a few months in Western Europe. It’s not, as the forward by his son states, a trip around the world. Perhaps that was the intention and there is brief mention of planning to visit Africa, but his finances had always been tight and after 2 years on the road another accident made him decide to ship home from Lisbon.
There is much in this story that reminds me of the diaries of Che Guevara; sleeping in Fire Stations, meeting and being helped by the rich and the very poor and being confronted with the reality of life for most South Americans. But the effects of the experience on Carlos’ philosophy are very different, as he revelled in life in the USA, celebrating capitalism and the opportunities it could afford him.
Until leaving North America, he travelled with pillion Manuel, his friend from Brazil, and using wit, luck, hard work and ingenuity they managed to secure funds for onward passage throughout, scrounging fuel in return for promised publicity and then food for giving journalists interviews.
It’s full of action and isn’t laboured as travelogues can be, as we jump many weeks of the trip at will to link anecdote. The guys are shot at in Bolivia when they accidentally ride into a revolution, suffer a huge accident in Panama when the forks collapse after thousands of miles on the dirt, almost starve in Colombia and are hunted by the FBI in New York. The bike even gets stolen in Rome; all gripping stuff.
It’s a good read that highlights, but never reflects on, the speed of change in the last 50 years and captures the essence and romance of motorcycle travel well. The book itself has 240 pleasantly off-white pages, 16 of which contain B&W images and is a translation of the 2009 Spanish original.
Paperback 240pp, £7.50
Published by CreateSpace (2010)