Good Reading : December 2003
(categorical) prepare them for all the hazards that the Naristan Mountains of northeastern Afghanistan would present. There’s a marvellous scene where, after surviving all kinds of outrageous adventures, they finally come across what appears to their exhausted eyes the almost indecently lavish camp of legendary British explor- er Sir Wilfred Thesiger. Thesiger is enjoying a stiff drink after performing some fairly ghastly but necessary ampu- tations on his staff and upon seeing the often the best adventures happen when you just bump into them.’ Wheeler recounts how 10 years ago he took a detour from the Birdsville Track across the Simpson Desert after meeting some people at the Birdsville Pub. ‘A chance meeting and a totally spontaneous adventure,’ he recalls with pleasure. ‘I think adventure books are popular as they provide a vicarious and often inspiring experience,’ he muses. ‘You read of someone’s amazing experiences somewhere and you think yes, I’d love to go there.’ Agreeing with both spontaneity and a desire to go where the hoards don’t,Alexa Thomson went to the ends of the earth. ‘She came,she saw,she burnt the toast’is the subtitle to her amusing and eye-opening adventure Antarctica On A Plate, which recounts her experience as a cook in the South Pole.‘The adventure was a combi- nation of the journey, the place and what I learned about myself,’ she says. Like Thomson, Bad Karma author Tamara Sheward feels, ‘it’s more fun to go where ‘Sometimes, you plan an adventure thinking it’ll be amazing and it is, but often the best adventures happen when you just bump into them.’ filthy, starving and ill duo blowing up an airbed, he refers to them as ‘a couple of pansies’. If you have never encountered Newby’s books, get thee to a bookshop, because you have some wonderful reading ahead! Despite Thesiger’s acrid comments,he was the last of the gentlemen explorers. Born in Addis Ababa in 1910, just in time to still find new worlds to conquer, he travelled widely through Africa and Arabia, penning many significant books including: The Marsh Arabs; Desert, Marsh and Mountain and his fascinating auto- biographyThe Life Of My Choice:Daring to Venture Where Many Refused, he accumu- lated accolades and inspired many travel writers including Paul Theroux and Colin Thubron.His books are a must for anyone wanting to read about the ‘stiff upper lip’ genre of gentlemen adventurers. ‘Adventures often just appear when you least expect them,’ says Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler. ‘Sometimes, you plan an adventure thinking it’ll be amazing and it is, but everyone else isn’t,’ saying she used South- East Asian travel guides, ‘as references for places not to go to’. Sheward admits to not planning too far ahead. ‘I like the cheap thrill from not being a control freak or knowing what to expect.’ But sometimes (thankfully!) adven- ture doesn’t have to involve rugged conditions and food that has seen better days. For some, like Steve Massey, it’s literally at his fingertips. An astronomer whose specialty is planetary imaging, he loves having intergalactic adventures at home.‘Astronomy is an exciting adven- ture of the eye and mind,’ says Massey with enthusiasm. ‘You set up your telescope and can see stars, planets and galaxies from millions of light years away; you are a time traveller, looking at these objects as they were when the light first left them and for me that’s hugely exciting, so that’s why I wrote Night Sky – I wanted to let everyone share the exhilaration up there.’ It seems that Jon Muir is right – adventure is where you find it.