Intrepid travelers offer a colorful report on far-flung destinations.
Retired lawyers James and Grossman share an insatiable desire to travel, especially to isolated, sometimes-dangerous places where most tourists fear to go. Drawing on James’ journals, Grossman’s photographs, and their memories, they recount 10 memorable trips to remote sites in countries such as Mali, Ethiopia, Iran, and Algeria. The tone is calmly matter-of-fact even when the author is describing harrowing events: a mother rhino ready to charge in Nepal; a siege of tiny, vicious black ants in Cameroon; stingrays off the coast of Venezuela, where the minuscule puri puri burrowed through mosquito netting and left enough bite marks on James’ leg “to form a dragon tattoo.” Trekking in Nepal, Grossman fell and dislocated her elbow, requiring a helicopter flight to a hospital in Kathmandu where the elbow was painfully reset. But the incident hardly fazed them, and they soon finished their Nepal trip at Chitwan National Park. In Venezuela, James twice became so dehydrated that he needed a saline drip. Rudimentary habitations, mostly lacking plumbing, were part of the adventure. For the most part, they were welcomed warmly in the indigenous communities they visited, sometimes with celebratory rituals. Among the Baka, in Cameroon, after two hours of dances, songs, and games, the villagers sang the couple a song wishing them pleasant dreams. Even in Iran, where they visited in 2008, they were greeted with smiles. The travelers are deeply respectful of the people and cultures they encountered and applaud resistance to Westernization. The “generous, hardworking, and proud” inhabitants of Papua New Guinea, for example, “did not appear to aspire to the economic and social status of former colonists” and to change lives “that are stable, relatively healthy, and aesthetically satisfying.” Still, the authors are forthright about the political problems they observed. They came away from a visit to Gaza in 2009, part of an anti-war delegation, feeling strong support for Palestinian self-determination.
Travel dispatches that offer a rare perspective on a world few see so intimately.