A Belfast travel writer and his Scottish sidekick take a lighthearted ride up the 16,500-mile Pan-American Highway.
Hill (Way to Go: Two of the World’s Great Motorcycle Journeys, 2005, etc.) proves an amiable, witty guide as he jaunts north through desert, mountain and woodlands. That’s not to say he and traveling companion Clifford Paterson don’t encounter some bumps in the road. These include a fairly serious crash along a remote stretch of road near Cali, Colombia; endless red tape at a half-dozen Latin-American border crossings; and a ban on beer throughout Central America during Easter Week. Their journey begins in the remote village of Puerto Montt, Chile, aboard two donated vintage motorbikes: Hill’s is a British Triumph, Paterson’s an Italian Aprilia. En route to the Arctic Circle, both machines prove nearly as durable as their riders, despite close encounters with wandering Canadian moose and Ecuadorian protesters, a dearth of high-octane gasoline throughout South America and weather conditions ranging from subtropical to frigid. Hill and Paterson face each trial with equanimity and, when slowed, usually manage to make interesting friends among the locals. In Peru, they find a German immigrant who makes a comfortable living importing breast implants, which are stacked on the furniture of his spacious hacienda. In Mexico, they encounter an odd colony of exiled Mennonites. Once across the U.S. border, they relish endless oddball museums, including colorful memorials to vintage vacuum cleaners and an art gallery featuring landscapes made completely of lint. Hill’s breezy, humorous narrative contains just enough dollops of history and local culture to satisfy travel fans.
An easy, entertaining read, perfect for plane rides and road trips.