If you are of a certain age, or a fan, you’ll know all about the Beatles’ magical ‘White Album’. The cover to Nathan Millward’s adventure motorcycle travel book, The Long Ride ‘Home’ is of the same ilk. It entices the curious to wonder what on earth is going on.
This is the tale of riding a 105cc ex Australian postie bike called Dorothy across 18 countries from Australia to the UK, and I think this is one of the best adventure travel books to hit the shelves in recent years. Chances are you’ll be hooked by the time you’ve wizzed to the end of page 2, and as the next pages turn you’ll find that Nathan Millward does just about everything the way you are not ‘supposed’ to. But because of his own ability and fascination with the journey, he latches magnetically onto the special things and that makes this an amazingly refreshing story.
In fact, this author is obviously a man who is going to thrust through life doing ‘it’ his way. As an example, he’s bunged out the idea of having colour photos in his book. Instead, he’s placed black and white photos exactly where the relevant story is. It works very well. As do his hand-drawn maps.
And the story? I think it takes in all the things a good travel book should. Part of the key to the read is that Nathan is never overdramatic. There are times when I found myself thinking, now there’s a fine bit of understatement! Another part of the magic is that this fast-flowing adventure is told with amazing honesty and genuine self-depreciation.
The tale almost thrusts the reader onto Nathan’s steep learning curve across the world. Well, its going to be steep isn’t it; he literally only had 2 days to plan the trip. I really like the way he describes his interaction with both locals and other travellers. His descriptions of scenery and events had me there with him. The way he has woven in splashes of local history and politics are all part of the very entertaining read that this is. Laced into the story are tales that had both Birgit and I laughing out loud. Perhaps one of the things that makes this book work so well is that he comes across as a courageous and thoroughly likeable man. And, his pithy, thought-provoking but never ponderous musings on life the road and everything are wonderfully worded.
This segment of his book will give you a taste of what I mean. He’s in Pakistan, and faced with riding some very troubled roads:
‘Almost every day you’d feel like you’d reached your limit and then something happens – you feel you have to push yourself just a little bit further, a little bit harder. It’s almost as though you start the journey with the string on your kite nice and tight. You’re nervous; you don’t want to fly it too high. Then, every time you face a danger you’re forced to let out a little more string. As the danger grows and the journey continues, you let out a little bit more string and up the kite goes, higher and higher. Every time it happens you think that’s as high as your kite will fly, until the next time, when you realize you have all the string in the world…’
And finally, I love the way this book bins more than a few overlanding myths. A get-just-about-everything-wrong story? Not at all! There’s no way my copy will end up in a charity shop, or collecting dust on a bottom shelf. It’s a keeper for sure.
NB 22-02-2012. Nathan has just advised that the book has just been reprinted with a new cover! It looks great!
Available from www.lulu.com
NB This book was previously published under the title ‘Going Postal’.