Saturday, February 23, 2013

Walking for miles

I did the 45 miles Ten Tors challenge on Dartmoor ten years ago (yeesh, ten years). It was hard but a lot of fun and I definitely developed an appreciation of the simple pleasure of walking. Some mornings as I walk to the tube I get an itch to just walk straight past the station and keep on going, just to see what's around the corner (I know what's there, it's Wandsworth, but you know what I mean).

I never do, though, I turn into the tube and stand with all the other travellers staring out the window as we rattle into central London. It was with a mix of envy and awe then that I read The Places In Between by excellent person Rory Stewart who walked straight across Afghanistan a few weeks after the fall of the Taliban in 2002 (the same year I walked 45 miles on Dartmoor).

Of course such a walk is sheer madness, except Stewart can speak the dialect and had already walked across Iran and  India and Nepal and other nations before this leg of his adventure, so he had a bit of advantage over the wanderlust of a South West London walker.

Furthermore, the book is a brilliantly vivid, engrossing account of a trip few would ever take, or want to take, and has a lovely mix of hard, straight talking language about the people he meets and the difficulties he faces, and descriptive brilliance of the strange and inhospitable nature of the walk, the weather (lots of snow) and the sights he encounters, such as the Minaret of Jam. Even better, though, is the mix of history he weaves, revealing fascinating insights into the cultures that have shaped a nation that remains so utterly unknowable to the west.

Even better, he buys a dog to walk with him, pictured above, who proves as much as a character as any of the Kalashnikov-touting, religious zealots he meets along the way. A much recommended book. And don't just take my word for it.

No comments: