Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Book Review : A Bicycle Journey To The Bottom Of The Americas - George J Hawkins 6*



I enjoy adventure books, tales of people who go out into the world and do something extraordinary, and Hawkins' tale of his bicycle marathon from Anchorage in Alaska to Ushuaia in Argentina is the story of a remarkable physical and mental achievement, it's just a shame that Hawkins' narrational skills don't match his cycling prowess.

Two things really annoyed me about this adventure log, first is Hawkins insistence on noting exact mileage, now I'm quite geeky, and I certainly would log how many miles I had travelled each day, but, I would put '64 miles today' and not '64.37 miles today'. Nobody cares about the .37 George. You would think that with this obsession with mileage, Hawkins would document the rest of his journey in similar detail, but when it comes to recording dates Hawkins is wilfully elusive, there is barely a marker in the whole 400+ pages for when he reached a particular place or indeed how long the whole journey had taken.

That aside though, as I read on through the diary I began to warm to George J Hawkins as a person, judging by the ease with with the author was regularly invited to stay and dine with strangers en route he must be a pleasant and charming bloke in the flesh, its just that he whinges and gripes a bit too much on paper.

The journey seems dull in places as George cycles through hundreds of miles of dull middle America, and then becomes frightening as he narrowly escapes hoodlums at South American border crossings. The mental strength and self reliance that Hawkins shows is admirable, to press on day after day, month after month on your own not knowing whether the next section will bring more boredom, hardship or even disaster. Hawkins biked on through illnesses, although he seems to have remained largely injury free.

This is a fairly good book, but a good ghost writer would have made the author's sterling achievement much more gripping.

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