I love travel books about walking across the world, bicycling or motorbiking. I live vicariously through the authors and feel every step they take. I picked this book up a few months ago at a local independent bookshop because I fell in love with the cover. It is a beautiful book to look at. I thought Mr. Penguin would enjoy reading it because it takes place in Central America and Mexico which is an area he has always been interested in. But as it goes, when one buys a book for another, it was not his mood at the moment and it sat unread on the shelf until I picked it up.
I read it in less than two days as I could not put it down. As I got further into this book it dawned on me that Levison Wood also wrote a book I read, Walking The Nile. That book was gripping as one of his friends actually died on that walk due to extreme heat. It took him awhile to get over that. When I bought this book I had no clue he was the author of the Nile book, then the penny dropped and it all fell into place.
The author is a British citizen, aged in his 30’s and spent four years in the army in the Parachute Regiment. He served a tour of duty in Afghanistan and his interest in walking in various countries appears to be unabated. He left the army in 2010.
Another walk he undertook was to walk in the Himalayas from Afghanistan to Bhutan. The Nile walk was made into a tv series of which I saw a few episodes.
The blurb on the back of the Americas book states:
“Walking The Americas chronicles Levison Wood’s 1,800 mile trek along the spine of the Americas, through eight countries from Mexico to Colombia, experiencing some of the world’s most diverse, beautiful and unpredictable places.
His journey took him from violent and dangerous cities to ancient Mayan ruins lying still unexplored in the jungles of Mexico and Guatemala. He encountered members of indigenous tribes, migrants heading towards the US border and proud Nicaraguan revolutionaries on his travels, where at the end of it all, he attempted to cross one of the most impenetrable borders on earth: the Darién Gap route from Panama into South America.
This trek required every ounce of Levison Wood’s guile, tact, strength and resilience in one of the most raw, real and exciting journeys of his life.”
The blurb does not state the fact he had a good friend that did this walk with him; Alberto, who is Mexican, accompanied him along the entire trip. I think the walk would have been much more difficult had he been a solo traveller.
It was written in 2017 and the walk occurred during the lead up to the 2016 U.S Presidential election. They too were gobsmacked when in a small Central American town they heard Trump won. There is some good humour from Alberto about the wall Trump wants to build between Mexico and the U.S.
Mr. Wood is an excellent writer. This journey details a great deal of history of the eight countries travelled. There are some real danger spots in the Darien and very much of the book is extremely suspenseful. The reader really wonders if they will make it or not. I doubt the book would have been published had they not succeeded but I was never completely certain.
I have read a great deal of travel writing and this is right up there with the best. It is a wonderful journey of history, hardship, friendship and suspense. If you enjoy travel writing this man is a wonderful one to follow. One day I will chase up his Himalaya walk but I am still committed to reading mostly from my TBR shelves so I want to stay on track. I will warn readers- if you have a lot to do around the house, don’t pick up this book as you won’t be able to move until it is finished and nothing else will get done.