06 April 2005

Journey: A Bicycle Odyssey Through Central Asia

Today I read Journey: A Bicycle Odyssey Through Central Asia by Alan Nichols. It would have been more accurate to say the odyssey was through western China since they never left China. They started in Urumqi (A Kazakh friend was kind enough to point out that this city is pronounced u-ROOM-chi. I love it when I can find people to tell me the correct way to pronounce the names of places. He also said Kazakhstan is pronounced ka-ZAHKH-stahn. I need to ask him how to pronounce Kyrgyzstan.)

So, they started in Urumqi, went through Kashi and headed down through Tibet to Lhasa. However, like many travel books, he was rather whiny. He did no training before he left and then was annoyed the entire trip that the rest of the party blamed him for slowing them down at the beginning. True, he also got quite sick when they first arrived (and I have stories about eating things that can completely flatten you), but that doesn't make up for the fact that he was not remotely ready for the journey.

The book talks much more about the problems with his companions than anything else. I would have loved to have heard more about the places they visited. He also is excellent at the rather negative folklorization that Wilfried discusses. Still, I liked reading about western China since there really isn't much written about it.

If you're particularly interested in Central Asia, this is an good book. If you simply like travel books, skip this one. And recommend another one that's not whiny while you're at it.


  1. I read Red Dust: A Path Through China when I was in China and I remember enjoying it. (I don't remember it very well though. I don't remember how whiny the author was. But it was a pretty good read.)
    I have heard that it probably got its inspiration from the Nobel Prize winning Soul Mountain and I tried reading that one but didn't get very far. (The switching of the narrative voice - between first, third, and even second - was a little off-putting to me.) But maybe I'll try it again sometime.
    (Both books about China - but I can't think of any I've read about Central Asia.)

  2. Thank you Heather. I'll give these a try- at least Red Dust.