I am an English teacher in China and can now read and write some Chinese.I have been to 13 countries on 4 continents.I am an avid audiophile
Phil is an ex military elite from England and his stories of handling the customs officers with their Blackberries and white shirts are really amazing. We get to hear about all the intimidation that goes on in DRC. He buys into none of it, and always makes the immigration guys shake his hand and make eye contact with him before he gives in to their requests.
The more interesting part of the story is his interaction with the native fishermen, who are very poor and lead very austere lives, but know their way through the jungle quite well. Phil speaks French, Swahili and practices other languages along the way while he plies his canoe up to 12 hours a day.
In some ways it reminded me of Kira Salak's book where she kayaks 600 miles through Mali to the city of Timbuktu. She is treated well in some places and with great hostility in other places.
Both adventurers are fantastic athletes, and both are a bit crazy in my opinion, to put themselves in knowingly dangerous parts of the world. It must be part of their psyche to tempt fate and test their abilities beyond what most of us would consider reasonable.
This man's five month journey from Zambia to the Atlantic Ocean is a harrowing tale where we are treated to his deepest thoughts during stressful situations.
The author offers a first hand account of what homeless people do to survive without a job by becoming homeless and winning the confidence of modern hoboes,who divulge secrets about raiding the KFC dumpster after closing to get chicken,simply eating someone's left over pizza,getting meals or living at a shelter for three days at a time and enduring a religious sermon in exchange for food and temporary shelter.
It made me feel less sorry for homeless people,but at the same time more understanding of how difficult it must be to have nowhere to live,no money and nothing to eat.
I picked this one up,since I really have enjoyed travel on trains in China and also really enjoyed Paul Theroux's titles previously.Instead I came away feeling once again,that Ted Conover has a keen eye for details and putting things in an easy to follow narrative that is captivating and well thought through.
The author seemed a bit depressed at first.Having been divorced,but he goes on a seven year adventure by himself,which was perhaps fool hardy.The recounting of navigating the Cape York peninsula and the whole coast of Australia was enthralling as he nearly runs his boat aground.The stories about Sri Lanka,the Maldives and navigating the Red Sea in gale force winds made me think he was courageous.When he glossed over Europe I could understand that this part of the world is overpriced.Going through the Panama Canal lochs was also cool.He picks up a couple of backpackers to help with the navigation.I was left feeling like the sea is perhaps the last place on earth a man can be alone with his thoughts and truly free.In the deep ocean there is less concern for hitting rocks and when provisioned right a blissful place that often ends in island hospitality.When he met the tug boat captain in Sri Lanka he began to understand that we have all the capacity for happiness within us.
Once again, I've ventured out of the sci-fi/fantasy genre...again with a book I never would have picked up on my own. I am not a diver, I know almost nothing about...the WWII related stuff...It sounds vaguely interesting, but the kind of thing I might watch on a Saturday afternoon on discovery...if I was sick...and nothing else was on.
But...this book...was really, really good. It's billed as a "True Adventure", and I'm sure it's as "based on a true story" as much of written history is... I only mean that some of the characters are so good, it seems like they can't be 100% real...I'm sure liberties were taken...but once I remembered that I usually read ONLY fiction, I didn't think about it again.
The whole thing is very well written...presented like a fast-paced action/adventure movie (that may not make sense, but it's the only way I can think of to describe it). They give exactly the right amount of information about diving and the dangers of deep wreck diving, backed up with horrifying real accounts. They give exactly the right amount of background on the main characters...no boring crap - really interesting and action packed stories... By the time they got to the diving...I couldn't put this book down...I was on the edge of my seat...
Now that all lasted for about 3/4 of the book - which is about the point any sane human being would have just "let it go", but Chatterton was obsessed. There are some more tense and exciting parts...but there is also entirely too much time devoted descriptions of the lives of non-characters... Don't let any of that stop you from getting the book though - even if you care nothing about diving or WWII history (beyond what you learned in school) - just get this one - seriously.