Touching the World is the extraordinary story of Cathy Birchall, a blind woman, who set off with her companion Bernard Smith, to become the first blind person ever to circle the world on a motorbike, an 18 year old BMW R100. What transpired has become an inspirational worldwide story that challenges people to question their own self-imposed boundaries. From desolate and dangerous mountain roads, difficult border crossings and numerous mechanical breakdowns, to climbing Wayna Picchu (first ever blind woman to do so) and riding an elephant mounted from the front (via its trunk!) - not to mention a poignant visit to the Centre for Blind Women in Delhi where they talked to women abandoned by their husbands, and an (inadvertent) overnight stay in a Kosovan brothel - this book has it all, travel, adventure, triumph over adversity, and through it comes a real sense of just what it means to be blind. Their heart-warming writing reflects a vivid account of the world, often hilarious and always positive.
©2012 Panther Publishing Ltd (P)2012 Panther Publishing Ltd
I don't want to take away from Cathy's achievements here, but I didn't get all that much of an impression of how her blindness made the trip that much more challenging? There's no mention of her specific contributions while Bernard did the driving that I caught. The blindness angle seemed more of a "hook" to sell an otherwise okay-but-not-great travel narrative; moreover, she seemed to get as much sympathy benefit (not that she outright solicited it) from her disability, as any obstacles she faced because of it.
I did find the author's anti-American attitude rather annoying, subtle jabs about foreign policy here and there at first, until they reached the States near the end of the book. At that point she pours on the disdain, as though she's been waiting to do so as some sort of final "reward", becoming completely bent out of shape that they can't obtain vehicle insurance as easily (or cheaply) as they'd just, sort of, assumed, and a similar situation about air freighting home the bike from the U. S. Perhaps ... maybe ... if they'd done a bit of research before leaving home those things wouldn't have come as a shock. The female narrator's cartoon-ish American accent didn't help much either.
Bottom line: I wouldn't consider returning the book, but I do regret having bought it.
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