I really enjoyed the first part of Chris Pountney’s travels around the world, and so the follow up went right into my “to read” list. The book picks up a short while after the first book ended, with Pountney and his girlfriend Dea in Australia, about to start their second leg around the world after having worked for a few months to raise cash. Pountney’s quest is to travel around the world only using bikes and boats.
He had begun in Paris but having been forced to ride in a car during a border crossing, he reset his journey in Mori, China and that is now his goal. The plan is to head across the Pacific by cruise liner, cycle across Canada and then down through the US and the rest of America, somehow get to Africa, and then back into Asia until they reach Mori.
Unfortunately, Dea falls ill on the cruise and has to return to her home in Denmark to recover. She should be well enough to join him later, and so his plan is to cross Canada and then travel by boat to Europe to reunite with his girl, and continue together.
Pountney isn’t the fanciest writer, and he jokingly acknowledges his failings when it comes to descriptive prose. But he does manage to tell his story in a personable and light hearted way. That’s not to say that he doesn’t have some darker moments, and he captures the loneliness and frustration of long distance cycling extremely well. The mental challenges pushing him just as much as the physical.
There’s also a real tension in the closing stages as he nears his goal. Repeatedly having to deal with the Chinese authorities and rules around cycling on major roads, it starts to look like he may be forced into a car or onto a bus. This may seem trivial, but his goal to use only bike and boat is clearly important to Pountney, and I was wholly invested in his success. Every bureaucratic hold up and surly copper stressed me out, worrying that he might not make the finish line.
Pountney’s a little preachy in places about his dislike of tourists and cars, but for the most part he’s a likeable, easy going bloke who has found an unconventional way of living that makes him happy, which is admirable.
There are plenty of challenges along the way and these keep the book flowing well, as do the different people he meets along the way. Written simply, but charmingly, this is a really interesting read. Again, it made me really want to travel the world. And learn to ride a bike.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.