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TraveLit--A blog about travel literature. 

     Even with the best of maps and instruments, we can never fully chart our journeys.

Book Review

News from Tartary: A Journey from Peking to Kashmir
By Peter Fleming. Foreword by Heinrich Harrer. First published in 1936. J. P. Tarcher, 1982, 384 pp.

In 1935, Peter Fleming, a special correspondent for The Times (London), set out with Kini Maillart to travel from Peking to India. Their route would take them through North Tibet and Sinkiang, a region recently besieged by civil war and closed to foreign travelers. In the end their journey took around 7 months, covered some 3500 miles, and cost about 150 pounds each.

Most people—even those who have traveled rough—would consider this an extremely difficult journey. The pair had long hauls over tough terrain on camels, donkeys, horses, or on foot. They slept in a tent, and endured extremes of heat and cold. They ate quantities of tsamba (parched barley meal which could be mixed with tea and rancid butter), and they often drank brackish water, plain or in their tea, the salt fighting it out with the sugar. They bathed out of a frying pan. And they dealt with a slew of agents from the various groups trying to control the area—nationalist, Soviet, rebel—who demanded papers they didn’t possess.

But Fleming didn’t see this as a hard life, and anyone seeking insight into the makeup of the true traveler will find it in News from Tartary.  Read More 

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Book Review

Writing Blue Highways: The Story of How a Book Happened
By William Least Heat-Moon
University of Missouri Press, 2014, 164 pp.

In 1978, his marriage failing and his teaching job discontinued, William Least Heat-Moon set off from Missouri on a journey through the back roads of America. His means of transport—and mobile home—was a small van he called “Ghost Dancing.” His destination: “Any Damn Place Else.” Four years later, at the age of 42, he published the story of his three-month journey across some 13,000 miles: Blue Highways, as I imagine most travel readers know, was a huge success.

But that success did not come easily. In Writing Blue Highways, Heat-Moon recalls the years that followed his return, as he struggled through draft after draft, trying to transform his journey into a book. This was, after all, his first book. Not only did he have to find some way to earn a living that would also allow him the time he needed to write, he had to learn to write. Indeed, it was only in his seventh draft—after he had encountered rejections from publishers and the disappointment of his good friend and best reader—that he saw what was missing from his narrative: the right narrator. Read More 

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